Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the situation in Mitrovica

  1.  The latest upsurge of violence in Mitrovica was triggered by the murder of an ethnic Albanian teenager in the Serb-dominated north of the town at the end of January, although inter-ethnic tensions in the town had been high for some time. Kosovo Albanians are determined that Mitrovica should remain undivided, and fear that separate government for northern Mitrovica (currently being advocated by Kosovo Serb leaders) would be the precursor for a de facto partition of Kosovo into Serb and Albanian-dominated areas. Kosovo Serbs in Mitrovica fear both political domination by the numerically superior ethnic Albanians in the town, and the threat of violence from Kosovo Albanian extremists. They currently view the best protection from both to be self-government for the north of the town.

  2.  The violent protests by ethnic Albanians in southern Mitrovica in January subsided after the signature by Hans Haekkerup (Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo), Lt General General Cabigiosu, the KFOR Commander, and Kosovo Albanian leaders, on 1 February of a declaration recognising the need to establish functioning political structures for the town and increased freedom of movement.

  3.  The international community has consistently advocated an undivided and multi-ethnic Kosovo, consistent with UNSCR 1244, and the principles in the 1 February declaration are consistent with these objectives. UNMIK is rightly determined not to have its policy dictated by extremists on both sides, but it recognises the very real security concerns of ordinary Serbs. It has not thus far imposed a solution, and is taking forward its policy—and the 1 February declaration in particular—through its bilateral dialogue with representatives of the Kosovo Serb community. Belgrade's attitude to this aspect of UNMIK's task is likely to be important. UNMIK has asked the Yugoslav government to support a solution in Mitrovica.

  4.  Tensions remain high. Recent incidents including the bombing of a bus carrying Kosovo Serbs near Podujevo on 16 February, have significantly set back the prospects of inter-ethnic reconciliation in Mitrovica, as well as fuelling discontent more widely in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

20 February 2001

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