January 26, 2013
Ethnic Albanians are protesting in Kosovo’s capital to show support for their ethnic kin in Serbia’s tense southern sector. The protesters chanted anti-Serbian slogans Saturday in the main square of Pristina, blaming Kosovo’s government for not standing up for ethnic Albanians in the neighbouring country.
|©Vedat Xhymshiti for Corbis Images|
Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, used to be a province of Serbia until it declared independence in 2008, a move that Serbia still rejects.
Serbian authorities removed a monument erected in the town of Presevo to commemorate ethnic Albanians killed during the 2000 uprising against Serbia, a move that has prompted local outrage.
Serbia considers the fighters terrorists but the uprising ended with more civil rights for ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia.
The 2000-2001 insurgency in the southern Serbian regions of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac was widely seen as a spillover of the Kosovo conflict, as ethnic Albanians in Serbia’s south pressed to join newly free Kosovo.
NATO brokered a peace deal, and Serbia pledged greater rights and economic opportunity for the south. But progress has been patchy, and southern Serbia remains the poorest region of a country now aiming to join the European Union.
Ethnic Albanians regard the guerrillas as heroes. Serbia says they are terrorists.
Tensions in the region, known as the Presevo Valley, have the potential to complicate EU-mediated talks between Serbia and Kosovo aimed at normalizing their relations five years after Kosovo declared independence.
In a statement, the government of Kosovo said it called on Albanians in the area to stay calm. “This action by the government of Serbia is another proof that the hate against Albanians that live in the Presevo Valley is still alive,” the Kosovo government said in a statement.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as sovereign, but is under pressure to cooperate with the new country before the EU moves ahead with Belgrade’s bid to join the bloc.
by AP & Vedat Xhymshiti