Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

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

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 March 2001