A two day cease-fire was declared at midnight last Friday by the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđe and Bujanovac (UÇPMB) to facilitate the opening of political processes in the region. On Saturday, Serbs from the region blocked roads into Bujanovac demanding weapons to defend themselves against what they see as being abandoned by security forces (Yugoslav and international) in a zone which is technically demilitarised.
Serbian Interior Co-Minister Bozo Prelević blamed the KLA for the outbreaks in the region and for the assassination of Džemaijl Mustafa last week, adding that the existence of the UÇPMB was impossible. He later added that although it was well within the capabilities of the Yugoslav Security Forces to regain control in the region, it was for President Koštunica to decide, in conjunction with KFOR, the best way forward.
Jonus Musliu, leader of the UÇPMB, said that his forces were to accept the cease-fire but sought a political solution for the area and would remain in position until one transpired. On Sunday, UNHCR in Gnjilane/Gjilan announced that more than 1000 Albanians had fled to Kosovo fearing the Yugoslav Army (JNA) would try to take revenge for the Albanian attacks. There were further reports of large numbers of Albanians moving south towards the Macedonian border.
Koštunica visited the area on Monday, having cut short his attendance at the OSCE conference in Vienna, accompanied by Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Nebojša Pavković, Third Army Commander Vladimir Lazarević and State Security Chief Rade Marković. He met local officials to discuss the situation. Koštunica called for urgent amendments to the 1999 Kumanovo Agreement which renders the area a demilitarised zone; an appeal later rejected by NATO. By the end of Monday, the total number of refugees to have fled southern Serbia for Kosovo had reached 2200.
On 28 November, KFOR announced that it had negotiated an indefinite cease-fire in the region, although various individuals (such as Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojša Čović) later denied that such negotiations or an agreement had taken place. There have been reports throughout the week about minefields in the region, which were confirmed by an accident at the start of the week in which an Albanian man ran over a mine with his tractor.
Serbian security forces say that in the village of Lucane, only the main road that runs to Kosovo is safe, all others are mined. On Wednesday, Serbian police returned to and took control of Lucane and several buses of riot police were seen leaving the area for Belgrade; the first indications that the situation was easing since the outbreak of violence there.
KFOR reports having seized weapons and uniforms in Medveđe apparently destined for Albanian fighters in the region, and NATO Secretary General George Robertson condemned the Albanians for resorting to violence to solve their problems.
There have been many suggestions that the Albanian fighters comprising the UÇPMB are actually ex-UÇK soldiers who crossed the border to become involved in this new conflict. However, KFOR Commander General Carlo Cabigiosu this week said that between 200 and 300 armed Albanians remain in the Preševo valley, but estimated that the majority of them had been there since before the current conflict. On Wednesday, the total number of refugees in Kosovo had reached 4000, 1000 from which crossed back into southern Serbia.
Kosovo: Koštunica extended an invitation to Rugova to talks regarding the future of the province. Koštunica also condemned the assassination of Džemaijl Mustafa, a close associate of Rugova's, in Priština last week as an act of terrorism.
France: French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Priština on Saturday 25 November for a short visit to the province.
Croatia: At the Zagreb summit, Koštunica did not make a formal apology to Croatia as some commentators had suggested he would.
Montenegro: Talks on relations between Montenegro and Belgrade will resume after the 23 December elections in Serbia.
USA: Americans were yesterday warned to steer clear of Yugoslavia due to the possibility of revenge attacks for last year's bombing. The statement, issued by the state department, comes despite the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
EU: Romano Prodi made clear this week that EU aid was not conditional upon the extradition of Slobodan Milošević to the Hague.
OSCE: On Monday, Koštunica signed the Helsinki Charter, the Paris Declaration and the Istanbul Document; the documents at the heart of the OSCE. Yugoslavia is now officially member of the European security organisation. The OSCE will monitor Serbia's parliamentary elections on 23 December, through a delegation to be led by Nikolaj Vulčanov (a Bulgarian diplomat).
Milošević was re-elected chairman of the Socialist Party at an extraordinary Party Congress on 25 November. Milošević (the only candidate) secured 2048 votes out of 2226. He acknowledged the dwindling size of the party in passing, saying that it was not the size but the quality of the Socialist Party that was important.
OTPOR staged a support rally for Milošević, in the conviction that his re-election will secure his final and total destruction as a politician. Other major points of interest in his speech were his blaming the break-up of his coalition onto the Serbian Radical Party and the proclamation of war criminals as national heroes.
On Tuesday, Mlađan Dinkić, Director of the G17 Plus Economic Group, was appointed governor of the Yugoslav National Bank. On Thursday, he accepted Vuk Ognjanović (the candidate nominated by the Montenegrin Socialists) and thus secured also his own position.
His initial rejection of Ognjanović came from his belief that Ognjanović's fiscal policies resulted in the hyperinflation witnessed by Yugoslavia when Ognjanović was National Bank governor from 1992 to 1993.
On Tuesday, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) signed a coalition contract detailing conditions for the co-operation of its constituent parties during the Serbian elections scheduled for 23 December.
During the signing, DOS representatives said that the election campaign will begin on 1 December. Čedomir Jovanović (DOS) said that their candidate list will be submitted by the 7 December deadline and that the gathering of necessary signatures was in progress.
And in other news...
- A riot in Niš prison on Monday left 90 people injured.
- Gazprom scaled down deliveries of natural gas to Serbia this week due to growing unpaid bills. Deliveries to Yugoslavia will be reduced from 4.2 million to three million cubic metres per day. Belgrade is already feeling the effects as there is not enough gas to run the city's central heating system. Yugoslavia's unpaid debt to Gazprom is currently USD 325 million, Reuters reports.
Eleanor Pritchard, 1 December 2000
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