Minister warns of possible repetition of March pogrom
ZVEČAN -- Serbia’s Minister for Kosovo Goran Bogdanović says he is afraid that Priština will try to do “something similar or the same as on March 17, 2004”.
“We have information that serious preparations are underway in Priština and that is why it is good that the presence of the international forces has been increased,” he told Zvečan-based Most TV.
On March 17, 2004 the biggest ethnically motivated conflicts since the arrival of the international forces broke out in Kosovo, in which 19 civilians lost their lives.
More than 900 persons were injured, around 800 houses were destroyed or damaged, 35 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were damaged and several thousands of Serbs were forced out of their homes.
Bogdanović noted that the Serbian community’s goal was to live in peace with Kosovo Albanians but that “talks cannot be held and issues that are burdening us cannot be solved in a situation when there are tensions and when conflicts are hanging in the air”.
“We need to strive toward reconciliation and tolerance, so all ethnic communities in Kosovo and Metohija can freely express their will,” he stressed and added that “it would not be good if the elections that will be organized by the state of Serbia were a cause or a trigger of violence”.
The minister pointed out that the source of all problems were violent attempts to integrate northern Kosovo into the Priština institutions.
“We are not ready for conflicts and that is why we are asking the international forces to step up their patrols, primarily in northern Kosovo and Metohija, because it is obvious that Priština is trying with everything it has to violently integrate the north of the province in its institutions,” he explained.
Bogdanović said that it was necessary to continue the dialogue because “the status of Kosovo needs to be resolved as soon as possible”.
“Serbia has made a decision not to hold the local elections in the province but it will do everything in order to hold the parliamentary and presidential elections in the entire territory of Kosovo,” he said and added that Serbia was having intensive talks with the EU member states and that this was the reason to believe that the elections would be held.
He stated that Serbia had given up on holding the local elections in Kosovo so it would not violate the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adding that one of the reasons was also safety of citizens.
Commenting on the Zvečan and Zubin Potok municipalities’ decisions to hold the local elections on May 6, the minister said that he had informed them about the government’s opinion that the elections should not be held.
“The local elections in these two municipalities will not be recognized by this or any other future government. They are not legitimate for us,” Bogdanović stressed and called on the two municipalities to change their decision.
He added that Serbia would in a few months request from UNMIK to hold the local elections in Kosovo.