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Interview with James Jatras: Kosovo Within a Democratic European Serbia

Boba Borojevic

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"The real problem in Kosovo is a noisy and violent Muslim minority within Serbia, which is concentrated in one part of Serbia namely Kosovo, and which is demanding detachment, against all legal principals, of a part of a sovereign state," says James Jatras, a lawyer for the Venable, LLP and an officer of the American Council for Kosovo.

"The current stand on Kosovo solution represents a very misguided perspective of an American approach to maintaining relationships with the Islamic world in the middle of a global war of terror," says Jatras.

In this interview for CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa, Canada, Jatras presents an alternative policy: What and how should be done?

Borojevic: You have been in Belgrade lately and you have had talks in Washington with regards to Kosovo and Metohia. What is the current situation in Kosovo and Metohia?

Jatras: Besides being in Belgrade I was also in Kosovo. The current situation of course is very, very bad. The protections for the Christian Serbian community there at the hands of Albanian Muslim violence are minimal, to say the least. The only supposedly positive trend about the level of violence is that there are fewer targets to be victimized. So, on paper one may say the situation is getting better when in fact it's not. Our major concern, however, is not how bad things are right now or how they've been for the last few years, but rather the complete catastrophe that would occur if the agenda of some people to illegally detach Kosovo from Serbia and create an independent state were brought to fruition. It is on that front that we are making a major effort on behalf of the Kosovo Serbian community

Borojevic: In spite of the UN forces present in Kosovo Serbs have not been allowed to move freely?

Jatras: Well, I think the situation is this. You have a NATO led force, K-FOR that has a military control there. You have an UN-led civil administration under which the so-called provincial institutions of self-government, which is the Albanian administration, functions. What we basically have there is a largely pro forma security presence from the international community, which provides a minimum, and I do mean minimum, level of protection that takes into account how much violence the Albanian Muslims are prepared to apply at the present time. I think the Albanians are conscious that if they can appear behave themselves while maintaining the threat of violence and the concept that if they don't get what they want there will be greater violence, they can help push through an agenda in favor of independence by an artificial deadline that they have set for the end of this year. So it's not so much how much physical protection can be applied on behalf of the Christian Serbs, but rather how much violence do the Muslim Albanians think is prudent to unleash at this point of time.

Borojevic: What is the level of a political and other pressure that the West exercised on the Serb side in order to give up Kosovo?

Jatras: Well, I think there are a couple different things. One is that if Serbia wants to join Europe in the EU, if Serbia wants to be treated as a normal country and not as a criminal on parole having to report in every 24 hours, that it needs to succumb to the demand to give up Kosovo. I think the implication behind that is that Serbia's economy and Serbia's commerce with the rest of the world will never return to normal until that is done. I think that is the main threat that they have. The contrary promise is that all these good things will magically come if you give up Kosovo. So I think it's a combination of threats and promises regarding Kosovo.

Borojevic: Do you think these threats are real?

Jatras: I think there is some substance behind them. Particularly on Washington's side and to some extent on some of Europeans, a sense in which we consider ourselves unfaultable, in that it is unthinkable that Serbia could not comply with our demand. Therefore we would almost be obligated to follow through with the threats, because we cannot have our will thwarted by a country like Serbia.

Borojevic: Why is it important to the international community to grant Shqiptars - Muslim Albanians independence and the Serbian land of Kosovo and Metohia?

Jatras: For a few different reasons. One is bureaucratic inertia. Having dug themselves into Kosovo on the concept that the "Albanian majority in Kosovo" is being persecuted and having allowed them to sell the idea in Washington that somehow it is Albanian land, because they are "a majority", nobody is really focusing on what is the real situation in the area. Namely, it is a noisy and violent Muslim minority within Serbia, which is concentrated in one part of Serbia namely Kosovo, who is demanding detachment, against all legal principals, of a part of a sovereign state. That factor is missed here in Washington.

There is another very, very strong element that fits in with a very misguided American approach to maintaining relationships with the Islamic world in the middle of a global war of terror. That is to say, we need to have some place where we can say our friends in Riyadh and Islamabad and so forth: here is the place where we are sticking up for Muslims. We believe that by doing so, or some of our officials seem to believe this, that this will somehow reduce a tendency towards radicalism. That they are going to ignore all the Wahhabist mosques being paid for by Saudi Arabia going up all over Kosovo. They are going to ignore the clear evidence of jihad activity and Al-Qaeda links in Kosovo. Because they think if they can deliver to the Muslim Albanians what they demand under a threat of violence, that this somehow will reduce their violent and radical tendencies. In fact it will do the opposite. It will encourage them.

