Independence Guarantees Peace

Only independence will secure peace in Kosovo and the region - any other solution would be unfair and flawed.

Independence Guarantees Peace

Only independence will secure peace in Kosovo and the region - any other solution would be unfair and flawed.

NATO's decisive intervention in Kosovo was designed to stop a humanitarian crisis, to stop Europe's greatest wave of ethnic cleansing.

Kosovo has long been a painful wound for the democratic world, especially Europe. NATO's intervention saved their honour and dignity.

It came after a long struggle by the Kosovo people. Their army, the KLA, became a loyal ally of NATO and the west, and deserves to be treated as such in all up and coming developments.

The Albanian people, particularly those from Kosovo, will always remember and be grateful for the international community's help in saving them from a crisis in which their very existence was threatened.

We would especially extend our gratitude to the United States President Bill Clinton, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and NATO's commander in Europe General Wesley Clark.

This was the magic triangle, which prepared the operation that rescued us. Without the contribution of these three men, and that of others, Albanians expelled by the Serbs would not have been able to return to their beloved homes.

During the last nine months, everyone has been able to breathe freely. There's renewed life in the streets, shops, schools and faculties, towns and countryside.

Peasants are again working in the fields, despite being without the necessary tools or serious assistance from abroad. Through the hard work of people in towns and villages, Kosovo is being reconstructed.

As well as being grateful to the KLA, we would like to thank the United States, NATO and the European Union for many positive changes over the last year and for putting at our disposal their diplomatic and military arsenal to serve peace, democracy, the Kosovo people and the region in general.

The presence of KFOR, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, has guaranteed security, peace and freedom.

But the whole of our region, troubled by the old and new squabbling, needs more peace and security. Tolerance and democracy need to be extended in the region.

The arrival of international organisations has made a democratic society in Kosovo possible. Pluralism in Kosovo before June 1999 was an illusion and a deceit for a criminal regime.

Over the last year, the political and security situation in Kosovo would have been better if Mitrovica had not been divided; if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's influence in the Serb enclaves had been curbed; if some 7,000 Albanians had not been imprisoned; if others had not been kept as pawns and still more not disappeared; and if Serb repression in eastern Kosovo and the violent deportation of Albanians from the area had been prevented.

Besides the clumsiness with which it has sought to create governing institutions in Kosovo, UNMIK has committed mistakes that have prolonged the institutional vacuum.

Those who fought in the patriotic war have not been given enough influence and responsibility in Kosovo's new political system.

Much has been written recently about the responsibility of the Kosovo leadership. Of course Kosovo leaders bear responsibility for their country. But real power has now passed to UNMIK and KFOR.

The KLA has been disbanded. Its members joined the Kosovo Protection Corps (Trupat Mbrotjese te Kosoves - TMK), UNMIK police and a political party - The Party for Democratic Progress of Kosovo (PDPK).

The Kosovo Provisional Government, the most legitimate executive of the Kosovo people, functioned alongside UNMIK until December 15. The body represented Kosovo's freedom fighters and democratic forces. But it was replaced by the international community's Transitional Administrative Council. So now KFOR and UNMIK are responsible for Kosovo's security.

The new authority has still to start functioning properly and Albanians are not to be blamed for that. If you want someone to act responsibly you must give them responsibility.

Without legislative and executive institutions, The Albanian leaders' responsibility is more a moral one. It is well known that political and economic crime cannot be stopped anywhere in the world merely with moralising statements. Why should Kosovo be the exception?

Despite the problems facing Kosovo - the result of the long, wild and barbarous subjugation - KFOR and UNMIK, albeit slowly, have started to establish law and security. Everything has started to breathe freely; life is getting back to normal.

A year ago, the Belgrade regime activated its killing machine to ethnically cleanse Kosovo. For months on end, foreign audiences followed the macabre acts of Serb chauvinists on their television screens and read about them on internet websites and newspapers. Milosevic's regime created the biggest humanitarian crisis at the end of the 20th century. Such an action was fairly punished by NATO and the international community.

In the last nine months, irresponsible Kosovo Albanians have committed terrible crimes but these could never be compared with the genocidal acts of the Belgrade regime.

After the Rambouillet and Paris Conferences, after the bloodshed, after the massacres of children, old people and youngsters, after the rape, theft, burning and the humanitarian crisis that provoked the international community's intervention, the only solution that could secure peace in Kosovo and the region is Kosovo's independence.

Any other solution would be both unfair and flawed.

Jakup Krasniqi is one of the leaders of the PDPK in Pristina.

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