Memorandum by the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office on the situation in Mitrovica
1. The latest upsurge of violence in Mitrovica
was triggered by the murder of an ethnic Albanian teenager in
the Serb-dominated north of the town at the end of January, although
inter-ethnic tensions in the town had been high for some time.
Kosovo Albanians are determined that Mitrovica should remain undivided,
and fear that separate government for northern Mitrovica (currently
being advocated by Kosovo Serb leaders) would be the precursor
for a de facto partition of Kosovo into Serb and Albanian-dominated
areas. Kosovo Serbs in Mitrovica fear both political domination
by the numerically superior ethnic Albanians in the town, and
the threat of violence from Kosovo Albanian extremists. They currently
view the best protection from both to be self-government for the
north of the town.
2. The violent protests by ethnic Albanians
in southern Mitrovica in January subsided after the signature
by Hans Haekkerup (Special Representative of the UN Secretary
General in Kosovo), Lt General General Cabigiosu, the KFOR Commander,
and Kosovo Albanian leaders, on 1 February of a declaration recognising
the need to establish functioning political structures for the
town and increased freedom of movement.
3. The international community has consistently
advocated an undivided and multi-ethnic Kosovo, consistent with
UNSCR 1244, and the principles in the 1 February declaration are
consistent with these objectives. UNMIK is rightly determined
not to have its policy dictated by extremists on both sides, but
it recognises the very real security concerns of ordinary Serbs.
It has not thus far imposed a solution, and is taking forward
its policyand the 1 February declaration in particularthrough
its bilateral dialogue with representatives of the Kosovo Serb
community. Belgrade's attitude to this aspect of UNMIK's task
is likely to be important. UNMIK has asked the Yugoslav government
to support a solution in Mitrovica.
4. Tensions remain high. Recent incidents
including the bombing of a bus carrying Kosovo Serbs near Podujevo
on 16 February, have significantly set back the prospects of inter-ethnic
reconciliation in Mitrovica, as well as fuelling discontent more
widely in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
20 February 2001