Albania has told the United Nations that it would like to develop and consolidate its relations with Serbia, but it also criticized Belgrade for maintaining control of three ethnic Serbian areas in northern Kosovo.
In a speech to the General Assembly’s general debate on Saturday, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Serbia’s decision to maintain control over three ethnic Serbian homogenous communes in Kosovo demonstrated that Belgrade “still believes in reshaping borders in our region based on the failed and long overdue idea of ethnically ‘clean’ countries and Greater Serbia.”
Serbia’s President Boris Tadic told the Assembly on Friday that his country cannot accept Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008, but Serbia will also not abandon the negotiations process between Belgrade and Pristina. Any progress between the two sides needed trust, and “negotiations and reconciliation are not achieved through unilateral concessions from one side only.”
In recent weeks tensions between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have flared anew, particularly in the north, sparking concerns from United Nations officials.
Mr. Berisha said that “Serbian culture in Kosova is today more secured that ever. I would like to reassure distinguished representatives of the Member States that the only threat they face is their exploitation to serve purposes of a bitter past that must not ever return.”
He also said that inter-ethnic relations in all areas where Serbs and Albanians live together in the same communities are “very good.”
“However, the parallel structures paid by Belgrade in the three Serbian homogenous communes north of Mitrovica, where no other ethnic groups reside, have turned them in[to] safe havens for organized crime and smuggling of all sorts.”
Exercising the right of reply, Serbia’s representative said the speech by the Albanian Prime Minister contained “misrepresentations and falsehoods.” He said Kosovo had taken unilateral actions of a “coercive nature” in the negotiation process, attempting to create a “fait accompli” on issues that were still pending.
He said Mr. Berisha had also misrepresented an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asserting that the court did not decide that the declaration of independence of Kosovo was in full compliance with international law.
In fact, it had only found that Kosovo did not violate international law because the law contained no applicable prohibitions on declarations of independence, he said.
The Serbian representative said also that inter-ethnic relations where Albanians and Serbs lived together were not “very good” and he added that the criminal groups referred to by the Albanian Prime Minister are actually Albanian groups with a history of disrupting the rule of law in Kosovo.
Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Albania said an independent Kosovo was the only solution to the conflict. Albania continued to hope that Serbia would come to terms with that “undeniable and unreversable” reality, he added.