Viewing cable 08PRISTINA435

08PRISTINA4352008-08-19 16:17:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina
DE RUEHPS #0435/01 2321617
O 191617Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2018 
Classified By: CDA Tom Yazdgerdi for reasons 1.4 (b), (d). 
¶1.  (C) Summary.  As the August vacation season draws to an 
end, several Kosovo Serb-related issues continue to simmer. 
In Decani, we now see a possible roadmap to a settlement of 
the land dispute between the monastery and the municipality. 
Our joint efforts with UNMIK to convince municipal officials 
to settle the case appear to be having some effect, and the 
Kosovo Trust Agency Special Chamber court may prove helpful 
in this case.  In Gjakova/Djakovica, where the mayor has 
usurped another Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) site, we are 
working with the ICO to find a solution acceptable to both 
parties.  In these and all SOC-related issues, we must still 
deal with hardline SOC Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic, who 
remains a factor despite his reportedly waning influence.  In 
the Serb-majority enclave of Strpce, a parallel municipal 
government is keeping quiet (and avoiding provocation), even 
as it insists on its legitimacy.  In the North, Serbs in the 
Kosovo Police Service (KPS) are not receiving consistent 
paychecks from either the Serbian government, which has 
reportedly stopped paying them, or the Kosovo government, 
which has promised them back pay but has not yet delivered. 
We are also informed that senior figures in the Serbian 
Interior Ministry (MUP) police, both inside and outside of 
the KPS, are still firmly in control of the security 
structures in the North, despite constant rumors of impending 
change.  Finally, the Kosovo Serb Independent Liberal Party 
(SLS), which participates in Kosovo's Assembly and 
government, is embroiled in a corruption scandal at the 
Kosovo Ministry of Returns (MCR), led by SLS minister Boban 
Stankovic.  KPS back pay and the MCR issues must be addressed 
swiftly in order to maintain the credibility of Kosovo 
institutions for Kosovo Serbs.  We will follow up.  End 
Church Land Issues: Decani... 
¶2.  (C) The Visoki Decani monastery's (Decani dQHhCh the monastery 
and the municipal government, which has assumed 
responsibility for the SOE claims, urging both sides to find 
a solution.  Former Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj assured the 
Ambassador on July 30 that he would speak to Decani mayor 
Musa Berisha, a member of Haradinaj's AAK party, and ask him 
to find a solution to the problem.  Since then, Berisha - who 
was publicly recalcitrant in late May, after UNMIK issued an 
executive decision restoring the monastery as the owner of 
the disputed land - has been more conciliatory.  On August 
13, the mayor repeatedly told poloff that "we must find a 
solution to this problem."  Berisha, who had been the sole 
municipal official dealing with this issue, also invited 
several municipal employees and council members to the 
meeting in an effort to broaden their understanding of the 
¶3.  (C) UNMIK Legal Advisor Ernst Tschoepke, who formerly 
worked for the KTA and who has followed this case for several 
years, joined poloff at the August 13 meeting to explain the 
legal issues in the case.  His message to the municipal 
officials was that they should pursue a settlement out of 
court in lieu of trying to win a court judgment.  The 
complexity of the claims involved make a predictable outcome 
uncertain,  and the additional fact that the disputed land 
lies within the Decani monastery's Special Zoning Area (SZA) 
makes it virtually impossible that the SOEs could restart 
commercial functions, even if they were successful in court. 
In addition, Tschoepke joined poloff in urging the municipal 
government to maintain good relations with the monastery, 
keeping in mind the fact that the monastery's consent will be 
necessary for any kind of development or action within the 
SZA going forward.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor 
Berisha declared that he would meet the monastery leadership 
"but only with the U.S. Embassy present." 
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¶4.  (C) The monastery is similarly ready to find a deal, 
although head monk Father Sava Janjic continues to abide by a 
Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) moratorium on contact with 
Kosovo government officials, at any level, and the ICO/EULEX 
missions.  As Sava explained on August 13, "we (the SOC) 
absolutely cannot be seen having contact or making deals with 
any Albanians."  Tschoepke, who also joined the meeting, 
advised Sava that a mediated settlement may still be possible 
in the context of the Special Chamber proceeding, during 
which the court would seek input from both sides and attempt 
to find a settlement.  (Note: On August 15, Tschoepke told us 
that the Special Chamber judges had confirmed to him that 
they would be able to handle the case in that way.  End 
Note).  As things stand now, the monastery will present a 
settlement proposal to the Special Chamber when the court 
hears the case.  This proposal involves the monastery 
securing uncontested ownership of the disputed land in 
question, which is adjacent to the monastery, and in return 
giving up undisputed parcels it owns in the middle of the 
town itself. 