I hope your listeners are going to websites like www.savekosovo.org to see that we have been quite forthright in presenting that evidence of jihadism in Kosovo. In our discussions with the officials here in Washington when the objection was raised,( which by the way was not very often, most of them who we've met have seemed quite open to this line of argumentation that are indeed hearing it for the first time), one of the things we've pointed out to them was, for example beheadings. Where else do we see this in the world? We see this in Kashmir. We see this in Chechnya. It's been seen in Israel. It's been seen in Iraq obviously. That this is based on Koranic principal of "smite the neck of unbelievers." (Koran 47:4) This is a telltale sign of a jihadist mentality, such as those KLA guys who posed for a picture while stuffing those heads in bags and taking pictures of each other like they're proud of it -- which they are. Or of the example of Father Hariton of the holy Archangels monastery, whose tortured body was found in 1999 soon after he was kidnapped, but his head had not been found.

Albanian terror dates not from 1999. It goes back to 1960 and before that time. It is outrageous that the international community would allow Albanians to harass, expel and kill Serbs and tell the rest of the world that this is right and to demand independence for Albanians in Kosovo.

That is quite appalling. We keep hearing in conversations with some officials in which they kept telling us that there would be guarantees and protection for the Serbs -- whatever the outcome, and it is independence, which we all understand is what they all are aiming towards at this time, even if there is independence -- that protection will be there. Vladika Artemije and the delegation from Kosovo were very forthright in saying to them: why are we to believe that the level of protection will be greater after Kosovo would be given status as a sovereign state when you can't even provide us protections right now when there is a direct international control of Kosovo? Nobody believes that that is true. Nobody believes that those protections will be greater then, than they are now. And frankly, the people who said that to us do not believe it themselves.

Borojevic: Do you blame the UN and the EU representatives who are in Kosovo and Metohia right now and who paint this nice picture of Kosovo, for the current stand on Kosovo?

Jatras: I do blame them in part. One thing about bureaucrats, whether they're Americans, Europeans, the UN or whatever they might be, is that they all can find a common language especially when they're justifying their own and other people's behavior on paper with regard to some of the reports that have been issued from Kosovo by these very same bureaucrats. Which, by the way, find that they're doing a good job. It's kind of like students who are allowed to write their own report cards -- which not surprisingly is going to be an A every time. So I do blame them. But I also really blame some of the bureaucratic inertia and the completely misguided approach to cultivating Islamic opinion of some officials here in Washington who I think are completely mistaken when it comes to what realties are in Kosovo. It was our job to firmly but respectfully point out the errors in their policy and to try to rally a broader range of opinions to focus on Kosovo, whether the people were concerned about jihad terror or about religious freedom, or trafficking of drugs, or trafficking of slaves and so forth and to say: take a look at this policy. Here is an area where everything you know about the principles of American policy has stood on its head. It's all completely backward. We are supporting de facto the jihadists, terrorists and criminals. That makes no sense at all. I think we're having some impact. I think we are getting some people who have forgotten all about Kosovo, their jaws hit the table. They cannot believe that this is going on. And we are convinced that if we keep on focusing our attention on this that something here in Washington is going to give. Let us be clear on something, if Washington does not insist upon independence of Kosovo it won't happen.

Borojevic: You are a lawyer, what is the right solution for the Kosovo crisis right now?

Jatras: Well, to shift over to a profession, which I don't practice, of a lawyer to a doctor, the first principle of the Hippocratic oath is: Do no harm. You do not want to make a bad problem worse. I don't think anyone can look at however the bad situation in Kosovo is today and say it cannot get worse if independence is imposed. So, for us it is a task number one: "NO on Kosovo independence". I hope people go to our web site www.savekosovo.org and send that kind of message to Washington officials. Even people in Canada and elsewhere may feel free to send the message to our officials, and to their own government and say "NO on Kosovo independence".

There should be a genuine negotiation in the attempt to find a solution that accommodates the real human needs of Christian Serbs, Muslim Albanians, Romas and others who live in Kosovo rather than having an imposed dictated that only takes into account the interests and desires of one segment of the population.

I think if there is a backing off of this effort to impose independence and a good faith effort by the international community to find a negotiated solution (and also telling the Albanians: we're not going to impose a solution on your behalf), maybe an equitable solution could be found. But I think it ought to be negotiated. I do not know what final form that would take except to start with the fact that the human needs of everybody who lives in Kosovo can be accommodated within a democratic European Serbia. They cannot be accommodated if Kosovo is made an independent Islamic state

Borojevic: Jim Jatras, thank you very much for being with us today. We hope to have you with us again.

Jatras: I am at your disposal and I urge people to visit our web site www.savekosovo.org.

James Jatras - Venable, LLP, is one of the officers of the American Council for Kosovo.

Read the entire article on the Eparhija-Prizen website (new windows will open).

Posted: 02-Sep-06



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