UN announces constitutional framework and elections for Kosovo
On Monday 14 May Hans Hækkerup, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), promulgated a Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo and announced that general elections will be held on 17 November to create a 120-seat provincial assembly.
The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan commended the "consultative and inclusive manner" in which the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo had been elaborated.
"The Secretary-General believes that there are adequate guarantees built into the Constitutional Framework to protect the rights and interests of all of Kosovo's communities," the statement said.
Annan "strongly encourages all communities to participate in the electoral process and the interim institutions that will flow from these," calling in particular on the Kosovo Serb community to register and take part.
"The EU is prepared to continue to assist in the effort to build a democratic and prosperous society where violence is shunned and genuine reconciliation can be achieved," an EU statement said.
"The Framework puts in place a fair and necessary structure of interim institutions in the interest of all the people of Kosovo consistent with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244," said George Robertson, NATO Secretary General.
"This is an extremely important and positive step in the development of democracy and stability in Kosovo," said the US State Department. "The Constitutional Framework creates the basis for meaningful, democratic self-government under continuing United Nations oversight."
The UN mandate is to give the province substantial self-government, pending agreement on Kosovo's final status—whether it is to become independent or remain part of Yugoslavia—at an unspecified date.
While in neighbouring Albania, Hækkerup said no state supported a referendum on Kosovo's final status.
"Our main dispute is with the referendum question, but we will support this document," said Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo.
"This document will hold hostage the aim of the people, which is independence," Hashim Thaçi, a former Kosovo Liberation Army leader, now head of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, said.
"The signing of this document is not integration in what's left of Yugoslavia, but a true opportunity for the nation to do more for itself," head of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj said.
The Serbian minority fear that the plan prematurely rules out ties to Yugoslavia.
The Democratic Party of Serbia of Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica said the blueprint and the elections were also prejudging a final solution for Kosovo.
"Even if they wished to, Kosovo Serbs could take part only with difficulty in the scheduled elections because they are not in their homes, nor can they return to them, nor is their security and freedom of movement ensured," a DSS statement said.
But Serbian leaders have not made clear whether they would take part in the elections.
Eighty Albanian rebels surrender in Kosovo
COMKFOR Commander Thorstein Skiaker offered Monday an amnesty to the UÇPMB fighters in a move to avoid bloodshed in southern Serbia Preševo Valley. Guerrillas would not be detained if they crossed into Kosovo in the next eight days as long as they were not suspected of serious crimes.
"I appeal to their leaders to avoid bloodshed and loss of life. There is no dishonour in seeking peace," said Norwegian Lieutenant General Skiaker.
Eighty suspected ethnic Albanian guerrillas surrendered to NATO in Kosovo taking advantage of the amnesty. The suspects, some in military uniform, crossed into east Kosovo from the Preševo Valley in two groups a few hours apart, KFOR said.
Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Council decided to authorize the controlled return of FRY forces into Sector B of the Ground Safety Zone.
Yugoslav Defence Minister Slobodan Krapović pledged that security forces would exercise restraint in their buffer zone operation.
Commanders of the Preševo Valley guerrilla group have also said they will fight to prevent Serbs regaining control of the Sector B area of the Kosovo buffer zone they occupy.
Increased number of refugees in Kosovo
The total number of arrivals in Kosovo since 3 May is up to 8930 people, as of Monday 14 May, the UNHCR Spokeswoman Astrid van Genderen Stort reported.
"Over 17,000 people have arrived from FYROM since fighting started in March. Most of them have expressed the wish to return when fighting is over," Stort said.
The UNHCR reported on Wednesday some 550 ethnic Albanians have fled into Kosovo to escape fighting in the Preševo Valley, bringing to more than 3000 the number since 13 May.
And in other news...
- Florim Ejupi, an ethnic Albanian suspected of involvement in a bus bombing that killed 11 Serbs, escaped from a US Army-run detention facility on Monday.
- Gezim Ostreni, a high-ranking official in the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK), is reported to have joined ethnic Albanian NLA fighters in north Macedonia. He was suspended as the TMK chief of staff last month over alleged links with the NLA fighters.
- A Scottish regiment is to use horses to patrol Kosovo because tanks damage the roads and intimidate locals. Captain Jonathan Williamson said, "The sight of guys wearing berets with rifles slung over their backs, and wearing webbing, just chatting away on horseback is a damn site more amenable to a 14-year-old Albanian kid or a family." The last trouble spot in which the British Army used horse patrols abroad is thought have been Palestine in the 1960s.
- During the night from Monday to Tuesday a 21-year-old Russian KFOR serviceman died in a road traffic accident. The military vehicle he was in went out of control and turned over, KFOR spokesman Major Axel-Bernd Jandesek reported.
- Kosovo has about 100,000 pensioners who have not received their pensions for nearly two years now and their economic and social status is poor, members of Kosovo's Pensioner Association, said Monday in Priština (Prishtinë).
Llazar Semini, 17 May 2001
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