The Kosovo government announced yesterday that it would form a commission tasked to document „the destruction of Kosovo’s cultural heritage during the 1998/99 war“ and send a request for compensation to official Belgrade. Today, however, Serbia’s Ministry of Culture and Information described Kosovo’s decision to form a commission as “a farce and the escalation of nonsense.”
In a Facebook post last night, the Kosovan Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrulla Ceku, announced the establishment of this commission, underlining that this is an important moment for Kosovo.
Ceku said that hundreds of monuments in Kosovo were destroyed during the war. He announced that a request for compensation, made „in accordance with international standards“, would be sent to Serbia.
Ceku’s announcement was met with criticism by the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information.
Commenting on the request for compensation, the ministry underlined that it is a „farce“ and „escalation of nonsense“ by Pristina.
„In this process, Pristina has long since lost its bearing in trying to pretend to be concerned about cultural heritage and is showing its real motives more and more openly,“ they said.
They also alleged that this is another attempt to „blindly appropriate and abuse the Serbian cultural heritage and create the illusion of legitimacy of the so-called institutions.“
Since the government led by Albin Kurti was formed, Pristina officials have increasingly used the phrases „Kosovo’s cultural heritage“ and „Kosovo’s cultural monuments“ when referring to SOC religious sites in Kosovo.
„This attempt at deception, primarily addressed to the international public, stems from the wrong assumption that by clumsily imitating a state, it will achieve its unilateral and destructive agenda, in which cultural heritage is exclusively intended to play the role of a smokescreen and hostage,“ they said.
The ministry said that the accusation against Serbia is „obscure“, especially because it is sent by „those who nurture decades of destruction of Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo, precisely at the expense of those who have dedicatedly and selflessly defended that cultural heritage.“
„From the 1990s, through to 2004 and the systematic demolition, burning and desecration of Serbian monuments, churches and monasteries, to date, the destruction of Serbian cultural heritage to erase the traces of the existence of the Serbian people has continuity. The only new thing is that such usual physical forms of violence are now joined by attacks and false accusations against Serbia,“ the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information emphasized.
They also claimed that those who think that Pristina’s actions will remain unanswered are fooling themselves.
„The Ministry of Culture and Information will continue to tirelessly point out hoaxes, foul play, and cheap tricks and provocations, bearing in mind the essential importance and exceptional value of our cultural treasure for national identity and world heritage,“ they said.
Since the government led by Albin Kurti was formed, top Kosovo officials have frequently been announcing requests to Belgrade for war damage compensation. These announcements were met with criticism by official Belgrade, and reminders of the destruction of Serbian churches and monasteries in the 1990s, and during the March pogrom in 2004.
In addition to compensation for the damage, Pristina also sent requests for Belgrade to return the artifacts which, as they claim, are still unfairly kept in Serbia.
The Kosovo Museum sent two letters with this request, one to the Serbian authorities and the other to the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
The Prime Minister of Kosovo also demanded that the artifacts be returned to Kosovo, saying that „23 years have passed, and a part of our culture still remains in Serbia.“
Belgrade, however, has ardently rejected these requests of the Pristina authorities.
„Those who burned and destroyed the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo have neither the moral nor any other right to encroach on and appropriate Serbian cultural treasures,“ the head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic, said in response to Kurti.
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