Viewing cable 08PRISTINA99

08PRISTINA992008-03-05 17:01:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Pristina

DE RUEHPS #0099/01 0651701
O 051701Z MAR 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L PRISTINA 000099 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2018 
Classified By: Chief of Mission Tina S. Kaidanow for Reasons 1.4 (b), ( 
¶1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Kosovo's hardline church leader Bishop 
Artemije Radosavljevic has responded to independence by 
ordering his clergy to break off contact with any 
organization or person supporting independence, including the 
Kosovo government and foreign diplomats.  He has also deemed 
invalid the Council of Europe-led Reconstruction 
Implementation Commission (RIC), which aims to rebuild 35 
churches destroyed in the March 2004 riots, since it is 
largely financed by the Kosovo government.  Nevertheless, 
moderate Serb Orthodox clergy, such as auxiliary Bishop 
Teodosije Sibalic and Father Sava Janjic of the Visoki Decani 
monastery, continue to want to pursue cooperative projects 
with international organizations and their Kosovo Albanian 
neighbors.  Apart from Artemije's attempt to shut down the 
RIC -- the only organization in which Belgrade, Pristina and 
the Serb Orthodox Church cooperate -- its chairwoman has 
concerns about the viability of the project in light of 
Artemije's restrictions on church cooperation.  Meanwhile, 
the Kosovo government has continued its efforts to protect 
the most vulnerable Serbian Orthodox sites from theft and 
vandalism, and remove inaccurate language about the most holy 
sites from its official websites.  The Serbian Orthodox Synod 
- the only body that can definitively settle the issue either 
way - sent a delegation to Kosovo March 3-4, and largely 
avoided dealing with the difficult questions posed by the 
conflict within the church's ranks.  This gives Artemije the 
advantage for now.  END SUMMARY. 
Gag Order 
¶2.  (C) In response to Kosovo's February 17 declaration of 
independence, hard-line Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic, who 
holds primacy over Serbian Orthodox clergy in Kosovo, issued 
instruction forbidding contact with the Kosovo government, 
the ICO/EULEX missions, and representatives from liaison 
offices or embassies of countries recognizing independence. 
According to Father Sava Janjic of Visoki Decani monastery in 
western Kosovo, the harsh communication restrictions imposed 
by Artemije's edict have already had detrimental effect.  New 
Decani Mayor Musa Berisha was forced to cancel a visit to the 
monastery on February 28; this would have been his first 
contact with Visoki Decani's abbot, the moderate Bishop 
Teodosije Sibalic.  Sava asked USOP to inform the mayor of 
these restrictions, which he considers "absurd."  (Note: We 
did so, and the mayor told us he understood the situation in 
which the Decani monks find themselves.  End Note.)  Sava 
also told us that he and Teodosije have been compelled to 
decline other visits since February 17; with deep regret and 
evident mortification, they turned down COM's offer for a 
meeting with Acting U/S Dan Fried during his impending March 
7 visit to Kosovo. 
Artemije's  Assault on the RIC 
¶3.  (C) Threatened by hardline Kosovo Serb and Serbian forces 
throughout its existence, the future of the RIC, a highly 
successful Kosovo Serb-oriented initiative funded in large 
part by the Kosovo government, now appears to be in serious 
doubt.  On February 29, Artemije appeared with Serbian 
Minister for Religion Radomir Naumov in Gracanica, declaring 
that the MOU governing the RIC was "no longer valid" after 
Kosovo's declaration of independence.  Artemije also 
announced that he and Naumov had signed an agreement by which 
the Serbian government would fund church reconstruction, and 
called upon the international community to start negotiations 
aimed at producing a new consensus on church reconstruction, 
in which the church would play a more active role in project 
implementation.  Artemije also called for the reinstatement 
of a lawsuit, filed in 2004, against NATO, claiming damages 
for churches damaged in the March 2004 riots.  The suit was 
suspended by the Synod in 2005, according to Father Sava, at 
the insistence of Archbishop (and widely-reputed next 
Patriarch) Amfilohije. 