...and Gjakova 
¶5.  (C) We are also engaged in another church-related 
property problem in Gjakova/Djakovica.  The property in 
question is the site of a Milosevic-era church partially 
destroyed in 1999 and then completely razed during the March 
2004 riots, making it one of 35 SOC properties slated to be 
rebuilt under the rubric of the Council of Europe-led 
Reconstruction Implementation Commission (RIC).  In recent 
months, Gjakova mayor Pal Lekaj (AAK) - without consulting 
the SOC or the RIC - ordered the site cleared and had a park 
constructed on it, covering up the foundation of the church 
building.  This has provoked a continuing strong reaction 
from the Serbian government and hard-line elements in the 
SOC.  In concert with the ICO, we have discussed the issue 
with Lekaj several times.  As with the Decani case, we have 
asked for and obtained the intervention of Haradinaj as a 
means of convincing the mayor to reach a settlement.  At our 
most recent meeting on August 7, Lekaj appeared willing to 
find a solution, and accepted the fact that the property 
belongs to the church.  Working with Father Sava, we have 
informed the mayor that he must uncover the church's 
foundations and fence the property, albeit in a way that 
would preserve as much of the park as possible and allow 
continued access to it.  ICO will work with the RIC to 
develop a detailed plan for the site, and expects to be in 
position to present it to the mayor in the next 2-3 weeks. 
Artemije Waning, But Still Dangerous 
¶6.  (C) During our August 13 conversation, Sava described 
continuing Kosovo-linked tensions within the SOC.  Kosovo's 
head bishop, Artemije Radosvljevic, continues to be a 
hard-line opponent of Kosovo independence, the RIC, and 
inter-ethnic reconciliation in general.  On August 19, 
Artemije's diocesan website published a condemnation of the 
situation in Gjakova/Djakovica, attacking the RIC and Bishop 
Teodosije Sibalic, who serves as SOC representative to the 
RIC and Abbott of Visoki Decani monastery.  However, Sava 
reported that the SOC has decided that the "Kosovo Council," 
a group of bishops dealing with Kosovo-related matters, which 
includes Teodosije, will now deal with all SOC questions in 
Kosovo.  Sava noted that this is a significant moderating 
change to the prior practice that allowed Artemije to deal 
with matters without significant involvement from the SOC's 
governing Synod. 
¶7. (C) In a sign of what Sava considers Artemije's "waning 
influence," the Synod recently decided that Teodosije will be 
able to assign priests and monks to reoccupy RIC-rebuilt 
sites; Artemije has nominal authority in this matter and will 
be consulted first, but has refused to even consider 
reoccupying these churches, which he considers tainted by 
Kosovo government involvement.  Handover of the keys to 
several RIC sites, including St. George's in Prizren, is 
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anticipated at the end of August.  According to Sava, the 
church hierarchy has little faith in Artemije's ability to 
safeguard SOC interests in Kosovo and has already decided on 
working through Teodosije to "bypass" Artemije.  In Sava's 
opinion, Artemije's decision to condemn Serbian President 
Boris Tadic and his Democratic Party (DS) during the campaign 
before the May 11 Serbian parliamentary elections has damaged 
his standing with the Serbian government as well. 
Nonetheless, Sava warned that he and Teodosije remain 
vulnerable to Artemije's wrath if they are seen communicating 
with forbidden interlocutors. 
Stprce Still Quiet - For Now 
¶8.  (C) The situation in the Serb-majority enclave of Stprce 
remains stable for the time being.  The decision of parallel 
mayor Zvonko Mihajlovic to re-open a checkpoint for 
construction materials outside the "weekend zone" near the 
ski resort of Brezovica caused a stir, but on August 4, 
USKFOR reported that conversations with Strpce's Albanian 
minority, including former Kosovo Liberation Army war 
veterans, revealed that the illegal construction in the 
weekend zone is as unpopular among Strpce's Albanians as it 
is with the municipality's Serbs.  According to USKFOR, 
Strpce Albanians report that the Serb parallel government has 
to date done nothing to antagonize or provoke them, although 
they are dissatisfied that a parallel government is operating 
in their municipality.  USKFOR also reports that senior 
Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officers in Pristina - all Kosovo 
Albanians - have sent messages to the parallel government via 
the Stprce KPS - composed largely of Serbs - that continued 
operation of the checkpoint, provided it does not involve 
passenger vehicle searches or other police activity, would 
not provoke a response from KPS.  In a meeting with UK 
Ambassador on August 17, Strpce (parallel) deputy mayor 
Slavisa Staletovic, who served as deputy mayor in the 
previous (legal) municipal government, reportedly insisted 
that the parallel government did not want trouble but would 
continue to administer affairs to the extent possible. 
North: Where's The Money? 
¶9.  (C) Along with their colleagues in Strpce, Kosovo Serb 
KPS officers in the North have remained on the job, but they 
are having difficulties in receiving regular salaries from 
any source.  At the order of the previous Serbian Minister 
for Kosovo Slobodan Samardzic, along with Dragan Delibasic, 
senior Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP) commander in the 
North, most of the northern Serb KPS closed their 
Kosovo-based bank accounts in the wake of independence on 
February 17.  According to KPS Captain Ergin Medic (protect), 
the Serbian government MUP paid these officers 400 
euro-per-month until June, but this was stopped after the new 
government was formed in Belgrade.  Medic reports that the 
Serbian Government is considering paying these officers 150 
euro per month in unemployment compensation instead, but this 
has yet to materialize.  Since June, many of the same 
officers reopened their Kosovo-based accounts and have sought 
back pay from KPS headquarters in Pristina for the March 
through June period when they were on the job without 
accounts to receive their official KPS salaries.  The KPS 
removed the "Republic of Kosovo" logo, which the Serbs found 
offensive, from the forms required to receive back pay. 
