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South Slavic: December 7, 2000

7 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 43

Time For Compromise In Kosovo? Part I

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge) we are going to discuss whether the opposition victory in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the victory in Kosovo of the moderate Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) have established conditions for a true dialogue about the future of Kosovo. Our guests are Ylber Hysa from Prishtina, director of the Civic Initiative of Kosova, and Archdeacon Sava Janjic, spokesman of the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija. Both Mr. Janjic and Mr. Hysa are members of the Interim Administrative Council of Kosovo. Part II will appear on 14 December.

Mr. Hysa, do you think that, after Milosevic's fall from power, conditions have been established for the beginning of a dialogue between Ibrahim Rugova, whose party has won the elections in most of Kosovo's districts, and President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Vojislav Kostunica?

Ylber Hysa: I do not think that conditions for the beginning of a dialogue have been established. Rugova is a president of a party that has won the elections in 21 out of 30 districts, with the exception of three districts where the Serbs are majority. The Serbs, as we all know, boycotted the elections. That does not allow him to represent Kosovo. He could obtain such a mandate only in general elections that have yet to take place. Finally, the UN Security Council's Resolution 1244 is very clear about this issue. The resolution says that Kosovo should first establish its democratic institutions, and only then the talks about its future status could begin.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, does it mean that there is neither a personality nor a party in Kosovo in this moment that could talk with the representatives of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?

Ylber Hysa: I think so. Besides, I think that such a dialogue would be risky, premature, and fruitless. A lot of things must be done in Serbia and in Kosovo first. We still have a long way to go with democratization and the building of institutions, which means that such a dialogue would bring us nothing at this moment, although it is a possibility.

Sava Janjic: The Albanians should decide among themselves who is going to represent them in the talks. I still think that some sort of preliminary talks should start, in order to implement Resolution 1244, in which there is no mention of the future status of Kosovo. But it does talk about substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic, if I understand you correctly, you think that the dialogue should start but without opening the sore subject of the future status of Kosovo?

Sava Janjic: Absolutely. The future status of Kosovo cannot be discussed until the basic human rights of the Serbs and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohija are respected. I think that what should be done first is to implement Resolution 1244. I would agree with Mr. Hysa that at this moment we should concentrate on building democratic institutions, and I mean only those foreseen in Resolution 1244. Therefore, I am talking about institutions that could help promote respect for the human rights and liberties of the citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, and not about the ones that were not mentioned in the Resolution and that would prejudge the status of the province.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, if the issue of the status of Kosovo were left aside, could the dialogue between the Serbian and the Albanian sides about some essential issues like coexistence start at this moment?

Ylber Hysa: There are many kinds of dialogue. The "Most" in which we are taking part right now is a sort of a dialogue, too. However, institutions that could take part in an official dialogue have not yet been established in Kosovo. As far as I understand, what you are talking about and what Mr. Janjic is insisting on is what is usually called "confidence building measures," or the building of positive relations. One such step could, for instance, be made if Albanian prisoners were released from Serbian prisons. That would be a positive example.

Omer Karabeg: Do you think that could be an issue for the Albanian and Serbian side to discuss at this moment?

Ylber Hysa: I do not think that could be negotiable. Those people are hostages of war and not prisoners. Now that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has become a member of the UN, it should obey the standards of the international community and release the captured Albanians. That problem should be resolved between the international community and Serbia. That is not a negotiable issue.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Janjic, do you think that all the Albanians should be released from the prisons in Serbia?

Sava Janjic: Both the Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija and our Serbian Orthodox Church have repeatedly urged that the political prisoners be released. But at the same time, we have asked that an effort be made to find the many missing Serbs--according to our information, there are more then 1,000 of them. Most of them disappeared after the war was over. After the democratic changes in Serbia, Bishop Artemije made an appeal for the Albanian prisoners to be released, but at the same time he sent another appeal to UNMIK and to the Albanian political [groups] asking them to do whatever they can to find those missing and kidnapped Serbs.

Of course, one thing cannot determine another since those are humanitarian issues, but we think that they should be resolved simultaneously and that both sides should show their good will. We are convinced that President Kostunica and the new government have every understanding of this issue and I am certain that the release of [ethnic Albanian human rights activist] Dr. [Flora] Brovina represents one of the first steps towards the release of all political prisoners. Therefore, the Serbian National Council and our Church consider that all those for whom there is no evidence of their having committed crimes and who are held as political prisoners should be released.

