A decade too late – Kosovo talks begin

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 192 – October 14, 2003

Originally published here.

 

On October 14, 2003, in Vienna, high-level Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs from Belgrade met face-to-face. It was a historical meeting in more than one sense. It provides an opportunity for anyone concerned about conflict-management and peace-building to reflect on its philosophy, methods and politics. Did the international so-called community do the right thing? Is there adequate institutional learning? Are there parallels between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq that we should discuss self-critically rather than simply blame the parties?

 

Dialogue is fine but the 1999 bombing hardened everybody

It is the first time since NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in 1999 that Serbs and Albanians meet this way. Indeed, with a few exceptions, it’s the first attempt at real negotiations since it all began in the late 1980s. Like in Iraq, the main parties were prevented from meeting. As time has passed hard-liners have taken over the scene and now they won’t really talk.

Being the clear victims of Milosevic’ repressive policies, the Albanians rightly felt that they had the support of the West and would be rewarded by sticking to a maximalist position; thus no compromise about the goal of complete independence.

Being the largest people whose minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo never really felt any solidarity from the Western conflict-managers, the Serbs felt misunderstood, treated without fairness and they were humiliated by the bombings. Why should they not fight adamantly for the Kosovo province that they consider their cradle? In addition, the Serbs as a people – and the Kosovo Serbs in particular – have lost more than any other due to the policies of their own leadership. [Read more…]

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The West is in moral trouble if there is an ethnic cleansing plan – and if there isn’t

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 64 – April 25, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are told there the West knew already last autumn that President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse all Albanians from the Kosovo province. However, while it is true that Yugoslav forces have exploited NATO’s bombing campaign to drive out Albanians in a way and to an extent that must be morally condemned, the unproved allegation that there existed a plan tells more about NATO than about President Milosevic – and what it tells is not to the advantage of the former,” says TFF director Jan Oberg. 

“The disgusting expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo can’t be defended. The Yugoslav authorities who carries it out or lets individuals do it, can not defend such human rights violations with reference to NATO’ bombing. Sure, Serbs will see NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia as work commissioned by Kosovo-Albanians/UCK, but it is anyhow up to Yugoslavia to fight NATO, not to take revenge against those who are innocent civilians.

Having said that, NATO and the West can not be trusted when it seeks to legitimise its Balkan bombing blunder by insisting that it has “evidence” of an ethnic cleansing plan but has still not provided the slightest evidence. Here are some reasons why this is utterly irresponsible and, thus, undermines NATO credibility – and the credibility of a free press that does not ask more critical questions:

First of all, we never heard anybody talk about such a plan before NATO’s bombs started falling. Second, the argument for bombing was related to whether or not Yugoslavia would sign the Rambouillet Dictate. We never heard anybody saying that NATO would bomb Yugoslavia should they carry out an ethnic cleansing plan.

Third, if such a plan was known already during autumn, how could the West invite representatives of a killer regime to Paris? How could the US send ambassador Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade to try to make a last-minute deal with such ‘a serial cleanser’ President?

Fourth – and worst, perhaps of all – if the West knew of such a plan why did it do absolutely NOTHING to plan for the humanitarian emergency it would cause? Why did the West/NATO not actively threaten to prevent it OR initiate bombings much earlier? Isn’t it simply too immoral to know about such a plan and do nothing?

Fifth, if Milosevic, Serbia or Yugoslavia wanted to get rid of all Albanians, why did they choose this particularly awkward moment [Read more…]

Kosovo/a – Half truths about demography and ethnic cleansing 

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 43

Lund, August 23, 1998

“There are dangerously many half truths and biases in the reporting from Kosovo/a. The generalised media image of the conflict shapes public opinion which in turn threatens to push politicians into action that will have counterproductive effects on the ground,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s Conflict-Mitigation team, upon returning from yet another mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje.

“The standard media story about Kosovo the last six months goes like this:

‘Kosovo is a province in Serbia inhabited by about 2 million people, 90 per cent of whom are Albanians and 10 per cent Serbs. The dissolution of Tito’s Yugoslavia started in 1989 when Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic repealed the autonomy which the province had enjoyed since 1974. The region is characterised by extreme poverty and systematic human rights violations by Serbian authorities against the Albanians, to the extent that one is justified in calling it a police state or an ‘apartheid’ system. The Serb ‘offensive’ is an attempt by Belgrade to ethnically ‘cleanse’ the province. It looks like a repetition of Bosnia and, thus, something must be done to stop it.’

I have come to believe,” says Oberg, “that this standard media story is based on the KISS Principle – Keep it Simple, Stupid. [Read more…]