Serbian Orthodox Church warns of new Balkan tensions if Kosovo wins independence
- 2005.11.04 Pravda:
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Serbian Orthodox Church warns of new Balkan tensions if Kosovo wins
Serbia's Orthodox Christian Church warned Friday of new tensions in
the Balkans if the province of Kosovo is granted independence at
upcoming U.N.-brokered talks.
Patriarch Pavle, the head of the Church, urged the international
community to abide in those negotiations by "principles of justice as
the foundation of international law and order."
Independence for Kosovo would mean "it is possible to snatch away the
territory of a democratic country in Europe before the eyes of the
entire world," the Patriarch said in a televised address.
"Such an act of highjacking, as veiled as it would be, would still
constitute occupation of sovereign Serbian land," he said.
The Church's warning, issued in a statement, and the Patriarch's
television appeal Friday reflected the strongest support to date for
the Serbian government position that Kosovo must not be split from
Serbia, despite an independence drive by most of its majority ethnic
"A just solution can only be found through negotiations," the church
statement said. "It (the solution) must not be one-sided and
imposed ... because that would lead to a mass exodus of the
population and fresh tensions in the Balkans with unforeseeable
Kosovo, formally a province in Serbia, has been run by the United
Nations and NATO since 1999, when the Alliance bombed Serbia for 78
days to force it to end a crackdown against ethnic Albanian
The U.N. Security Council has approved the start of talks later this
month to determine the province's future status.
Although it has had no authority over Kosovo for more than six years,
Belgrade is hoping to keep at least formal control over the region,
which most Serbs consider the cradle of their history and culture.
The Serbian Church, whose ancient seat and hundreds of medieval
monasteries are located in Kosovo, has been a harsh critic of Western
policies in the province.
The church said it has a "vital interest" to protect its holy places
in Kosovo, and called for special protection zones around Serb
religious sites in the province.
Dozens of Kosovo Serb religious monuments have been destroyed by
extremist ethnic Albanians, most of whom are Muslims, since 1999.
More than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians fled the province in
the face of attacks and harassment, AP reported.