Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ahtisaari: Serbs have a burden to pay for

26 August 2006 | 11:50 | Source: B92 Priština, Belgrade -- Marti Ahtisaari told Belgrade, in the context of latest developments over Kosovo, that every nation has a burden to pay for

Marti Ahtisaari (FoNet)
Marti Ahtisaari (FoNet)

UN special envoy for Kosovo status negotiations told officials in Belgrade that the policy of Slobodan Milošević had to be taken into account in the process of determining Kosovo’s future status. “Every nation in the world has a burden it has to pay for”, Ahtisaari said.

“The democratic leadership in Serbia today cannot be held accountable for the actions of Slobodan Milošević, but the leaders in Belgrade have to face the heritage and responsibility, because this historical heritage cannot be ignored, but rather must be taken into account in the process of finding a solution for the future status of Kosovo“, Ahtisaari said. The Serbian team for negotiations previously asked Ahtisaari to clarify his statement that Serbs were guilty as a nation and warned that his claim could bring into question his unbiased position in the negotiations. The coordinator of the Serbian delegtion Leon Kojen told a press conference that the team from Belgrade had expressed dissatisfaction and resent towards this statement made by Ahtisaari at the meeting with members of the Serbian delegation on August 8 in Vienna.

There is progress…

At the end of his four-day visit to Priština, where he met with the Kosovo negotiations team, Ahtisaari said that the talks were successful and that there has been progress on issues of decentralisation and the protection of minority rights. He declined to reveal more details and said this would have been unfair towards his interlocutors in the talks, because of a possible influence on the further course of the status negotiations. Ahtisaari pointed out, however, that the gaps between the two parties were narrowing down, adding that a lot has remained to be done in relation to matters of decentralisation, determining the competencies of the new Serb municipalities and the entire set of issues related to the protection of minority rights. Ahtisaari announced his expert team would visit Belgrade very soon and stressed that he expected positive reactions as those received in Priština. Ahtisaari also said that he still insisted on negotiations over technical issues, which are a prerequisite for dealing with the main question of status. The general impression after Ahtisaari’s press conference is that there has been a certain kind of compromise and agreement between the UN envoy and the Kosovo negotiation team over issues of decentralization, minority rights and the protection of cultural monuments. According to well-informed sources in Priština, the two delegations have found common ground on all of these issues except for Mitrovica, the ethnically divided town in northern Kosovo that is still waiting for a solution that will be acceptable to all sides in the negotiations.

Nojkić: Ahtisaari not satisfied

Ranđel Nojkić from the Serbian List for Kosovo Metohija claims it is realistic to assume that Marti Ahtisaari has left Kosovo unsatisfied because he did not succeed in moving the issues of decentralisation and minority rights from deadlock. „My impression is that the Albanians are not prepared to make any concessions, not because of Ahtisaari and the international community, but because of the public opinion and their own people whom they are representing in Kosovo institutions. Quite probably the Albanians, their leaders and the Priština team for negotiations are prepared to accept an imposed solution and this is something I believe is going to happen“, Nojkić says. He added that the problem of Kosovska Mitrovica should have been dealt with earlier. „Kosovska Mitrovica is indeed one of the larger issues, I’m afraid that the other Serb enclaves will follow the example of northern Kosovo and raise certain issues in a more extreme manner in order to box out a situation that will provide them with security and peace”, Nojkić explained. He said the international community had underestimated the gravity of the situation in northern Kosovo and allowed things to go out of hand.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another Srebrenica mass grave yields over 1,000 body parts

KAMENICA -- Another mass grave of Srebrenica victims has been uncovered in Bosnia.

Forensic experts unearthed 133 complete skeletons and more than 900 body parts of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Muslims at the biggest mass grave found in Bosnia.

The Jaz mass grave is the ninth site with the remains of Srebrenica victims to be found around the eastern village of Kamenica. Bodies were moved to the Jaz grave from the site of the massacre to conceal the traces of the crime.

"This is the biggest mass grave in Bosnia," Murat Hurtić of the Muslim-Croat federation's regional team for missing persons told Reuters at the site.

A 10-person team, including forensic experts from Canada and Serbia employed by the Bosnia-based International Commission on Missing Persons, worked in the 18-metre by 4-metre (60 ft by 13 ft) grave.

Dressed in white overalls, they sifted through mud in the grave's central part to recover skulls and bones, some complete and some mangled and fractured, as well as clothes and shoes.

The bodies were dug out from graves at the site of the massacre with bulldozers before being moved to Jaz, badly damaging many of the remains.

"We will continue with the exhumation for another two to three days and we expect to unearth more remains but it is difficult to estimate how many," Hurtić said.

He said it was difficult to estimate too how many bodies could be identified from incomplete remains, but added that it could be hundreds.

Bosnian Serbs captured the isolated Srebrenica enclave on July 11, 1995, rounding up Muslim men and boys as helpless Dutch UN soldiers stood by. Others were caught while trying to flee through woods.

About 8,000 were killed in summary executions and buried in dozens of graves in the wider region of Lower Drina Valley.

Some remains found at the Jaz mass grave belonged to victims killed and buried at the nearby Pilica farm, Hurtić said.

Bosnian Croat Dražen Erdemović, who admitted killing almost half of 153 Muslims executed at Pilica, was sentenced by the Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal in 1998 to five years' imprisonment. He has served the sentence.

The excavation team found many bullets, some of them lodged among the body parts, as well as plastic and cloth bindings around the victims' arms.

