UN mission urges calm on fifth anniversary of NATOs intervention in Kosovo

UNMIK and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) said that while the people of Kosovo “should be able to express themselves freely and openly,” UNMIK Police and KFOR cannot “accept actions which incite violence.”The top UN envoy to the province has also issued an open letter to Kosovars, saying the five-year anniversary should be used to mark a new beginning after last week’s deadly violence.Harri Holkeri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, called on the people of Kosovo to play their part individually to make sure that the events do not re-occur.Some 28 people were killed and hundreds injured after violence erupted across the province following the drowning of three ethnic Albanian children in the town of Cabra. At least 30 religious sites, mostly churches, were destroyed and more than 300 homes were burnt.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 3,200 people – mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma – fled their homes because of the attacks.A UNHCR spokesman said the agency had distributed mattresses, blankets, jerry cans and food supplies to the evacuees, who are either living with host families or staying temporarily at KFOR bases.Mr. Holkeri visited the towns of Obilic and Gracanica today to inspect the damage caused in the rioting, and also met with Bishop Artemije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.The envoy said the province had experienced “ethnically motivated violence” that may have started spontaneously but was orchestrated by extremist elements.Mr. Holkeri added he would seek international help to re-build churches and other religious sites damaged during the violence.His deputy, Charles Brayshaw, travelled to Prizren to inspect homes and religious sites damaged in that town and to talk to some of the people who had to flee their homes last week.The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also condemned the violence, particularly the damage to Kosovo’s cultural and religious heritage.Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, said it is not just the monuments but “a memory and cultural identity that are being destroyed.” read more