Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ethnic Albanians push for "region" in south

Ethnic Albanians push for "region" in south


3 August 2009 | 09:56 | Source: Tanjug
PREŠEVO -- Ethnic Albanian councilors in Serbia's south have launched an initiative to form Albanian regional institutions and a separate region of Preševo Valley.

A political declaration, adopted in an assembly of councilors of Preševo, Medveđa and Bujanovac, reminds that this initiative comes "in the spirit of the political platform of January 2006".

Albanians from the south of central Serbia wish to speed up talks between the government and "legitimate Albanian institutions and political representatives of the three municipalities, with international mediation, in order to accelerate the political process renewed in March this year, in line with the most progressive regional and European standards".

Riza Halimi, MP and leader of the PDD, in power in Bujanovac, but no longer in Preševo, told Tanjug news agency that this document "confirms the declaration from 2006".

"The latest document is also an answer to an irresponsible approach that the government of Serbia has to the problems of Albanians in the south of Serbia," said he, and explained that the Albanian councilors' assembly has 59 members.

The declaration also calls for proportional representation of Albanians in state structures and organs, public institutions, "and especially in local and border police".

The documents insists on finding an acceptable solution to recognizing diplomas issued in Priština after February 2008, when Kosovo's ethnic Albanians unilaterally declared secession.

It once again calls for Albanians arrested in Preševo in December 2008 on terrorism charges to be released from custody, and to have their case "processed within international legal mechanisms, since it is evident that the question has been politicized", and says that all members of the so-called Preševo, Bujanovac and Medveđa Liberation Army (OVPMB; UCPMB) "are being incriminated without exception".

The armed group launched numerous attacks in the area from 1999 until 2001, seeking to join the three municipalities to Kosovo.

The local ethnic councilors expressed "doubt" that the process against the captured members, accused of 1999 crimes committed in Gjilane, in the east of Kosovo, "would be legitimate".

The political declaration came after First Deputy PM and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić met with political representatives of local Albanians.

Dačić told Tanjug on Sunday that he had met with the leaders last week, "aiming to maintain political stability and security", and that the talks would continue.

“The talks were good and will be continued. I wish our security forces in the south to have understanding and support of citizens, but I also want us all to join forces against crime, corruption, because it is in the interest of all,” Dačić said in an interview with Tanjug.

He reiterated that the Serbian police (MUP) elite Gendarmerie force will be present in the south "until the situation gets fully stabilized".

Dačić pointed out the need for joint engagement on stabilization of the situation in the south, because, he said, "there is security and intelligence information, provided by Western services, on existence of certain groups in Kosovo and Metohija that originate from the area and who wish to destabilize the region".

The minister did not reveal the names of the Albanian leaders he met with, but the meeting came after the recent incidents, including an attack and wounding of two Gendarmes near Bujanovac, and a bomb planted in front of a residential building in Preševo.

The southern region is home to the largest ethnic Albanian population in the country outside of Kosovo itself.

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