Viewing cable 08PRISTINA81
Title: KOSOVO: SOUTHERN SERBS ANGRY, APPREHENSIVE, AND

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08PRISTINA812008-02-25 10:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina
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O 251055Z FEB 08
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PRISTINA 000081 
 
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SIPDIS 
 
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KV UNMIK
SUBJECT: KOSOVO: SOUTHERN SERBS ANGRY, APPREHENSIVE, AND 
TIGHT-LIPPED AFTER INDEPENDENCE, BUT LIFE GOES ON IN THE 
ENCLAVES 
 
Classified By: Chief of Mission Tina S. Kaidanow for reasons 1.4 (b), ( 
d) 
 
¶1.  (C) SUMMARY.  In an effort to maintain relationships and 
relieve anxiety in the wake of Kosovo's February 17 
declaration of independence, we met with several moderate 
Kosovo Serb contacts from south of the Ibar during the week 
of February 18-22.  We were not surprised to find them angry 
and nervous.  Our contacts are, to a person, under 
considerable pressure from the Serbian government and their 
own communities not to speak with the Kosovo government or 
the international community.  While there is no expectation 
life will be disrupted, there is universal agreement that the 
Ahtisaari Plan will not be implemented and that the ICO/EULEX 
missions will not be welcome.  They do not expect much 
cooperation with the Kosovo government on the part of Serbs. 
With regard to the Serbian government, we ran into a 
noticeable wall with several of our contacts who are privy to 
at least some of its forthcoming plans.  While nothing we 
found is surprising, the challenges the international 
community and the Kosovo government will face in working with 
Kosovo's Serb community in the coming months will be 
considerable.  END SUMMARY. 
 
Predictable Anger 
 
¶2.  (C) Serb reaction to Kosovo's February 17 declaration of 
independence has been predictable and foreseeable - in large 
part angry, tinged with disappointment and sadness.  The 
reception we got from Ljubomir Stanojkovic on February 19, a 
moderate former Kosovo MP, International Visitor Program 
participant, and current village leader from Silovo 
(Gjilan/Gnjilane municipality) was typical of what we found 
with many of our contacts this week.  He first compared 
Kosovo's independence with his father's death, saying "I knew 
it was coming, but the moment itself was still hard to bear." 
 Stanojkovic and others expressed anger at the United States, 
though they were careful to separate their feelings towards 
the U.S. government from their personal relationships with 
Americans.  Dragan Velic, a leader of the Serb National 
Council (SNC) in the Serb enclave of Gracanica, told us 
February 19 that he only agreed to meet an American official 
because of his preexisting relationship with us.  Vesna 
Jovanovic, a former Kosovo MP from the Serb village of 
Partesh (Gjilan/Gnjilane municipality), who continues to be 
constructive and open, told us that Partesh residents were in 
such a foul mood towards America in particular that she could 
not remind them of the community center built for them 
recently by USKFOR and USAID without getting an unpleasant 
response. 
 
Fear, Rumors Still Prevalent 
 
¶3. (C) Besides anger, there is an high degree of fear among 
Kosovo Serbs in the wake of Kosovo's independence, despite 
the total lack of any significant security incidents south of 
the Ibar river since the February 17 declaration.  On 
February 19, an article appeared in Serbia's Beta News, 
claiming that a woman from Gornje Livoc village 
(Gjilan/Gnjilane municipality) had been beaten in her home by 
masked Albanians.  This article received widespread 
attention, with villagers in the wider region (all inside the 
USKFOR AOR) telling KFOR contacts they had heard of a 
"slaughter" in Gornje Livoc.  After considerable effort from 
USKFOR, assisted by Jovanovic and USOP, accurate information 
was disseminated, quelling the rumor and calming nerves. 
Actual KPS reports show that the woman's home suffered a 
minor burglary, and that she fell down during the theft but 
suffered no injuries.  Though eventually contained, the 
fast-spreading and inflated rumors coming from this incident 
illustrate the level of anxiety among the Serbs in the south. 
 
 
Keeping a Low Profile 
 
¶4.  (C) That anxiety is also fueled by fears emanating from 
 
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within the Serb community itself, particularly the fear that 
hardline Serb actions in northern Kosovo will have a negative 
impact on Serb communities in the south by provoking a 
reaction from local Albanians.  In addition, Serbian 
government interlocutors have clearly been putting pressure 
on Serb community members to avoid "outsiders"; as one sign 
of this, some of our contacts wanted to meet us either 
outside their normal offices (away from neighbors and locals 
who would notice them talking to Americans) or in the 
presence of others, so as to avoid accusations of treason. 
Jovanovic told us she could not be seen with Americans in 
Partesh, and asked for a meeting in Vrbovac (Viti/Vitina 
municipality) on February 21, at which we were joined by 
regional CCK coordinator Zoran Krcmarevic.  When we met 
Stanojkovic, he asked two colleagues to join us, in an 
apparent attempt to avoid being seen alone with Americans. 
Bojan Stojanovic, leader of the Kosovo Serb Independent 
Liberal Party (SLS) caucus in the Kosovo Assembly, met us 
outside his office, insisting on an isolated table in the 
back of a local restaurant. 
 
Life Goes On...To a Point 
 
¶5.  (C) Several of our contacts indicated that they expect 
life for Serbs to continue as before, to the extent possible. 
 Randjel Nojkic, another moderate former Kosovo MP who heads 
the Gracanica office of Post, Telegraph, and Telecom (PTT) of 
Serbia, told us February 20 that he would continue to 
cooperate with Kosovo Customs to ensure PTT would receive 
necessary shipments, but that he had informed Customs 
officials "I will do what is necessary to keep PTT operating 
- if you make a decision against PTT's interests, I'll do 
what I have to in order to keep things going."  Zivojin 
Rakocevic, manager of the moderate Serbian-language radio 
station Radio KiM, told us, also on February 20, that he 
expected the Serbian government-sponsored institutions 
already in place to continue functioning without interruption. 
 
