Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Forgetting the Bombs, for Now

With all eyes on France, few in Kosovo are paying attention to the continuing violence and kidnappings. Yet while the KLA stays ready for fresh fighting if the talks fail, the OSCE verifiers prepares to go.
By Gjeraqina Tuhina

While public opinion is focused exclusively on the peace talks at Rambouillet, and the prospects of finding a settlement, events in Kosovo that otherwise would have been seen as escalating the year-long conflict are, for now, forgotten as soon as they are reported.

In the previous two weeks, the daily news has included reports on the kidnapping of Albanian civilians, either by Serb policemen or Serb civilians, and several bomb explosions, which took three Albanian lives in Pristina last week and wounded three children in Urosevac a few days ago. Yet these events are merely relegated to statistics, or passed over as if they hadn’t happened at all.

The same goes for the Serbian community. The kidnapping of two off-duty policemen in Kosovo Polje February 12, allegedly by Albanian guerrillas, did not bring the kind of sharp reactions from Serbian sources of recent months about acts by Albanian "terrorists"--as members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are deemed in official Serb discourse. The KLA, as following many similar episodes, has denied any involvement in the kidnapping.

Expectations over Rambouillet have pushed such immediate disturbances aside. Yet that hardly means that they will not again return to centre stage. If an agreement is not reached, or if a deal represents only a temporary calming of the tensions, renewed conflict is likely. In these circumstances, Albin Kurti, spokesperson for the KLA’s general political representative Adem Demaci, asserts that "Albanians who identify themselves with KLA will continue their liberation war."

Meantime, the number of orange jeeps from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) apparent in Pristina and around Kosovo are declining every day. The verifiers and quietly leaving, and on February 16 the heads of mission held a meeting to agree an evacuation plan. OSCE spokesperson Sandy Blyth claims that "everything depends on the results of the Rambouillet talks." Whatever the result--a grand new deal or a failure to agree—Blyth confirms that the current Kosovo mission may be withdrawn. Indeed, the OSCE confirmed that full preparations have been made for an abrupt evacuation this Saturday, when the talks in France are supposed to close. "This is only sensible planing," Blyth comments.

Gjeraqina Tuhina is a journalist for Radio Free Europe in Pristina.