Presevo enclave: negotiations resume next Wednesday

Another impasse was reached in the talks between the Yugoslav authorities and the Albanian extremist leaders over the future of the Presevo enclave. The talks, brokered by NATO, whose envoy Pieter Feith is mediating, collapsed due to the fate of the 6 hostages,.held by the Albanians and the 3 separatist terrorists, held by the Serbs. The Serbs claim that four civilians and two Yugoslav Army soldiers are being held as hostages by the Albanian independence movement, UCPMB. The chief negotiator for Belgrade, Nebojsa Covic, stated that unless these hostages were released, his side would not continue negotiations. The talks are due to restart next Wednesday. Covic said that 80% of the time spent in the negotiations was occupied discussing the question of the hostages. He also claimed that the Yugoslav authorities had documentary evidence that the three Albanians held by them are terrorists and that they were engaged in illegal activities when they were arrested by the police. This evidence has been handed over to the team of mediators. “One was arrested for possession of ten kg. of explosives, the second for possession of several semi-automatics and grenades, the third for 35kg. of explosives, several machine guns and a couple of grenades,” said Covic. The Albanians claim that the Serbs who they hold were also involved in terrorist activities. The Yugoslav position on this is clear : if so, then the proper documentary evidence should be presented and Belgrade will use the same measure of the law for all. Until documentary evidence is presented by the Albanians, this group of six men is considered by Belgrade as being held illegally. The Albanian UCPMB spokesman Ridvan Qazimi (whose war name is Captain Leshi)stated that he was in favour of an exchange of hostages.Meanwhile, the fighting goes on. A Serbian policeman was wounded in a clash with Albanian extremists, who continued to fire at the ambulance taking him to hospital. The Press Centre at Bujanovac reported heavy firing all day yesterday. Possibly the respite until next Wednesday will give both sides time to adopt more flexible positions. However, this is another case of one side, the Yugoslav one, in Yugoslav territory, being forced to sit at the same table with armed terrorists, some of whom would sooner sell their own grandmother than lead an honest life. How humiliating it must be to be forced to make concessions to such people.


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