...But Ahtisaari is Not Likely 
 
¶6.  (C) This group of moderate Serb contacts, some of whom 
have expressed guarded support for the general goals of the 
Ahtisaari Plan in the past, are now unanimous that the plan 
cannot now be implemented, at least as it relates to Serbs. 
Jovanovic emphasized that the ICO will not be able to find 
any, let alone a sufficient number of Serbs to participate in 
the decentralization provisions of Ahtisaari.  Krcmarevic and 
other moderates, such as Father Sava Janjic of the Visoki 
Decani monastery, expressed doubts that there are any real 
guarantees for Serbs under the plan.  When they are again 
assured of legal protections afforded by Ahtisaari, such as 
the guaranteed existence of 10 set-aside seats for Serbs in 
the Kosovo Assembly, a typical response, as voiced by 
Krcmarevic, has been "this is all well-conceived, but you 
can't expect that this will really work." 
 
...And Forget the ICO 
 
¶7.  (C) Our contacts are unanimous that Serbs will not work 
with the ICO or EULEX.  For some, like Velic and Krcmarevic, 
the deployment of these missions means the violation of UNSC 
1244, making any cooperation impossible.  As Velic put it "we 
(Serbs) will fight the illegitimate (independence) with the 
legitimate."  Others, such as Jovanovic and Nojkic, think 
that the ICO will have such a hard time operating in the 
changed environment after independence that it will not be 
able to find effective ways to cooperate with Serbs.  When we 
asked about the practical necessity of dealing with the ICO 
in lieu of any other interlocutors, we got no definite 
answers from any of our contacts.  Some voiced the hope that 
UNMIK would stay in Kosovo, if only to enable contact between 
Serbs and the Kosovo government.  None had any answer when we 
pointed out that UNMIK would soon begin winding down during 
the coming transition period. 
 
...Or Kosovo Institutions 
 
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¶8.  (C) Finally, our contacts made it clear that Serbs may 
break relations with the Pristina government or local 
municipal governments run by Albanians.  Leaders from five 
villages in Viti/Vitina municipality (Mogila, Grncar, Binac, 
Klokot, and Vrbovac) signed a declaration on February 20, 
later sent to SRSG Ruecker, that due to Kosovo's 
independence, they would not respect any decision of either 
the central or local government.  The declaration did state 
that they would continue to work with KFOR, UNMIK, and the 
OSCE; our contact Krcmarevic added that relationships with 
liaison offices and embassies would also continue. 
 
Serbia's Role: Serbs Keep Mum 
 
¶9.  (C) One pattern we noticed throughout all our meetings in 
the past week was a purposeful deflection of any questions 
about the Serbian government's plans for Kosovo Serbs after 
independence.  Several of our contacts - none of whom has 
ever been closely tied to Belgrade politics or the Serbian 
government - attended a meeting in Belgrade on Saturday, 
February 16, at which we believe aspects of Serbia's Kosovo 
policy were discussed.  When we asked about this meeting or 
the Serbian government's upcoming plans, we received vague, 
noncommittal answers.  Krcmarevic, who was only recently 
appointed to his CCK position, claimed that he now had 
"certain guidelines" to follow, which he would not reveal. 
Some of our long-standing contacts, such as Velic and Nojkic, 
lost their usual loquaciousness and openness when asked about 
these plans, with Nojkic even breaking eye contact, dropping 
his voice, and looking at the floor. 
Still Fissures in the CCK 
 
¶10.  (C) As he has in the recent past, Krcmarevic, a member 
of Serbian President Boris Tadic's Democratic Serbia (DS) 
party who was recently appointed to his job as regional CCK 
coordinator for Viti/Vitina, complained that the real 
authority inside the CCK is still held by members of Prime 
Minister Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) party. 
Krcmarevic said that Serbian companies associated with the 
DSS     continued to get the lion's share of funds and 
contracts from the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo, headed by 
DSS's Slobodan Samardzic. 
 
Comment: Tough Going 
 
¶11.  (C) There is good news in the enclaves, despite 
everything relayed above:  Serb and Albanian police continue 
to work together in KPS uniforms, and for now at least, 
institutional contacts remain with Serbs in most communities. 
 There are not many surprises in what we heard from our 
moderate Serb contacts this week:  they are unhappy with 
Kosovo's independence, unhappy with the United States for 
sponsoring it, and are under ever-increasing pressure from 
the Serbian government not to meet with us.  The lack of any 
real acceptance of the Ahtisaari Plan on their part will make 
the international community's work in the coming months that 
much harder.  The Kosovo government will face serious 
challenges in dealing with an alienated Serb community under 
pressure from within not to cooperate with Kosovo or even 
international institutions. 
 
¶12.  (C) COMMENT (cont'd):  The tight-lipped responses we 
received to any questions about the Serbian government's 
forthcoming plans are also disturbing, though we see plenty 
of evidence as well that Serbs in the south are aware of the 
serious downsides of a policy of strict isolation.  This lack 
of response from contacts that are usually open indicates 
widespread - and effective - pressure from Belgrade.  We do 
not face significant security threats in the south; it should 
be noted that all the pressure and fear we saw among our 
contacts this week is happening in a safe and calm 
environment.  As tension mounts in the Serb-majority north, 
however, it may become harder for Serbs in the south to hold 
out against the Belgrade line, even if their inclinations run 
in the other direction.  End comment. 
 
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KAIDANOW