CRISIS IN KOSOVO
March 9, 1998
In the Serbian province of Kosovo, clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbian authorities have left scores dead and many more wounded. In the provincial capital Pristina today, an estimated 50,000 people protested the killings in a peaceful rally. Following a background report, Margaret Warner and guests discuss the recent violence and the future of the region.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
March 9, 1998
A discussion on the recent violence in Kosovo.
March 3, 1998
Bosnian President Ejup Ganic talks about the chance for peace in Bosnia.
April 1, 1997
Civil war spreads over Albania
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The Albanian home page.
MARGARET WARNER: More than 200 people have died since 1989 in violence between Kosovo's Albanian majority and Serb authorities in the province. Kosovo is considered part of Serbia. But nearly 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are Albanian and Muslim.
Kosovo's place in history.
The small province is strategically located, just South of the two Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro; and just North of two other countries, Albania and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Serbs and Muslims have been fighting over Kosovo for hundreds of years. As elsewhere in the Balkans, the Serb-Kosovar differences are rooted in centuries of ethnic and religious conflict and differing interpretations of history. But the current tensions go back just a couple of decades to the Tito era. In 1974, Yugoslavia's Communist ruler recognized the Albanian majority in Kosovo by granting the province autonomy within Serbia. For the first time, Albanian Muslims had virtual control over Kosovo's internal affairs. But Serbs in Kosovo and in Serbia, itself, never fully accepted Tito's decision. Serb nationalists revere Kosovo as the cradle of their civilization, dating back nearly 2,000 years, when their forebears there embraced Orthodox Christianity. They view the Muslims who inhabit Kosovo today as infidels.
1989: The 600-year anniversary of the battle of Kosovo.
The Serbs' resentment towards the Albanian Kosovars reached a crescendo in 1989, when thousands of Serbs converged on an ancient battlefield to commemorate the 1389 battle of Kosovo. Serbia lost that encounter to an invading army of Muslim Turks, ushering in centuries of Ottoman rule. But the 600-year-old battle remains a shameful symbol to Orthodox Serbs, and they have vowed to avenge the defeat ever since. As Yugoslavia began fracturing after Tito's death, Slobodan Milosevic, who was then the Communist Party boss of Serbia and is now Yugoslavia's president, saw a political opportunity in Kosovo. He vowed to protect local Serbs and to revoke the province's autonomy.
By late 1989, Milosevic had done just that and had put Serbs in control of Kosovo's local government. Albanian Kosovars accuse the Serbs of instituting a police state to terrorize the Albanian majority and of trying to force Albanians to leave Kosovo to reverse the province's ethnic and religious balance. The Albanians responded by boycotting the Serb-run institutions and creating their own parallel government in Kosovo under the leadership of Ibrahim Rugova. Their stated goal was simply a restoration of Kosovo's autonomy.
The emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Then, last year, a new, more militant force emerged, the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA. Its members advocate armed struggle. Their goal is Kosovo's independence and possible unification with Albania. The KLA has clashed repeatedly with the Serb authorities. Late last month KLA fighters killed four Serb policemen. The Serbs launched this past week's violent crackdown in retaliation for those killings. Now the United States and European governments are trying to head off more violence. Representatives of the so-called contact group of six nations that monitor developments in the former Yugoslavia--the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia--convened in London today. They agreed on a comprehensive arms embargo and other steps against Yugoslavia. Russia agreed to support only some of the measures, however. Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he will urge the Security Council to extend the current U.N. troop presence in neighboring Macedonia beyond the scheduled August 31 withdrawal date.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. Secretary-General: In light of the recent developments, I think we all have to reconsider our approach. And I'm confident that the member states will take a second look and not insist on withdrawing the troops from Macedonia.
MARGARET WARNER: Thus far, Yugoslav Leader Milosevic has rejected all international appeals, insisting that the unrest in Kosovo is an internal matter.