(CNSNews.com) - A United Nations push for Kosovo statehood will lead to the destruction of the minority Kosovar Serbs in the region, a Serbian Orthodox bishop warned here, urging the international community to reject the plans.
Kosovo is an autonomous province in Serbia with a population of about two million, most of whom are ethnic Albanian and Muslim. Eight years ago, NATO launched a military air campaign against Serbia to prevent atrocities against Kosovar Albanians.
The U.N., which has governed the province since the war, is in talks to recognize it as a self-governing state, but opponents worry it will lead to independence and could spell destruction for the minority Christian Serb community.
Dr. Artemije Radosavljevic, the bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, who has long been critical of plans for Kosovo's independence, warned Friday that Christians would be wiped out of the region under a completely independent regime.
"Kosovo Albanians committed numerous crimes and were conducting terror on Kosovo Serbs," Artemije told Cybercast News Service through a translator. "The independence of Kosovo would be a sort of reward for the terrorists ... that would lead to the total disappearance of my people in that province."
Artemije is in the United States to meet with lawmakers and urge them to block the plans to recognize independence for Kosovo.
Artemije said Europeans will not oppose Kosovo's independence because they are "afraid" of Muslim terrorists. The U.S., he contended, supports independence "so they can point one example that the United States of America is not fighting the war against Muslims in general."
But such a step would lead to more violence as Serbia will never accept an independent Kosovo, Artemije said. Independence would also pose a threat to other nations as Kosovo would become "a base of extreme jihad," he claimed.
"Serbia does not accept separation of Kosovo under any name," Artemije said, adding that his countrymen also oppose internationally monitored statehood, which is part of the plan made public by chief U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Feb. 2.
According to the U.N., the plan calls for a European Union special representative who would have "ultimate supervisory authority over civilian aspects of the settlement, including the power to annul laws and remove officials whose actions are determined to be inconsistent with it."
The proposal also grants "specific representation for non-Albanians in key public institutions and requir[es] that certain laws may only be enacted if a majority of the Kosovo non-Albanian legislative members agree."
The U.N. says the plan, which has not been officially submitted for approval, would create protective zones around more than 40 religious and cultural sites with importance to the Serbian Orthodox Church and allow for the return of more than 200,000 Serbs who fled in 1999.
Nancy Beck, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told Cybercast News Service that the United States supports the plan. "We believe Ahtisaari's proposal, which is the product of over a year of intense negotiations, is a fair and balanced document."
Beck said the plan includes "extremely generous provisions for protecting Kosovo's non-Albanian communities" that "are in line with European and international standards."
Artemije was skeptical of the protections being offered for Serbs. "Monitored independence, what does that mean? [The] international community has been present more in the last seven years than it would be tomorrow" under monitored independence, he said. "There's no improvement for the position of the Christians."
Beck said that the United States does not necessarily view the plan as granting independence to Kosovo. In fact, the U.N. characterizes the plan as giving Kosovo "the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements ... [but] does not specifically mention independence for the province."
Beck said the U.N. envoy "is still engaging with the parties on the settlement and way forward. We do not speak about the eventual outcome while these talks are underway. The United States continues to seek a status outcome that advances regional stability, protects the rights of Kosovo's communities and is acceptable to the people of Kosovo."
In an interview Feb. 6, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried had harsh words for opponents to the U.N. plan.
"Wise Serbs understand that nationalism has brought nothing but ruin and misery to Serbia," he said. "And they're looking down this pit again and listening to the same tired voices of nationalism make the same tired arguments."
More discussions about the plan are scheduled between Ahtisaari and representatives from Serbia and Kosovo. Artemije said he still has hopes that the plans will be derailed.
"Nothing has been finished yet. There's no proof that everybody supports independence," he said, urging the international community "to prevent the violence and not enable it."
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