Kosovo, Serbia work towards reconciliation

29/03/2013

Analysts and politicians in Kosovo and Serbia agree on the need for reconciliation.

By Linda Karadaku and Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 29/03/13

photo

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (right) attended the recent UN Security Council meeting. [UN Photo/Evan Schneider]

Kosovo and Serbia are making an effort to agree on sensitive issues, but analysts said that reconciliation will depend on political will and post-conflict transition.

Sonja Biserko, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade, told SETimes that reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians is possible but will require courage.

"It's a complex process because the post-conflict societies are trying to overcome trauma caused by massive human rights violations that happened in Kosovo. The outcome of the process depends on the character of the conflict and post-conflict transition, political actors, and the political will to start a moral and political recovery," Biserko said.

"We are now in the most difficult phase of negotiations; there's much resistance in Serbia, and within the coalition," she said, but expressed high hopes that an agreement will be reached between Serbia and Kosovo.

"Both Serbia and Kosovo would make a breakthrough if an agreement is signed. New opportunities would be opened for the whole region, and ending territorial disputes would contribute to overall stabilisation," she said.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci told the UN Security Council on March 22nd that solving practical, technical and interstate issues between the two countries would fulfill the main preconditions leading to mutual recognition, a process extremely difficult for both Kosovo and Serbia.

Thaci made a specific proposal to Belgrade last week.

"The signing of a peace treaty which would regulate the relations between Kosovo and Serbia, our inter-state relations, including Serbia asking for forgiveness, providing war damages compensation, addressing the missing people's problem, and other war-related issues that would help create a positive environment in addressing the past and moving towards the future," he said.

The treaty with Serbia would include "a request for apology by Serbia, for compensation for war damages and [more clarity] about missing persons," said Hajredin Kuci, Kosovo's deputy prime minister and justice minister.

But Serbia Prime Mnister Ivica Dacic dismissed the proposal, saying the plan serves Kosovo political purposes.

"No peace agreement or regulation of war reparations was ever mentioned in official negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. Such statements serve Pristina purposes. We find such proposal absolutely unacceptable," Dacic said.

Aleksandar Vulin, head of the office for Kosovo in the Serbian government, said Serbia cannot pay Kosovo war reparations, "because it is a part of Serbia."

"The demand for war reparations does not sound like a call for reconciliation, but rather a humiliation of Serbia. It is an attempt at creating confusion, because about 200,000 Serbs were exiled from Kosovo and in March 2004 some 30 Serbian medieval churches were burned down. So, who should pay to whom?" Milos Pantic, a Mitrovica resident, told SETimes.

Biserko disagreed.

"War reparations are the way to make progress. However, I think that Serbia is going to avoid it as much as possible," she told SETimes.

According to Thaci, Serbia has so far refused to officially ask for forgiveness "for the sponsored abuses done from their regime against the human rights and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo."

In order to foster the process of reconciliation, the Kosovo government established the Working Group Dealing with the Past and Reconciliation on March 18th.

"This group will deal in detail with reparations for all war victims in Kosovo - before the war and during the transitional period," Hajredin Kuci, Kosovo deputy prime minister, said. at the first meeting of the working group.

"The main goal of the group will be to establish a national strategy for reconciliation," said Dhurata Hoxha, the head of the group and a political advisor to the prime minister.

However, Bekim Blakaj, director of the Humanitarian Law Center in Kosovo, is sceptical of the group's ability to set a strategy for transitional justice, which would influence admission of truth from all sides.

Last month, Serbia's human rights authorities said former Serbian General Dragoljub Ojdanic's apology to the victims of his conduct against Kosovo Albanians in 1999 is an important gesture in terms of reconcilation.

"This apology to the victims is important and significant for the reconciliation process," Biserko told SETimes.

Ojdanic, the former Yugoslav Army chief of staff, admitted his involvement in war crimes against Kosovo Albanians in the early 1999, stating his "full acceptance of all findings in the judgment" in his conduct, conviction and sentence, and expressed "regret for the suffering" endured by victims as a result of the conduct for which he was convicted.

Ojdanic withdrew his appeal against the ICTY trial judgment last month in The Hague.

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Blakaj said that more war crime trials would help in reaching a consensus on the past.

"Admission of war crimes would be mostly influenced by both Albanians and Serbs, even though such an admission might require a broad public debate. If that were done properly, there would be a high chance of a stable reconciliation between the Albanians and Serbs," Blakaj told SETimes.

According to Biserko, some preconditions must first be met for the Albanians and Serbs to start the reconciliation process.

"It means that Serbia, as a state, and the Serbian society have to acknowledge and accept the responsibility for massive violations of Albanian's human rights for decades. It certainly is not a simple task, but a challenge for every society, and an expression of its maturity," Biserko told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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