PRISTINA, Serbia: Kosovo is on the brink of fresh unrest as talks remain deadlocked between Belgrade and Pristina on the future of the disputed Serbian province, media and observers warned on 22 February.
“The situation on the ground is becoming more sensitive every day. The potential for violence can appear anywhere and anytime,” the independent Albnanian-language Kosovo Sot daily said in an editorial.
Violence has already flared in ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo since special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari unveiled his plan earlier this month to resolve the most pressing issue left over from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.Ahtisaari’s blueprint would give Kosovo all the trappings of statehood — self-government, its own flag and anthem, and membership of international organisations.
A protest that claimed the lives of two Kosovo Albanians and an explosion that damaged UN vehicles came ahead of the sensitive talks that began in Vienna on Wednesday between Serbian and ethnic Albanian representatives.Kosovo opposition leader Ylber Hysa warned that the situation could swiftly deteriorate into full-scale conflict if the international community denies Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians their wish for independence from Serbia.
Kosovo has been run by a UN mission (UNMIK) since its 1998-1999 war between Serb forces loyal to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and separatist ethnic Albanian guerillas.
Some say the rising tensions further jeopardise the settlement process, which aims to transfer powers to the government in Pristina under a new supervisory mission led by the European Union.
“I’m not surprised by the tensions in a society where public discontent is so high,” said political analyst Qani Mehmeti, citing widespread anger over unemployment and corruption.“In such conditions, it’s not difficult to find someone frustrated enough to throw a bomb at UNMIK, thinking it’s the international community’s fault,” he warned.
A group named after the Kosovo Liberation Army guerillas that fought Milosevic’s forces claimed responsibility for Monday’s bomb attack on the UN-marked vehicles.The UN mission denounced the attack, saying “no just cause can be advanced by violence.”
“At this determining stage ... attacks on the UN’s property or personnel can only undermine Kosovo’s interests,” said UNMIK spokesman Neeraj Singh.Many of Kosovo’s more moderate ethnic Albanians agree.
Iljaz Hoti, a 28-year-old shopkeeper in Pristina, said the blast was “the most terrible thing” that could happen to Kosovo’s aspirations of independence.“I don’t know what the world might think about Kosovo, asking for independence from the international community and throwing bombs at that same community,” he said.