31 January 2006

Albanians in Presevo Valley want to join Kosovo



Belgrade, 16 Jan. (AKI) - Sensing that Serbia's southern Kosovo province, with majority ethnic Albanian population, might be moving towards independence, ethnic Albanians in the neighboring Presevo Valley have expressed a demand for greater autonomy and possibly joining their Muslim brothers in Kosovo. Ethnic Albanian representatives in three municipalities in southern Serbia, Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja on Saturday adopted a resolution demanding "political and territorial autonomy" for their region and withdrawal of Serbian army from the area.


The platform adopted over the weekend recalled that ethnic Albanians in the three municipalities had voted at a referendum in 1992 for independence of the region.


"Unless the question of Albanians in this valley is resolved properly, the region will remain a permanent flash point," the document stated.


Serbia opposes Kosovo independence, though it has no authority in the province since it was put under United Nations administration in 1999. Belgrade politicians thus reacted in a similar manner to the new ethnic Albanian initiative, saying that it was aimed at the creation of a Greater Albanian state.


The talks on the final status of Kosovo are expected to begin later this month and the platform adopted on Saturday said that in case of any changes of borders in the Balkans, ethnic Albanians in the Presevo Valley want to join Kosovo.


Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the main opposition force in Serbian parliament, the Serbian Radical Party, has said that Belgrade should ask the permission of the international community to disband the three municipalities after Saturday's provocation. "We cannot behave as if nothing has happened, otherwise Albanians will start to transform their fancies about a greater state into reality," Nikolic said.


Other Serbian politicians reacted in a similar manner, because by losing Kosovo and Presevo Valley, Serbia would be completely cut off from Orthodox Christian countries, like Macedonia and Greece. Furthermore, a Muslim bridgehead would be established from Turkey through Muslim-populated areas in southern Bulgaria, Presevo Valley and Kosovo all the way to Bosnia, and Serbia's main traffic routes south would come under Muslim, or more precisely, ethnic Albanian, control.