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news 21 Mar 14

Serbia Albanians Seeking Union With Kosovo Cite Crimea

Ethnic Albanian leader in southern Serbia says the Crimean precedent strengthens the case for allowing his border region to join Kosovo.

Presheva Jone

Jonuz Musliu, president of the mainly ethnic Albanian town of Bujanovac in southern Serbia, said that ethnic Albanian parts of Serbia should have a right to join Kosovo, now that the ethnically Russian Crimean region had joined Russia.

"If the authorities in Moscow demand that Crimea join Russia, Tirana and Pristina should demand the same for the Presevo valley [in South Serbia]," Musliu told Presheva Jone.

On Tuesday, Russia formally annexed Ukraine's Crimea region following a local referendum there.

Russian President Vlamidir Putin cited the democratic will of the peninsula's population as the main reason for Russia annexing it.

Musliu said that historically the Presevo valley had always been part of Kosovo - and had only been separated from it in 1948 by the Yugoslav leadership.

Serbian officials, focused on their own internal affairs following early general elections on Sunday, made no immediate comment about Musliu's remarks.

Albanians in south Serbia staged an unofficial referendum on joining Kosovo on May 2, 1992, but the Serbian authorities ignored it.

The area is home to about 50,000 ethnic Albanians who live on the border with mainly Albanian Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

In 2001, the region saw an armed conflict between the security forces and Albanian rebels, which ended with the help of the international community and NATO.

Armed conflict has not returned, but discontent remains high and the area remains the poorest in Serbia.

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The South Serbia region, predominantly populated by ethnic Albanians, lies some 350 kilometres south of Serbia`s capital, Belgrade. In contemporary political language, the term “South Serbia” is understood to refer to the territory of three municipalities - Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja.

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