BELGRADE – Serbia intends to rule parts of Kosovo where “loyal citizens” still look to Belgrade for government, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said on Monday.
He won renewed backing from ally Russia, whose likely next president, Dmitry Medvedev, made a high-profile visit to say Moscow will continue to back Serbian sovereignty, despite Western support for the independence of Kosovo.
Kostunica said protest rallies against the new republic would continue and there would be no normalization of ties with capitals which had accepted it, until they changed policy.
“Serbia will do everything to implement its jurisdiction and state prerogatives for all loyal citizens in Kosovo — Serbs and non-Albanians,” Kostunica said.
“There cannot be normalization of relations with the states that recognized Kosovo independence until they annul their decision. Protest rallies will not stop as long as illegal independence is not annulled.”
Medvedev, who met Kostunica and Western-leaning president Boris Tadic, said there would be no shift in his country’s support for Serbia after the presidential election next week.
“We assume that Serbia is a single state whose jurisdiction covers all of its territory,” Medvedev said. “We will stick to this position.”
Serbia sees Kosovo as the cradle of the nation, where Serb history dates back 1,000 years and ancient monasteries dot the land. But few Serbs have visited the impoverished province, where 90 percent of the people are ethnic Albanian.
DON’T CONDONE VIOLENCE
Kosovo’s United Nations governor Joachim Ruecker urged Serbia to confirm its respect for the U.N. mandate, following Belgrade’s endorsement of mob attacks on border posts and disruption of police and justice in the Serb-dominated north.
Ruecker said he told visiting Serb Minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 puts the U.N. and the NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR “in charge of the whole territory of Kosovo”.
“I made it very clear to him that the condoning of violence, direct or indirect support for violence, is totally unacceptable,” Ruecker said, referring to earlier remarks by Samardzic saying that attacks on border posts were legitimate.
Samardzic said Serbia would do all it can to maintain peace and order “in the areas that it controls, where Serbs live”.
“We will keep convincing Serbs to cooperate with the U.N. mission,” he said. But the U.N. must remember that violence against international law begets violence.
Serbia would also provide jobs, schooling and infrastructure in Serb areas of Kosovo, Samardzic said.
“They must enjoy life in the Serbian state as all other citizens of Serbia enjoy that life. Serbia will do everything to achieve that,” he told reporters in central Kosovo
In the Serb stronghold of north Mitrovica, over 1,000 people demonstrated for a seventh day, burning an EU flag and a picture of Serbia’s president Tadic.
Tensions have risen in Kosovo’s first full week as a separate state as Serbs vent their anger and determination to reverse the move. But there has been no ethnic violence.
One local Kosovo Serb leader, Marko Jaksic, said rumors that Kosovo was headed for partition “are total nonsense”.
But while Serbia would hardly undercut its own case by seeking to legitimize partition of the territory to which it claims full sovereignty, Serbs in the north are determined not to heed the new government of Kosovo or the European Union mission that is due to support it.
Jaksic said “Albanians are waiting for any excuse” to use violence against Serbs in the isolated enclaves of eastern and southern Kosovo — a nightmare scenario for the U.N. and NATO.
U.N. officials say the first ethnic violence might just as easily be triggered by Serbs driving out the few remaining Albanians in the north. Either way, it could cause panic and refugee flight, with no clear end to the domino effect.