At a Headquarters press conference this morning, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Radmila Milentijevic, former Minister for Information of the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, said the Serbian Government was firmly committed to the preservation of the Republic's integrity and its borders.
Briefing correspondents on recent developments in Serbia, including its province of Kosovo and Metohija, she stressed that the Serbian Government was convinced that it could resolve all outstanding political issues before it, especially given the fact that the vast majority of the Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija did not subscribe to terrorism or to the idea of secession.
Ms. Milentijevic said she wished to preface her remarks on the recent developments by saying that the dismemberment of the old Yugoslavia had not been an accident, it had been planned ahead of time. The best proof of that planning was a November 1990 report of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which the CIA predicted that Yugoslavia was on its way to dismemberment and that there was no force in the world that could stop it. However, according to the report, the process of that dismemberment had been supposed to begin with an armed struggle in Kosovo and Metohija. Yugoslavia had been dismembered but the armed struggle in Kosovo and Metohija had not then occurred -- that was in part due to the skilful leadership on the part of Yugoslavia and Serbia at that time.
For several years after the process of dismemberment had begun, Kosovo had been fairly quiet, she said. There had then been a sudden irruption of the situation. When the dismemberment of Yugoslavia had started, many young Albanians had found their way out of Kosovo into Germany and other European States and States around the world. A good many of them had joined the armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now that the war had ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of those warriors were back in Kosovo. Others were returning from Germany via Albania. "So they are finding their way to Kosovo, through Albania, armed to their teeth. And what we have here is a terrorist attack on the population of Kosovo and Metohija", she said.
For a couple of years the tactic had been to terrorize the civilian population, Ms. Milentijevic said. The tactic had not worked because the vast majority of the Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija were for peace and maintenance of the status quo, and were against terrorism and separatist forces. As a result, tactics had been changed. That had resulted in organized attacks against the police forces in the area, with the hope of provoking a strong reaction and, therefore, an internationalization of the problem.
She said those attempts had been successful. Then, the Serbian police forces, in discharging their duties, had reacted by dealing a fatal blow on 5 March to a main centre of terrorist activity near Srbija. The international community had moved in force. The Government of Serbia was against that development for the simple reason that there was no war going on in Kosovo. It was an internal issue and the Government was dedicated to resolving the issue through political dialogue with the Albanian nationals in Kosovo and Metohija.
On 10 March the Government of Serbia met and adopted a three-point position, Ms. Milentijevic said. It had called for: immediate peace in Kosovo; an immediate beginning of political dialogue without any preconditions; and the implementation of agreements on education reached between President Slobodan Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova in 1996. Because of anti-Serbian propaganda in the West, the Government had called on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to come to the area of concern to establish facts.
Following that initiative, the Government had sent a delegation to Kosovo and Metohija for the purpose of dialogue, she said. Until now the representatives of Kosovo and Metohija had not appeared. The problem was that the international community had not done anything specific to exert pressure on the political leadership of the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija to begin the political dialogue without preconditions. The result had been that Mr. Rugova was calling for the negotiations to be held at the level of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and not of Serbia -- with an eye to establishing a Republic of Kosovo. He was also calling for international mediation.
The Government wished to resolve its issues in a peaceful political manner without unnecessary international interference, she continued. Foreign representatives to Yugoslavia would be free to travel throughout Serbia, to Kosovo and Metohija and to speak with whomever they wished. However, direct mediation was not welcome. At the same time, an appeal was made to the international community to do more than just condemn terrorism and secure the integrity of the borders of Serbia and Yugoslavia. It was asked to exert the necessary pressure on the Albanian political leadership to condemn terrorism and begin to approach all the outstanding issues through political dialogue.
A correspondent asked Ms. Milentijevic to provide further information on the options of the Serbian Government. She said the only option was to continue to pursue political dialogue. A high ranking team was available in the area for those negotiations. "We have to remain open to this dialogue, and try as loudly and as convincingly as we can to impress upon the international community of the need for this dialogue, and try to get the international community to exert the necessary pressure on the Albanian leadership", she said. Especially the United States -- which had displayed
Yugoslavia Press Conference - 3 - 9 April 1998
uncritical support of the Albanian population -- had not done enough in that respect.
She said that the 1990 constitution of Serbia was based on citizenship and gave equal rights to all its citizens. The Albanian leadership had exerted pressure on Albanians not to partake in the political process, thereby denying them the considerable voice they could have had in the local, regional and national levels of the Government. To the current day, the Albanian leadership had not accepted the Serbian constitution.
In response to another question, Ms. Milentijevic said that representatives of foreign governments were welcome as guests to Yugoslavia, but were not welcome as mediators in an internal problem. There were many instances where similar activities -- some much more serious -- were taking place, and the international community was not intervening. She cited the situation involving the Kurdish population in Turkey. Kosovo was an internal problem of Serbia, she concluded.
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