According to Medic, despite promises from KPS headquarters to 
do so, the back pay has yet to be disbursed. 
MUP Still Active, No Changes Yet 
¶10.  (C) During his conversation with poloff on August 12, 
Medic also reported that frequently-rumored changes to the 
MUP command structure in the North are slow to be realized. 
Delibasic, while slated for removal, continues to enjoy 
bureaucratic support within the Serbian Ministry of Interior, 
although he will apparently reach mandatory retirement age in 
December.  According to Medic, northern Mitrovica's KPS 
station commander Milija "Piksi" Milosevic, also a MUP 
officer, continues to work to undermine the KPS, part of the 
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overall Serbian strategy to undermine the rule of law and 
respect for the KPS in the North.  This is aimed at creating 
an environment in which UNMIK would be more willing to accept 
the open return of Serbian MUP to the north.  Medic also 
reports that he joined UNMIK recently in approaching the 
(parallel) municipal governments of Zubin Potok and Leposavic 
to propose setting up remote cameras at Gates 1 and 31 with 
video feeds to Kosovo Customs.  The parallel authorities 
proposed that "municipal security officials" in the North 
have exclusive access to the camera feeds, which they also 
insisted not be sent to the KPS, the Kosovo Ministry of 
Interior, or anyone in Pristina. 
MCR Corruption Case 
¶11.  (C) The Serbs in the Independent Liberal Party (SLS), 
who have remained in the Kosovo Assembly and head two 
ministries in PM Thaci's cabinet, have been rocked in recent 
days by allegations of corruption at the Ministry of 
Communities and Returns (MCR).  Minister Boban Stankovic 
(SLS) has become the subject of a government investigation 
into allegations of corruption at the MCR during his tenure 
(see Pristina Bullets from August 9 and 14 on this subject). 
SLS President Slobodan Petrovic, a member of the Assembly 
Presidency, along with Caucus Leader Bojan Stojanovic, told 
us on August 15 that they were seriously contemplating 
Stankovic's removal.  They repeated their earlier assertions 
that they did not believe he was corrupt but were unsatisfied 
with his handling of the MCR, which they consider a key tool 
in their effort to convince Kosovo Serbs of the benefits of 
participation in Kosovo institutions.  On August 18, Petrovic 
assured PM Thaci of the SLS's intent to deal with the 
allegations, and reported that Thaci told him in return that 
any action should await the release of a final audit report, 
expected the week ending of August 22.  Petrovic told us 
August 19 that given the MCR's importance to his party, the 
SLS presidency will "collectively" manage the MCR going 
forward, regardless of who the minister is. 
¶12. (C) The SOC-related land issues must be resolved in order 
to clear the air of problems and generate some breathing room 
for church moderates to function in Kosovo.  Solving them 
without the possibility of direct communication between 
Orthodox clerics and municipal officials has not and will not 
be easy, although we are guardedly optimistic that we at 
least have a way forward in the Decani case, by far the more 
complicated of the two.  Although Sava and other moderate SOC 
clergy have continually resisted meeting the ICO out of fear 
of hard-line condemnation, there are signs that Serbian 
government officials may meet ICO officials.  Deputy ICR 
Fletcher Burton told us August 18 that Serbian State 
Secretary for Kosovo Oliver Ivanovic told him that he would 
meet Burton in Mitrovica the week ending August 24.  We have 
encouraged Ivanovic to do so.  The situations in Strpce and 
the North remain stable, if unsatisfactory.  In Strpce, we 
will try to engage parallel officials to resolve practical 
problems without recognizing their claims to legitimacy. 
Regarding the KPS, we have and will continue to strongly 
encourage the Kosovo Ministry of Interior to quickly resolve 
the back-pay issue, keeping in mind that the northern Serb 
KPS now appear to be off the Belgrade payroll. 
¶13. (C) (cont'd).  As previously reported, the situation at 
the MCR has been problematic for some time.  The ministry has 
been plagued by corruption since its inception, and we have 
continually told the SLS that the MCR needs to be handled 
well.  In our opinion, it is the main tool by which the 
Kosovo Serbs in the government can convince their brethren of 
the benefits of that participation.  SLS leadership 
understands this and is cognizant of the need for effective 
action, whatever the outcome of the government investigation. 
 However, Minister Stankovic's poor showing at the MCR over 
the last eight months has taken up valuable time that the 
hard-pressed SLS Serbs do not necessarily have.  Going 
forward, we will refocus our efforts to assist them in making 
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up this lost ground.