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News 21 Jan 13

Kosovo Condemns Removal of Presevo Monument

Kosovo authorities have slated Serbia's removal of a monument erected to ethnic Albanian fighters in southern Serbia, calling it an act of hatred.

Edona Peci Pristina

The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, has condemned Serbia's removal of a monument erected to ethnic Albanian fighters in the town of Presevo as “contrary to human basic rights.

“This expresses a lack of readiness to find a solution in dialogue as a democratic mechanism,” Jahjaga said on Sunday.

The Kosovo government said the action showed the authorities' “hatred towards ethnic Albanians in Presevo.

“This ugly act of the Serbian government seriously risks the process of [EU-led] dialogue for normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Direct responsibility for this falls on Serbia,” the government said.

The memorial to veterans of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac was put up last November in Presevo, an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian town in southern Serbia.

The paramilitary force staged a brief conflict with the Serbian military after the end of the Kosovo war but later disarmed following international mediation.

Around 200 Serbian police moved in to Presevo on the morning of January 20 to take down the memorial after Serbia said it promoted separatism and had to go.

The monument to the fighters has caused serious tension between local representatives and Belgrade, and also between the governments of Serbia and Kosovo.

While denouncing the removal of the memorial, the Kosovo authorities have called on ethnic Albanians in the Presevo area to remain calm and not to react to what they called Serbia’s “cowardly move”.

Oppositional parties in Kosovo also condemned Serbia's move, urging the Kosovo authorities to involve themselves more with the issue of Albanians in southern Serbia.

On Sunday, around 100 basketball club fans staged a protest in front of the government building in Pristina, blaming the government of failing to prevent removal of the monument.

Protesters shouted slogans urging the government to intervene in the northern, Serb-run part of Kosovo, where the government's writ does not run.

"The government should have intervened as it promised it would not allow this to happen," one protestor told Balkan Insight, referring to the monument.


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