Crossfire War – BELGRADE -TEHRAN – ATHENS WATCH – Southeast Europe Theatre: Belgrade – Tehran – Moscow – Sofia – Ankara – Athens – Kosovska Mitrovica/Pristina – Tirana – Skopje – Washington – Brussels – Vienna – Warsaw; US State Department Representative Kurt Volker – “US will recognize independent Kosovo” – Serbian Government – Political Parties in Belgrade Condemn Statement as Threat to Sovereignty – Undermines Negotiations – Broad Support from Kosovo Leadership
Night Watch: PRISTINA – Washington has taken the lead in resuming the war in Southeast Europe with this official policy statement from State Department Representative Kurt Volker Friday, “U. S. will recognize independent Kosovo. Everyone must take responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the Balkans. If Kosovo unilaterally declares independence, the United States will recognize that independence as we believe will others since that is the only solution for the Balkans.” Maintaining the peace was never possible since both sides on the issue, the Albanian community in Kosovo and the Serbian government in Belgrade, have consistently maintained non-compromising, entrenched positions, though lately Belgrade began to state the presence of NATO troops were the main obstacle to any solution. However, with Washington’s new official support it in effect tells Kosovo to declare its independence immediately, something Belgrade has said for more than a year would cause war to resume in the region. [B92]
The last time there was heavy fighting over Kosovo was in 1999 during NATO’s 78-day air campaign against Serbia to end Belgrade’s occupation of Kosovo, though there has been a lot of violence by Albanians directed at the Serbian community in the province since 1999, violence that Brussels and the United Nations have diplomatically ignored. The Albanian majority province in Serbia first demanded autonomy in the early 1990s, as Yugoslavia was divided into six republics that gradually achieved international recognition as independent countries during the wars, which erupted from 1991-95. But violence in the province began in 1997 as nationalist militia groups emerged, some of them part of the Islamic militancy that had entered the conflict in 1992 initially through Bosnia, directed by Tehran’s new and extremely busy embassy in downtown Sarajevo, and now through Albania, and what had been a demand for autonomy then became a demand for independence.
The response to Washington’s statement by the Serbian government led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica was immediate and severely critical saying it was a threat to Serbia’s sovereignty, “The Serbia government expects the UN Security Council to, according to its jurisdiction, take necessary measures too protect Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity from the United States, and secure that Resolution 1244 is honored.” Under that resolution the Belgrade government retains control over Kosovo and only another UN resolution can change that but with Moscows support of Belgrade no UN resolution will ever grant Kosovo independence. Russia was never that eager to enter the conflicts that erupted in Yugoslavia in 1991, which is why the withdrew their forces after 1999. Moscow knew the wars in this theatre were being used by the European Union and NATO, both of them headquarted in Brussels, to stage wars against Serbia in the same area which provided the flashpoint for the First World War 1914-18. Russia and Serbia have a long history of cooperation and Moscow’s support continues by assisting Serbia’s rearming after 1999, including Russian made anti-aircraft missiles.
The political divisions and differences within Serbian political parties were ended as they universally condemned Washington’s proclamation. The President of the Serbian National Council in Kosovo, Milan Ivanovic stated the U. S. had just undermined completely the negotiation effort of the three nations Contact Group in their attempt to avoid war. A spokesperson for the Democratic Party (DS) of Serbian President Boris Tadic responded by saying, “Such statements encourage extremism and take the meaning out of efforts of the negotiating sides.” If Albanian nationalists began attacking the Serbian government and its offices in Kosovo then Washington is now obliged to support them and even send military assistance. This gives Serbia more of an idea of who to target when the shooting gets started and I suspect it will before the end of the year especially since Albanians believe they have Washington’s support.
Aleksandar Vucic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was even more condemning in its response, “It is now clear the U. S. never wanted to see any negotiations, compromise or respect for international law, all they wanted was to submit the final bill after the 1999 aggression against the sovereign state of Serbia. They tried to snatch Kosovo via the UN SC (United Nations Security Council), and when that didn’t go smoothly, they tried with their friends in Serbia. When that failed too, they will now try with brute force, but I’m sure most of mankind will not accept this.” Other than the military support from Moscow, there are at least two other capitals prepared for direct involvement in this regional theatre. In 2006, Tehran in January and Athens in November signed security agreements with Serbia. In Greece’s case to continue its historical support of Serbian people and in Iran’s case to use the war to silence Vienna and end the investigation into its nuclear weapons program by the UN agency based there. That is the reason Tehran had one of its leading missile experts disappear into Turkey in February as a high level liaison officer in order to launch Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile at Vienna. Ankara supports the war against NATO and the EU just as much as Tehran just not as publicly, even Iran pretends to have great relations with Austria.
In Pristina there was of course wide, enthusiastic support for Washington’s announcement. Only Tehran was happier.