‘Kosovo Albanians lost most’ from violence

The Albanians lost the most from the recent outburst of violence in Kosovo, said Hakim Thaci, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), in an interview with Kathimerini. Thaci condemned the violent incidents, attributing his fellow ethnic Albanians’ response to «accumulated dissatisfaction,» but denied that the Albanians were planning an ethnic cleansing of Serbs. Were the incidents premeditated, as some have claimed? The events were a reaction by the people of Kosovo to an accumulation of dissatisfaction with the events of the past five years. The drowning of three Albanian children by Serbs in the River Ibar at Mitrovica was just the spark that ignited the blaze. People have had enough of the abstract promises made by international and local leaders in Kosovo. They are facing acute problems in their daily lives, they have no electricity or water supplies, they have no work. About 44 percent of Kosovars live on 2 dollars a day, 12 percent on 1 dollar a day and 60 percent are unemployed. Considering all that, I think their protests are legitimate, but not the use of violence, the destruction of historic and cultural monuments. These actions are unacceptable and those responsible should be punished. There are rumors that the perpetrators of the violence were UCK members. Is this true? The UCK and the people of Kosovo carried out a just and clean struggle in which we did not permit the destruction of historic or cultural monuments. Many of these have now been destroyed, but we have no information as to who was responsible for these reprehensible actions. I am sure that the arson and damage to these monuments were not committed by those who protected them during the just war. At any rate, the government of Kosovo has decided to provide a sum to restore all the homes and damaged monuments. What exactly did those people hope to achieve by going out and burning Christian churches and killing Serbs? The recent events were indeed tragic. Dozens of Kosovo citizens were killed. Kosovo has lost a great deal from the humanitarian, political and material point of view. No one else has lost more than the Albanians as a result of these events. After all that, do you think Albanians and Serbs can find a modus vivendi in a multicultural Kosovo? As you are aware, 1 million Albanians abandoned their homes during that terrible war five years ago. Nevertheless, within a short period of time, many Serbs returned to Kosovo. Ethnic cleansing is not on the agenda of any political party or any institution in Kosovo. We will work, now and in the future, to build an independent Kosovo where democratic order will prevail and where all citizens will be equal. However, in order for that goal to be realized, we need the will of both sides. The Serbs of Kosovo must understand that their capital is Pristina, not Belgrade. What about the proposal to divide Kosovo, as a necessary evil? It is unacceptable to divide Kosovo. It has its own borders recognized by the international community and any tendency to split the country would have repercussions for the entire region. No one can support the idea of a divided Kosovo and not realize that this would affect [the Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia, Bosnia, Presevo [in southern Serbia] and even Slovenia might claim more territory on the coast from Croatia. Kosovo must gain its independence as soon as possible and it must become part of Euro-Atlantic structures as an independent state. Do you think there is any point in continuing the Pristina-Belgrade talks that began in the fall? Kosovo’s institutions are oriented toward building constructive relations with all neighboring countries. But our neighbors must also give way on their own desires for Kosovo. The government of Serbia, trying to avoid its many domestic problems, is trying to distract public opinion onto Kosovo. That is typical of the games that used to be played by Milosevic. Kosovo must not remain hostage to developments in Serbia. Serbia must understand that Kosovo will become independent and the sooner it realizes that, the better it will be for developments in both Serbia and the broader region.

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