Joseph Biden asked Ramush Haradinaj to protect the monastery of Visoki Decani in a confidential letter he sent back in 2002. Biden claims that he kept his promise, using as proof the fact that Decani is one of the few Serbian Orthodox monasteries preserved in the March violence which took place in 2004. These allegations were presented by Biden himself at US Congress in 2005.
Joseph Biden was elected as the 46th President of the United States in the recently-concluded US presidential elections.
Biden is one of the most popular US politicians among Kosovo Albanians due to his proactive role in advocating for their political goals and the right to „self-determination“ during the 1990s. On the other hand, the Serb public from that period perceived Biden as a politician with an „anti-Serbian“ stance.
Little is known about the fact that Biden visited the Visoki Decani monastery on two occasions after the war, and that he personally asked Kosovo Albanians to protect this monastery.
While visiting Kosovo and the Visoki Decani Monastery for the first time, back in January 2001, he described the monastery as a „masterpiece“.
Visoki Decani was placed under UNESCO protection in 2004/2005, however, the monks still expressed concern for the safety of the monastery.
In the same year – 2005, Biden recalled his first trip to the monastery: „During that trip, I flew by helicopter to western Kosovo, where I visited the Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani monastery, a 14th century architectural masterpiece which last year was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.“
While recalling the role of Orthodox monks during the 1999 war in front of the US Senate, Biden emphasized that the monks „saved Kosovo Albanians from persecution by Serb forces.“
„Again, these were Serbian Orthodox monks saving Kosovo Albanians most of them Muslims – from persecution by Serbian forces,“ reads the transcript of Biden’s testimony in the US Congress in 2005.
During his first visit, Biden also spoke with Ramush Haradinaj. Describing the former Kosovan Prime Minister as a „very hard, tough guy who could lift an ox out of a ditch“, he said that he got the impression that Haradinaj „seemed genuinely to recognize that the only way forward was for the rights of the Kosovo Serbs, and of other non-Albanian minorities to be guaranteed.“
Almost two years later, during Biden’s second visit to the monastery, Father Sava and other monks warned the US official that they were „in great danger“.
„„In fact, Italian KFOR armored personnel carriers were lined up in the snow just outside the monastery’s stone walls as a deterrent. Knowing that the territory around Decani is Mr. Haradinaj’s political base, I sent him a confidential letter after I returned to Washington. In it, I wrote that I was counting on him to personally guarantee and protect the Serbian Orthodox monastery I had just visited,“ Biden testified in front of his US colleagues 15 years ago.
„In March of 2004, serious riots against Serbs and other non-Albanian minorities broke out across Kosovo. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, and many medieval Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were burned to the ground. KFOR proved unable or unwilling to prevent this destruction. In fact, in several cases, the outrages occurred while European KFOR troops stood by. One of those few venerable monasteries that remained untouched was Visoki Decani. Mr. Haradinaj had kept his promise“ – Biden described how Decani „survived“ the March violence.
Biden made these allegations on March 9th, 2005 – the same day Ramush Haradinaj traveled to the Netherlands due to the indictment issued by the Hague Tribunal for former Yugoslavia for war crimes in Kosovo. He also gave credit to Haradinaj for, as he said, calming down the situation, and at the same time, according to the claims of other actors at the time, getting results while holding the function of prime minister.
„Until yesterday he happened to be the Prime Minister of Kosovo. He was indicted for war crimes in Kosovo during the period of 1998 and 1999. Mr. Haradinaj declared himself entirely innocent but resigned as Prime Minister, surrendered voluntarily, and flew to the Netherlands today to turn himself in. He also did something highly unusual in the Balkans. He issued a statement calling for calm in Kosovo“.
Biden interpreted Haradinaj’s call for calm was based upon a realization that a repeat of the violence of March 2004 would deal „a fatal blow to the Kosovars’ hope that the process toward negotiations on the final status of Kosovo can begin later this year“.
Haradinaj’s willingness after his indictment to surrender voluntarily and go to The Hague stands in glaring contrast to the behavior to the one displayed by Ante Gotovina, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.
Biden also gave credit to then-prosecutor Carla del Ponte, expressing a belief that Haradinaj would have a „fair trial“.
Ramush Haradinaj is currently endeavoring to become Kosovo’s new president after the former Kosovo President recently resigned and traveled to The Hague. Haradinaj also faces the open question of his own role in the new Specialist Chambers in The Hague, given that he was questioned as a suspect in September last year when he resigned as prime minister.
The Implementation and Monitoring Council, a body made up of SOC representatives, the Kosovo government, and international representatives in charge of enforcing the Law on Special Protective Zones (SPZ), reached an agreement this week to protect Visoki Decani Monastery from the construction of a highway through its SPZ. Kosovo representatives have been trying to build the road for years despite the law, which monks have strongly opposed. It was decided that the road will go around the protective zone via a bypass, while the existing road through the zone will be rehabilitated for the local use of the inhabitants of Decani. The decision was welcomed by the ambassadors of the leading countries in Pristina.
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