However, while the international community is very much engaged for the release of the Albanian prisoners, there is a complete lack of interest in the missing Serbs. We cannot believe that none of the democratically-minded Kosovar Albanians who want to live together with the Serbs can help us trace those people [and] to recover their bodies if they are no longer alive.

We also think that cases of the Serbs held in UNMIK's prisons in Kosovo and Metohija--who have been waiting for so long to be tried--should be cleared up as soon as possible. They should either be tried or released, if there is no evidence against them. At the same time, we insist that the international community investigate the crimes committed against Serbs during and especially after the [1999] war.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, do you think that simultaneously with the release of the Albanians from the jails in Serbia, the missing Serbs should be traced? The Serbian National Council of Kosovo and Metohija has even mentioned [the existence of] some concentration camps.

Ylber Hysa: I think that the fate of the missing Serbs should be investigated regardless of the release of the Albanian prisoners from Serbian jails. I have already said that my attitude is that these principled issues are not negotiable since they are humanitarian issues.

Omer Karabeg: Mr. Hysa, Mr. Janjic claims that the Albanians show almost no interest at all in the fate of the missing Serbs. Who on the Albanian side do you think should commit himself to tracing them?

Ylber Hysa: That is a difficult question. We should all--and not just the politicians--be involved. But we do not have institutions that would be responsible for these things. There is no ministry in Kosovo that would have the authority to deal with these issues. We will establish these institutions only after the general elections in Kosovo.

Omer Karabeg: You feel that now it is a task for the bodies of the international community in Kosovo?

Ylber Hysa: If we are talking about institutional responsibility, then it is primarily their task. But it does not absolve the political [groups] in Kosovo from the moral responsibility of committing themselves to clarify that very important problem.

Omer Karabeg: Veton Surroi, a prominent Kosovar intellectual, thinks that parliamentary elections should take place in Kosovo next year. He also thinks that Kosovo should have an interim constitution in order to start functioning as a state, and after that the problem of its status should be addressed. Mr. Janjic, what do you think about that idea?

Sava Janjic: Resolution 1244 provides for setting up transitional democratic institutions within a broad--the Resolution calls it substantial--autonomy for Kosovo within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Whatever stays within that framework is absolutely acceptable. However, one cannot insist on some elements of the Resolution and neglect other, very important parts of it.

Resolution 1244 must be implemented in its entirety since, at this moment, it is the only legal framework and basis for any effort to find a solution here. Therefore, before the general elections in Kosovo and Metohija can take place, conditions must be created for them.

It is well known that the Serbs did not take part in the local elections because they enjoy no freedom of movement.... It would be absurd to organize a general election in Kosovo and Metohija in a situation when, for instance, there is a classic ghetto in Prishtina for some 200-300 Serbs who are encircled with barbed wire and cannot leave the place. I think that Mr. Surroi should have a little more understanding for the reality in which the Serbs live now since freedom, unfortunately, has not come for all the inhabitants of Kosovo.

Ylber Hysa: If the Serbs want to change the present situation and stop living in a ghetto as mentioned by Mr. Janjic, then they should take part in the political life of Kosovo in order to help us build new relations in a new Kosovo.

However, I do not agree with the argument that the Serbs abstained from the elections because they have no freedom of movement. That argument was disproved by the fact that the Serbs did take part in the September Yugoslav election--when they mostly voted for Mr. Milosevic. This tells us something about the political mentality of the Kosovar Serbs.

If they took part in Yugoslav elections, they could have participated in the elections for Kosovo as well, but they did not want to. That way they sent the message to the other inhabitants of Kosovo that they do not want to take part in building Kosovo's institutions, and that they use their very difficult situation as an excuse.

This is why I think that it is very important for the Serbs in Kosovo to understand that they are now in a new reality and that they should cooperate with other people in Kosovo, as well as with the international community. By helping to build democratic institutions, they would enable themselves to take part and--as citizens of Kosovo--to promote their interests.

It is very important for the Kosovar Serbs to understand that their participation in the December Serbian elections would send a very negative message to other Kosovars. [That message would be] that the Serbs simply do not want to live in Kosovo.