During a visit to Nicosia for talks on issues concerning the destruction of cultural and ecclesiastical heritage, the Deputy Director of the Serbian Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Zeljko Jovic, has called via Cyprus’ Kathimerini on the Albanian-speaking separatist entity to arrive at a compromise with the Serbian government.
In an interview with Apostolos Tomaras, Zeljko Jovic described the situation in Kosovo after the Albanian-speaking citizens moved unilaterally to declare the creation of a “state” entity. He referred to the problems caused by the separatist movement of the Albanians in the region, describing Kosovo as a vessel for organized crime.
He also referred to the great problems the Orthodox Serbian Church faces, with its property being at constant risk. To date, despite the kidnappings, murders and robberies against Kosovo Serbs, no one has been brought to justice.
The interview follows in full:
– Mr. Jovic, what is the purpose of your visit to Cyprus?
– During the talks I held here, I tried to demonstrate, with as much information as possible, the troubled faced by the Serbian people and the destruction of Serbian property and our cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija; I was also briefed about the issues the Republic of Cyprus faces with [similar] destruction in the occupied part of the island.
-What happened in the last week with the arrest of the director of the Serbian government office for the region?
– A meeting had been scheduled in the north of Kosovska Mitrovica between the legal representatives of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija. The agenda focused on finding peaceful solutions to the problems faced by Serbs living in these regions. This meeting had been arranged and announced in advance and everyone knew about it. As regards the legal aspect, the presence of the head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Juric, was legitimate and in line with the context of the Brussels agreements. The only obligation of Marko Juric – who is also the main interlocutor in Brussels on these issues – based on existing agreements was to announce his arrival in Kosovo 24 hours in advance, but not seek permission, as he did. The claims of the “Kosovo” regime that Juric’s arrival was illegal have to base in reality. Moreover, heads of hospitals, schools and others also took part in this meeting. About 45 minutes before the meeting was due to commence, “special forces” of the “Kosovo” regime launched an attack, violating agreements that forbid them to intervene in northern Kosovo and Metohija without the permission of the Serbs, who are the majority. This action was illegal and occurred in the presence of the European Peacekeeping Force.
– Was violence exercised?
– There was excessive violence without reason, throwing of stun grenades and use of tear gas. The behaved aggressively to unarmed people, even hitting them with their arms. Before transferring Marko Juric to a Pristina court, they dragged him through the streets of Pristina, escorted by Albanians who wanted to lynch him. Inside the armored vehicle carrying him, they beat and threatened him with a knife, while shouting “Allah is Great”. Belgrade treats this incident as a terrorist act. The cowardly kidnapping of Marco Juric and the injuring of 32 people who were taken to hospital caused great fear, tension and anger to Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija; however there were not violent reactions by Serbs noted. In this way, we yet again demonstrated our desire for dialogue. The decisive intervention of the Serbian President led to Marko Juric being immediately released.
-What are the living conditions of the Kosovo Serbs?
– They still have problems. Some of them, in some areas, do not even have the freedom to move. They are constantly falling victim to robberies, there are political arrests of even elderly people after alleged allegations by their neighbors (Albanians), in order for their properties to be grabbed. Also, the Orthodox Serbian Church, whose property is in constant danger, also faces major problems. Until now, despite the kidnappings, murders and robberies against Kosovo Serbs, no one has been brought to justice.
– How can the problems in the region be resolved?
– -The position of Serbia is clear. Belgrade cannot recognize the Kosovo regime. We are ready to discuss some things, but not the recognition of independence. There are 130,000 Serbs living in Kosovo and there are cultural and ecclesiastical monuments of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries that show that the area is Serbian and even today, after everything, over 60% of land according to the Land Registry belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian people. We are ready to compromise but the Kosovo regime must do the same.
– Is Serbia interested in joining the EU?
-It is one of the main goals of our foreign policy. Given Serbia’s unyielding efforts to join the EU, it is a matter of a few years for Serbia to become a member of the EU.
– How do you characterize relations between Nicosia and Belgrade?
– This relationship is an example of friendly relations between states. They are fraternal, they are sincere and we must not forget the support we have from the Republic of Cyprus. It is a relationship governed by mutual respect and common struggles for the preservation and implementation of international law.
– Does Belgrade believe talks between Greece and Skopje will have a successful conclusion?
-These issues are internal to each country. We will, however, welcome whatever decision is reached by the two parties and we are ready to contribute, if asked, to solving this problem in order to ensure peace and political stability in the Balkans.
– How does Belgrade view the latest raid in Kosovo by the Turkish secret services?
– In the light of what has happened lately, it will be very interesting to watch the development of relations between the two opposing political movements among the Albanians in Kosovo, the one acting under the orders of the United States and the other operating on the orders of Turkey. Serbia has also for years warned of the unsustainability of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the inability of Kosovo’s “institutions” to maintain political stability and control on Kosovo’s territory. The area of the South Serbian province (Kosovo and Metohija) since 1999, particularly since the unilateral proclamation of the Independence of “Kosovo”, has become a vessel for organized crime and terrorism and, moreover, the biggest security challenge for the whole of Europe…. / IBNA