Finding someone to talk to
UNMIK head Hans Haekkerup and KFOR commander general Carlo Cabigiosu met Serb leaders Marko Jaksić and Momčilo Trajković to try to convince them to resume negotiations with the international authorities and to defuse tensions in the northern town of Mitrovice.
They refused, however, to meet with man who is the unofficial leader of the Serbs in northern Mitrovice, Oliver Ivanović. In the past it has been the town's leaders who have refused to meet UNMIK.
Albanian leaders praised the two international heads, calling their refusal to deal with "rebels" a great attack against the Serbian parallel institutions running in northern Kosovo. They claim that Ivanović has been collaborating with Serb paramilitaries who carried out genocidal crimes during the war in 1999.
After the meeting Cabigiosu said they had been trying "to find a common solution" although there was no news of a breakthrough.
The war in the valley worsens
Fighting in the Preševo Valley, southern Serbia (Eastern Kosovo according to the ethnic Albanians) has continued to rage and has been the main item of news in the province this week. Serbian forces and the ethnic Albanian armed grouping calling itself the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac (UCPMB) exchanged heavy fire on Monday. The possibility that the war could spread inside Kosovo itself increased the pressure on the international community to redouble efforts and find a solution.
Albanian political and military leaders said they had reached agreement on a unified strategy for a political settlement there. At the same time, the Belgrade authorities said they were studying their own plan to end the ethnic Albanian guerrilla conflict in the south by offering financial incentives coupled with the deployment of international observers in the region. Jonuz Musliu, head of the Political Council of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac, said, without giving details: "We have reached an agreement to unify our strategy and prepare a platform for possible negotiations with the Serbs." The UCPMB seeks to join the region, inside a five-kilometer buffer zone separating Kosovo from southern Serbia, to an independent Kosovo.
Serb Deputy Prime Minister Nebojša Čović has prepared a plan, which allocates financial aid to the region including money for Albanians in the local administration. It also includes the disarming of Albanian guerrilla fighters and the start of talks towards a permanent settlement. But Albanians turned the plan down. Musliu said that before starting negotiations "Serbs should withdraw their troops" from the area. Riza Halimi, Preševo's mayor, also insisted the UCPMB rebels should be included in any negotiations, something Belgrade is bitterly opposed to.
The UCPMB fighters have moved into the demilitarized zone set up under the terms of the Kumanovo agreement (signed in the Macedonian town of the same name) between Belgrade and NATO in June 1999. Under that agreement, no military force should operate in the buffer zone, except lightly armed Serbian police. Eastern Kosovo is controlled by US troops of the multinational KFOR peacekeeping force, who are trying to prevent the separatists from setting up a stronghold in Kosovo, and from bringing in weapons through the province. The rebels have always claimed that they buy their munitions from Serbs in Serbia.
The fighters, who claim to be "members of a resistance movement against Serb oppression," are mostly villagers from the region, although a certain number are from Kosovo and Albania and some have served in the ranks of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK). The UCPMB first appeared in public on 26 January 2000 at the burial in Dobrosin of two Albanians killed by the Serb police. Men in uniforms emblazoned with the insignia of the UCPMB vowed to "fight until the Albanians of the Preševo valley are free". The Political Council of the movement was created in March 2000.
Building a budget
The Kosovo Budget for 2001 provides for recurrent expenditure on operations in this year totaling DEM 743 million (about USD 356 million) and identifies reconstruction and investment needs totaling DEM 2826 million (USD 1353 million) over the three years 2001 to 2003. The plan is that 2001 operational expenditures are to be financed by domestic revenues of DEM 541 million and donor contributions of DEM 202 million.
The Public Reconstruction and Investment needs will all have to be funded by donors, since domestic revenues are not yet sufficiently large to enable any significant capital investment from local sources. The key priority for the Kosovo Budget 2001 is to maintain progress towards self sufficiency by improving revenue-raising and keeping down overall expenditure growth. The role of the private sector as an engine for economic growth is also highlighted. However, while the war continues in Preševo, there is very little incentive for any serious level of foreign money for reconstrution or investment.
Grim photo display to help find relatives
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are hoping that a new joint initiative will help identify some of the victims of ethnically-motivated killings, whose bodies were exhumed by international investigators over the past year.
A book, containing 750 photographs of clothing and personal effects found with about 200 bodies recovered during 2000 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has just been published. The book will be available for viewing at all ICRC field offices throughout Kosovo and through the Missing Persons Bureaux in Priština and Gračanica. Mobile teams will take the book to isolated communities.
Thousands of women are trafficked,
one case solved
The first guilty verdict for trafficking in women has been issued in Kosovo, a United Nations spokesman reported in Priština on Monday. A three-and-a-half-year sentence was imposed on a Kosovo Albanian male—the first defendant in a trial underway in Peč/Peje in which three men were charged with trafficking in women and controlling them for the purpose of prostitution, according to Derek Chappell, a police spokesman for UNMIK.
"This verdict sends a strong message to those who would buy and sell human beings for profit: that the courts will support the police with strong sanctions," he said, adding that the trial saw the first use of new regulations signed into law shortly before the departure of the former head of UNMIK, Bernard Kouchner.
Llazar Semini, 12 February 2001
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