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Pristina honours, Belgrade mourns anniversary of Serbia’s withdrawal from Kosovo (Beta, N1)

By   /  13/06/2019  /  Comments Off on Pristina honours, Belgrade mourns anniversary of Serbia’s withdrawal from Kosovo (Beta, N1)

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The Kosovo authorities marked the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of Serbian security forces at an event in central Pristina which was attended by former US officials and NATO commanders, while Director of the office for KiM Marko Djuric, a Belgrade official described the event as “the dance of the vampires,” the Beta news agency reported.

Former US President Bill Clinton, his Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and retired General Wesley Clark, who commanded NATO forces during the air campaign against FR Yugoslavia, were among others at the ceremony on Pristina ‘s central Skenderbeg square.

On Tuesday, he honoured Clinton with the same decoration.

“June 12th is the foundation of our identity as citizens, as Kosovo and an inseparable part of Europe and the West,” President Hashim Thaci said. He added that Pristina wants Kosovo to become a member of the European Union and NATO.

“We are bragging about being the most pro-American and pro-European people in this part of the world, but we are convinced that we have to move more quickly towards integration into NATO and the EU. We deserve that,” Thaci said.

Clinton told the anniversary ceremony that the US supported Kosovo no matter who was in the White House or Congress, adding that the people of Kosovo should be grateful for 20 years of “peace and harmony” after the war.

Albright said that the decision on the NATO intervention was not easy but had shown the world what was possible when “diplomacy and force come together.”

In the meantime, the head of Serbia’s Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric described the event in Pristina as “cynical and ugly vampire ball”.

Addressing the “20 Years of Serbs’ exodus from Kosovo” debate, Djuric said that “the marking of 20 years since the terror, crime, exodus and “the extermination of the whole nation,” was in “real contrast with what is going on in Pristina today.

There, as he put it, “the criminals” probably “celebrated the exodus of 56 percent of the non-Albanian population from Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing of 300 settlements beforehand.”

Former Croatia’s President Stipe Mesic, Albania’s President and Prime Ministers Ilir Meta and Edi Rama, diplomats and public figures from Kosovo also attended the ceremony. It ended with a Freedom Procession, the unveiling of Albright’s bust on the square and the planting of 50 trees on Bill Clinton square and a conference titled 20 Years of Freedom – A Vision of Sustainable Peace.

“I love this country, and it will always be one of the greatest honour in my life that I stood by you against the ethnic cleansing and for freedom,” Clinton told the crowd.

Albright added that “Kosovo’s people showed to the world in the last two decades its dedication to peace and building the democratic nation. The international community provided protection, but Kosovo’s citizens did the rest.”

She said that “a day is approaching when Kosovo will be a completely normal country, a member of the UN and integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.”

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer referred to a more concrete issue, stressing the necessity of returning to the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations which had been on hold since last November.

“As in all these 20 years, the US stands by Kosovo and encourages its progress, but it is time now for Pristina to intensify its effort in reaching a sustainable peace by normalisation and an agreement with Serbia on mutual recognition, as the only way to solve all open issues,” Palmer said.

“The success of both Belgrade and Pristina demands the removal of all obstacles and return to the negotiations in a spirit of a compromise,” he added.

Serbia’s Refugee Agency says that 20 years after the Kosovo war was over, 570 non-Albanians are still missing, while over 210,000 of them reportedly have left Kosovo after Belgrade’s army and police have withdrawn.

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