RFE/RL: Now that negotiations on Kosovo's status have entered an additional phase of 120 days, what kind of results do you think can be expected?
Ismail Kadare: I don't give any importance to these 120 days. One hundred-twenty days are not big when talking about big things for a nation. In this case, we are dealing with a nation's freedom. The question is: what significance will these 120 days have?
"The problem of [understanding] who committed the crimes and who suffered from them is crucial."
Why? A problem arises here, in fact, that is not clear to anybody. And this is the problem. It is an extremely and deeply important issue and is not discussable. It's about the freedom or the slavery of a nation. This is the essence, and it should never be forgotten. There is a whole nation requesting the oldest thing the humanity ever asked, the basis of civilization -- its freedom. That is why I am surprised by the foolishness of public opinion, media, diplomats, or governments, regarding an issue that should not be treated as a dilemma.
In fact, previously there was no dilemma. When Europe entered the Balkan conflict, it was clear that it took courage to bomb a sovereign state -- Serbia, Yugoslavia. It was seen back then that the freedom of a nation was being undermined in the most barbaric possible way. Now, there is remorse, a return, a revision of all of it. This remorse is an incomprehensible absurdity, but there is remorse for bombing a state, Yugoslavia. Spoken or unspoken, this remorse is widely known. In the Balkans something happened that was very clear. One of the most monstrous crimes ever known in Europe's history took place. Half a nation, 1 million [people], was displaced. It was ethnic cleansing, which we are not comparing with ethnic cleansing of Jewish people, but for its intensity and the time when it occurred, it rivals [the Holocaust]. It is terrible, because it was done for some weeks, and this crime cannot be compared with the bombardment of a barbarian regime.
I have said it many times -- in the world there is no compulsory and necessary massacre, but sometimes bombardment is needed, like in a case of Nazi Germany. Europe should not get confused. There should be no remorse, no turning back.
On the contrary, it should force Serbia to apologize. Instead, Serbia is being coddled and, by coddling it, Europe is doing the greatest damage to Serbia itself, to its people, by plunging it even deeper into its guilt. This nation must understand what its soldiers and paramilitaries have done in Kosovo and other places of Yugoslavia. If it understands, then it can be freed from nightmares, and Serbian democracy can be helped. There will be no democracy in Serbia if its crimes are not acknowledged.
RFE/RL: Recently there have been suggestions that Kosovo's independence could be accepted if some of its territory is partitioned. What do you think of this?
Kadare: I think this is a continuation of that misunderstanding I mentioned earlier. This partition is not a clean bargain, and I assert this with full responsibility. It will open a new and endless conflict in the Balkans. It will be an open source of disputes and fights, which will have an extremely high cost for the people living in the Balkans, and Europe as well. This option does not provide a conclusion to this issue -- it opens a new and terrible conflict. That's why I said the problem of [understanding] who committed the crimes and who suffered from them is crucial. How one sees the crime is crucial for cleansing democracy.
RFE/RL: In Kosovo there have been some suggestions that, in the event that the 120-day negotiation period fails to result in a deal, there might be a unilateral declaration of independence. Do you think the international community would accept such a step?
Kadare: Of course. I am a writer and a man of culture, and I always think that any conflict should be resolved in a most democratic way, by avoiding violence, misunderstandings, and by avoiding death. But, this should not serve as an alibi to humiliate a nation in every possible way. In this case, the people of Kosovo have every right to respond with all the options. There should be no exceptions when it comes to the freedom of a nation. There can be no negotiations on it. This nation has a right to ask for its freedom by all means and protect it to the end.
RFE/RL: How much is the Albania's intellectual elite affecting the drive for Kosovo's independence? Do you think more should be done?
Kadare: I think Albania should have done more. The pseudo-philosophies of our diplomacy, produced by a lack of ability and morality, are ridiculous and, at the same time, condemnable. Albania is not another planet, and it is giving judgments on Kosovo from the moon, Bangladesh, or Japan. Albania is a primary country of interest, and it should not hide it, because that would be complete hypocrisy. Albania is a country that should have followed step-by-step the problem of Kosovo. It should have engaged with honesty and dignity by being, of course, constructive and not destructive. Therefore, it is Albania's historic moral claim, it's a nation's historic dignity. I hope our diplomacy -- revived lately -- will make a correction in this regard.
AT THE MICROPHONE. RFE/RL frequently conducts in-depth interviews with leading newsmakers and analysts from throughout its broadcast region. Transcripts of many of these interviews have been gathered on a special archive page.