Saturday, January 12, 2013

Southern Serbia Albanians seek help of Tirana

PRESEVO - After a joint Saturday meeting, representatives of ethnic Albanians from the southern Serbian municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja called on Albania to help get international institutions involved in resolving Presevo Valley issues.

The councilors of the joint Albanian Presevo Valley assembly adopted a political declaration against a proposed removal of a monument honoring fallen members of the so-called Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (OVPMB), which was unveiled in the center of Presevo on November 16, 2012.

The declaration contains a total of 10 conclusions in which the councilors of the ethnic Albanian assembly call on governments of Albania and Kosovo to influence the authorities in Serbia and encourage a dialogue with the “legitimate political representatives of the Presevo Valley.”

The Albanian councilors are fully committed to finding political solutions to Presevo Valley problems and call on international institutions of the UN, NATO, OSCE, CoE, and the EU to encourage the Serbian government to continue the dialogue with the political representatives of the Presevo Valley.

In one of the conclusions, the Albanians stressed their right to the use of symbols expressing national identity and opposed every form of forcible removal of such symbols, including the controversial monument in Presevo.

The councilors consider an erection of a memorial to Serbian Gendarmerie members in southern Serbia a severe provocation and they condemned “threatening statements” made by Serbia's state officials regarding their own memorial.

The assembly meeting was attended neither by representatives of the Belgrade and Pristina governments nor by representatives of international organizations and foreign diplomats, despite announcements about their arrival.

Also, the meeting was attended by Chairman of the Serbian government's Coordination Body for Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja Zoran Stankovic, since he had not even been invited, despite his demanding to be present at the session, Tanjug learned from the government's body on Saturday.

Presevo Mayor Ragmi Mustafa was resolute in reiterating his stance that he would resign as president of the municipality if the Serbian authorities forcibly removed the monument from the central square.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said late on Friday that the Serbian government would remove the controversial monument in Presevo if no agreement was reached with local authorities, adding that the illegally set up memorial plaque was a grave provocation directed against all Serbs.

He had ealrier announced the removal of the monument “by hook or by crook.”

The memorial has inscribed on it the names of 27 Albanians killed during the period between the end of the NATO bombing campaign in June 1999 and May 31, 2001, the day which marked the end to the inter-ethnic conflict in southern Serbia.

The OVPMB was an offshoot of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo.

The Albanian councilors' session was held in the municipal assembly building, located in the square where the disputed memorial to the fallen soldiers was set up.

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