"We have also found many documents, fourteen of which could be read and they clearly show that the victims were people who disappeared in July 1995 in Srebrenica," Hurtić said.

About 2,500 Srebrenica victims have been identified and buried while remains in 3,500 body bags still await DNA identification.

Close to 40 people were charged for the massacre by the UN war crimes court and Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian courts. B92

Friday, August 11, 2006

Kosovo can part amicably from Serbia

Politicians should realise that a federation to please the EU will not help the region, says Arber Koci

Friday August 11, 2006
The Guardian

I could tell from the first few lines that Gyula Hegyi's article was going to be one of those I've come to dread reading (Barbed wire and bridges, April 26). They break the ice with a little exaggeration and before you know it end up slapping you in the face. For example, according to the author, my birthplace, Pristina, has become "a 100% Albanian and Muslim city".

I read that a few times over and wondered to myself how remarkable a figure that was. Remarkable because the last census that was not boycotted by either Serbs or Albanians was in 1981, and that certainly made no mention of 100% of anything. Keeping in mind that I come from a rather large community of Albanian Catholics, I couldn't help but smell something fishy. A statement of religion also struck me as a little superfluous as descriptions of cities go.

Then Hegyi stated: "The twin symbols of the city are the wondrous new mosque, built by Saudi money, and a local replica of New York's Statue of Liberty, painted in pink." I had always thought the Museum of Kosovo, the National Theatre and the many streets filled with cafes serving macchiato and Peja beer were what most residents took to be their symbols.

A New York-themed hotel on the outskirts of the city was not on my list. Top of it though is the National Library, which incidentally sits between a huge Serbian Orthodox church (built with Milosevic money) and the site of what is soon to be the largest Catholic cathedral in south-eastern Europe. When Hegyi claimed that "the veil and American billboards go hand in hand", I began to question whether he has ever been to Pristina. Hegyi's proposal for real peace in the region is for Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo to band up in a loose federation to please the European Union, with the aim of eventually joining it. This proposal is familiar: the federation he proposes existed in 1998 and that clearly wasn't a success.

With Montenegro having closed the door on its way out and Kosovo about to do the same, this plan is not serious. When Kosovo's future hangs on the reasoning that Serbia is a democratic country now, and that "we should not break international law by taking its province away from it", I am forced to remind the author that Milosevic was democratically elected.

Even now, in a new and re-democratised Serbia, the largest party in the Serbian National Assembly is still the same ultra-nationalist, ultra-paranoid Radical party that still promises a Greater Serbia and has the great vote-pulling distinction of having its president in trial for war crimes.

Kosovo cannot afford to be held hostage by catastrophist "Pandora's box" politicians, nor can it afford to deny itself the right to rule itself for fear of upsetting foreign politicians.

The case of Montenegro showed that it is possible to part ways with Serbia in an amicable way. Let Kosovo do the same.

· Arber Koci is an Albanian living in Britain.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A towering success

Aug 10th 2006 | VISOKO
From The Economist print edition

Crank or genius, a Bosnian history buff makes a small town smile

AP Anyone for a pyramid?

BOSNIANS have a salty, cynical attitude to life and their recent experience of warmongers and demagogues has given them a healthy immunity to anybody who makes extravagant claims about the past or the future. But occasionally, somebody convinces them that something new and exciting is going on.

Take the little town of Visoko, a normally sleepy place that is enjoying an improvement in its fortunes because a self-taught archaeologist is convinced that he has discovered real pyramids—yes, man-made structures similar to the ones in Egypt and Mexico.

Semir Osmanagic is a Bosnian-American who runs a firm that makes steel components in Houston. He is an amateur historian who loves pyramids. To guffaws from conventional academics, Mr Osmanagic says he has found some of his favourite things in his homeland.

Even if that proves to be nonsense, Visoko is enjoying the fuss. Dario Pekic, a hotelier, says it was dead until “the Pharoah” came along. “In the past five years we have not had 12,000 tourists—now we can have 5,000 a day.”

Mr Osmanagic says it struck him in April 2005 that a pyramid-shaped hill in Visoko was in fact a real pyramid. Then, he says, he realised that there were two others nearby. Digging began in earnest this April, and the discoveries certainly give rise to some interesting questions.

On one “pyramid” Mr Osmanagic appears to have unearthed large slabs of what he says is ancient concrete, and on another what look like paved walkways. Bosnians have overcome their usual scepticism, and happy coachloads of them are descending on Visoko. Stalls sell “Pharaoh Osmanagic” T-shirts and model pyramids. Restaurants serve pyramid-shaped pizzas.

Mr Osmanagic's theories sound fantastical. He believes that the biggest pyramid is one-third taller than Egypt's Great Pyramid, and that they were built by an ancient civilisation 12,500 years ago. “Yes,” says Mr Osmanagic, who has been denounced by Bosnian archaeologists as a hallucinating lunatic, “we are rewriting the history of the world.” Indeed. Mr Osmanagic, who has also written about survivors from the mythical island of Atlantis who built pyramids in Central America—and about Hitler escaping in the direction of the Antarctic in 1945—says his enemies are just jealous.

In Sarajevo, sophisticated Bosnians squirm with embarrassment over the pyramid story. “It makes me ashamed to be Bosnian,” says Hrvoje Batinic, of the Open Society Fund, an NGO. But others say that, even if Mr Osmanagic has not discovered pyramids, he is on to something. And Elma Kovacevic, a volunteer in Mr Osmanagic's team, says breezily: “The pyramids will help us speed the development of the economy, and when we have done that the EU will accept us.” Stranger things have happened.