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INFO   :::  Region > Kosovo - PAGE 5 > Subsequent Provocation from Belgrade


Subsequent Provocation from Belgrade

Prishtina should be included in the discussions related to the Kumanova Agreement because it has the arguments as to why concessions shouldn't be made to Serbia. On the contrary, failure to include (respect) Prishtina again would define Brussels as being at Serbia's side, against Kosovo

Ylber Hysa


The Kumanova Agreement, known as the MTA (Military Technical Agreement), dated 9 June 1999, is as important for some as Resolution 1244, which finally enabled the withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosovo, as it was one of the fundamental pillars that enabled peace in Kosovo and the Balkans.

Following some of the successes of Serbian diplomacy after 17 February, including the appeal against the declaration of independence at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the six points, it appears that Belgrade, encouraged by being able to pass its initiatives so easily by the west, has decided to take its chances and grab a bigger bite in its dealings with and related to Kosovo. But, to be more accurate, this initiative is new only as far as the public is concerned, because it was raised a number of times and appears to have been discussed at length, again, without Prishtina.

And ironically, with this initiative, Serbs, go back to the not much liked President, Ahtisaari, as the Kumanova Agreement begins with a reference to the Finish President: "The parties to this Agreement reaffirm the document presented by President Ahtisaari to President Milosevic and endorsed by the Serbian Parliament... on 3 June 1999, for the inclusion of the deployment of an effective international civilian and security presence under the umbrella of the UN".

These days, President Tadic and Ponos, the head of the Serbian army, have stressed the need to review this Agreement clearly and publicly. Tadic said that this Agreement ought to be changed since Serbia has proved that it is a factor of stability in the region and that parts of it should be changed, such as the prohibition of flights. Objectively, there are no security reasons for such provisions and Serbia is not a factor of instability since its soldiers did not attack anyone, said the Serbian President. Ponos, on the other hand, evaluated that there are not reasons for "buffer" zones between NATO and the Serbian army nine years after the Agreement.

It is clear that Serbian diplomacy has insisted on such a course of action, encouraged by the invitation for Partnership for Peace and following the many compromises and benefits provided by Brussels after the last elections in Serbia. What is more, Belgrade has re-iterated the fact that it is very difficult to create a pro-NATO attitude or opinion in Serbia when people still recall the NATO air strikes in 1999 and when polls show a very reserved attitude towards the North-Atlantic Alliance. From this point of view, NATO should be the first to take a step towards Serbia.

Serbia will continue to insist on the fact that this is an agreement made between NATO and Serbia, so without Prishtina, meaning that there is no reason why it should be asked or considered again.

Belgrade will try to bring back the past, the year 1999, this way, in a selective manner, by reinforcing Resolution 1244 and by doing away with the Kumanova Agreement.

There are several reasons why such requests from Serbia should be thought over well by Brussels and Naples before a final step is taken, either not considering the Serbian offer, or through counter-proposals and conditions set forth.

But Prishtina, albeit not a direct party to the agreement, has reasons for saying its views and diplomatic rationale.

Firstly, President Tadic's claims that Serbia was a factor of stability and that Serbian soldiers and forces did not open fire against anyone, and further claims that they respected the Agreement, should be reconsidered and rejected. Serbia continued to keep its parallel security forces throughout Kosovo and has been very present and very openly so in the north, where it kept a very clear and active chain of command of the MUP (BIA) and military intelligence. This is in opposition with the obligation it assumed according to item I. 3, c. of the Kumanova Agreement, which says that: "'FRY Forces' include all FRY and Serbian personnel, as well as organizations with military capabilities..." Furthermore, an additional argument is the Serbian conduct during the armed conflict on 17 March this year when regular and paramilitary Serbian forces, under the chain of command of the Serbian authorities, shot at NATO soldiers and the UN Police, killing a Ukrainian policeman and wounding other international security staff, including NATO staff members. This can be proved easily with concrete evidence.

Prishtina has another very strong and practical argument: Belgrade did not permit civilian flights to Kosovo since 1999 and this prohibition was very costly for Kosovo and its inhabitants. This prohibition was and continues to be very problematic for many European air companies and, as such, is in opposition with the spirit of cooperation and is damaging for all. Furthermore, this Serbian prohibition has impeded traffic to and from Kosovo since 1999. The Ahtisaari package enables Kosovo to have complete control over its airspace and to revoke this prohibition with regard to Serbian forces would be an assumption of a position against the Kosovar party and a serious concession to Belgrade, or a case of Brussels being dangerously biased.

Since the Agreement was signed, FRY borders have changed, not only as far as Kosovo is concerned, but also with regard to Montenegro. This implies the area to the north of Kosovo, where Serbia continues to control its illegal security forces, in direct violation of the Kumanova Agreement, as well as to the east, where there is a large military-police center from the Presheva valley known as "Serbian Bondsteel"! This would be and imply yet another sign of instability for the Kosovar side, especially after the confusion caused by the six points presented by the UN Secretary General.

Another argument to this end would be the fact that Belgrade should have acted in compliance with the obligations it assumed according to item III, 2, a, based on which Serbia should have cooperated and provided all information necessary related to the mines and explosives they put in Kosovo.

NATO, on the other hand, in assuming the duty and task of training and preparing the KSF as a military force in Kosovo, cannot allow the Serbian aviation to be the other force flying over Kosovo without Kosovo's agreement and without a mutual acknowledgement between Kosovo and Serbia. In other words, the KSF cannot be the Kosovo land force, while the Serbian aviation is the other segment of the Kosovo army, without an agreement with Prishtina in line with a North-Atlantic culture or spirit. This would presume that Serbia should acknowledge this reality if it claims that things have changed since 1999.

These are only a few of the arguments why Prishtina should be actively involved in the debate and why Brussels should not hurry and create more damage than good in Kosovo and the region.

What is more, ignoring Prishtina again would, in the end, define Brussels as being aligned with Belgrade and against Kosovo.

(The writer, a former Member of the Assembly of Kosovo, is an independent analyst)



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