Presevo leader: Only Valley as a whole, or we stay in Serbia

The Mayor of the Presevo municipality, a part of Serbia’s southern region of Presevo Valley, said late on Thursday that his fellow ethnic Albanians were against the exchange of territories with Kosovo unless it covers the whole of the region, “even if that means we will stay where we are now,” the Beta news agency reported.

Sciprim Arifi said that Presevo Valley ethnic Albanians “want a strong Kosovo, and its north (with a Serb majority) even if the price we have to pay is to remain under (the control of) Serbia.”

Arifi commented on the idea of a land swap that meant the exchange of the four Serb-dominated municipalities in the Kosovo north for the borough of Presevo, excluding the other two from the Valley, Bujanovac, and Medvedja.

KoSSev: The mayor of Bujanovac, Shaip Kamberi, reacted to the document published by Zeri also, stating that the Presevo Valley should be treated as one and an inseparable unity, RTK reported.

“Presevo Valley should be treated as one. In all the statements by the party leaders, or from representatives of institutions we have this position, and of course, any other option would bring catastrophe,” Kamberi stated.

Commenting on the document published by Zeri, Kamberi said that it is a document with which Serbia in „an informal manner measures the pulse of opinion, but it is an option that should be rejected at its beginning.“

He added further that Presevo Valley does not interfere in the options offered by Kosovo, as it is Kosovo institutions that bring these decisions:

“We do not offer options, give this, take the Valley, but we request for the issue of the Presevo Valley to be opened in a way at the Brussels dialogue. The exchange option is one of the ways this issue could be opened.“

Ethnic Albanians create a vast majority in Presevo, they make up above 50 percent of the Bujanovac population, while in Medvedja, the Serbs are a substantial majority.

In recent weeks, ahead of a new round of the European Union-facilitated Belgrade – Pristina dialogue on the normalisation of relations, the ideas of the partition of Kosovo, the exchange of territories, border correction and alike came from both capitals.

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci advocates for the inclusion of the Presevo Valley on the dialogue agenda, saying its secession from Serbia and joining Kosovo was a solution. Serbia’s counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, however, talks about a separation from Albanians, without details.

Last Wednesday, the Pristina daily Zeri reported that six Serbian experts reviewed a possible exchange of Presevo municipality in southern Serbia for the four Serb-majority districts in northern Kosovo.

They said that those four municipalities had a population of 42,000 which is 40 percent more than Presevo and consist of 1,000 square kilometres more territory.

Arifi earlier said that “under no circumstances, a single village should be separated from the whole of Presevo (Valley). That’s senseless, and it violates the Republic of Kosovo.”

“We will all be a part of the Republic of Kosovo, or we will all stay in Serbia,” Arifi reiterated.

Ethnic Albanians from Presevo Valley have been complaining about their status in Serbia, saying that Belgrade does not even honour the country’s constitution and laws which stipulate that the participation in local administration should follow population breakdown.

They also say that there are problems in education, the lack of textbooks, etc.

Following the war in Kosovo 1998-1999, where the Kosovo Liberation Army was formed, the Albanians in Presevo established the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Medvedja with an aim to secede from Serbia and join Kosovo.

They launched a serious of attacks on Serbia’s forces, but the Western countries condemned the attacks and described it as „extremism“ and a use of „illegal terrorist actions“ by the group.

Belgrade contained the violence in 2001.

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