Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office on the situation in the Presevo Valley
1. The situation in the Presevo Valley area
of southern Serbia continues to be a matter of great concern to
the Government, as it is to the international community as a whole.
The Government condemns ongoing acts of violence perpetrated by
ethnic Albanian extremists and welcomes the continuing restraint
being shown by Yugoslav/Serbian authorities in the face of provocation.
The Government fully supported the call by the UN Security Council
on 19 December for the dissolution of ethnic Albanian extremist
groups and the immediate withdrawal from the area of all non-residents
engaged in extremist activity. The Government agrees that existing
borders should not be changed.
2. We warmly welcome the political approach
set out by Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Covic, as a joint position
of the Yugoslav and Serbian governments, as the basis for dialogue
with representatives of the ethnic Albanian community of the area.
That this dialogue should begin as soon as possible, and be undertaken
in good faith, is the best hope of avoiding an escalation of the
violence. Rapid implementation of the confidence building measures
outlined by Deputy Prime Minister Covic would be the best evidence
of the intention of the authorities in Belgrade to address the
legitimate grievances of moderate Albanians in southern Serbia.
3. In contacts with Albanian leaders in
southern Serbia, representatives of the international community
have emphasised the need for dialogue and a peaceful resolution
to the crisis. Similar messages have also been delivered to Kosovo
Albanian leaders, given the close links which are known to exist
between Albanian communities in Kosovo and southern Serbia.
4. The Government welcomes the fact that
Deputy Prime Minister Covic has presented his proposals in person
to the EU, NATO and OSCE, and that these organisations stand ready
to provide further assistance in supporting any agreement. The
proposals foresee the international community acting in support,
principally through the verification of demilitarisation and the
provision of economic assistance. The EU has already contributed
substantial aid to the area, which was doubled on 16 February
to some 1.8m Euro (£1.1m). EUMM monitors are reporting on
the situation in the area, and their contingent is being augmented.
KFOR has been active in restricting support for ethnic Albanian
extremists coming across the Kosovo boundary, and UK forces from
the KFOR reserve have played a role in this activity. NATO is
also considering options for the future of the Ground Safety Zone
(GSZ) on the Kosovo/Serbia boundary following calls by the FRY/Serb
authorities for its reduction. NATO has indicated that it is willing
to consider such changes provided it would not create a security
vacuum or lead to new fighting, and forms part of a broader settlement
to the problems of the area.
5. The EU and NATO are consulting closely
over the international community's response, including on a potential
international role in the verification of any agreement. A team
of experts from both organisations and the UN visited Belgrade
and Presevo on 21-22 February. The OSCE is taking forward plans
to assist with monitoring and retraining the local police, a key
element in building the confidence of the local populations in
the infrastructure of the area.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
20 February 2001