Laboring On 
¶4.  (C)  Despite the new restrictions on communication, 
Teodosije and Sava have continued their efforts to cooperate 
with the international community and Kosovo Albanians. 
According to Carmichael, Teodosije, the Serbian Orthodox 
Church's representative to the RIC, has decided to continue 
participation in the RIC process until or unless he is told 
otherwise.  (Note: Teodosije said this on February 28, before 
Artemije's pronouncement on the subject.  End Note)  In 
addition, the monastery has pressed on with a cooperative 
irrigation project which would benefit an Albanian village 
near the Decani Monastery.  Teodosije met recently with a 
group of Albanian village leaders about this project, and has 
secured financial support from the Norwegian Office in 
Pristina, along with logistical and construction support from 
KFOR and the Decani municipality.  However, as an example of 
how constrained communication with most outsiders has become, 
on March 3, a USAID engineer coming to evaluate possible 
participation in the irrigation project was sent away with a 
note asking him to come at another time. 
CoE Concerned 
¶5.  (C)  Even though Artemije's attempt to shut it down was 
neither adopted nor commented upon by the church's governing 
Synod during its March 3-4 visit to Kosovo, (see paragraph 
9), Carmichael told us February 29 that the RIC will face 
problems because Artemije's instructions make it impossible 
for the church to accept money from the Kosovo government, 
which funds nearly all RIC projects (see paragraph 8). 
(Note: This may also impact a USOP-Embassy Belgrade grant to 
reconstruct the iconostasis of the Church of St. Nicholas in 
Pristina; under Artemije's orders the church cannot accept 
money from the U.S. government.  We are searching for a 
workable alternative.  End Note.)  Another problem will be 
new project tenders; the Serbian government is expected, at 
the very least, to suspend its participation in the RIC, 
making approval of new tenders impossible.  Carmichael fears 
the RIC's plans for 2008 will be delayed at best and canceled 
at worst.  Finally, she reported that a Kosovo Serb employee 
of the CoE's Pristina office had to spend several days 
convincing his neighbors in Lipljan that his continued 
employment was not a violation of the Serbian government's 
call for Kosovo Serbs to withdraw from Kosovo institutions. 
He only managed to do this because the church has endorsed 
the RIC's mission. 
¶6.  (C)  Carmichael also told us that the RIC was trying to 
determine what to do with 12 projects that are nearing 
completion.  According to Sava, the elderly Artemije, whose 
public rhetoric has gotten more shrill in recent months, has 
privately called RIC-restored churches "Shiptar churches," 
using a highly derogatory Serbian word to describe Albanians. 
 Carmichael said it is hard to determine what the 
Raska-Prizren diocese, which Artemije heads, will do with 
these structures once the RIC is ready to hand them over 
after reconstruction is finished.  Artemije also complained 
of the "low quality" of RIC reconstruction to PDSRSG Rossin 
on March 1.  (Comment: Artemije's rhetoric may be too 
incendiary even for hardliners in Serbia's government and the 
Orthodox Church.  ICO Cultural Heritage officer Andrea 
Battista told us February 29 that his contacts inside the 
church claim that the organizers of the February 21 
demonstrations in Belgrade protesting Kosovo's independence - 
which featured nationalist rants from PM Kostunica and 
Radical Party leader Nikolic and ended with mob violence 
against the U.S. Embassy - prevented Artemije from addressing 
the crowd for fear that his inflammatory words would incite 
even more serious violence.  End Comment.) 
Kosovo Government Continues Support 
¶7.  (C) Whether Artemije chooses to acknowledge the RIC's 
work, the Kosovo government, which had funded the RIC with 
more than 3.5 million euros since 2005, continues its efforts 
to protect vulnerable church sites from vandalism and theft. 
On February 29, the Technical Working Group of the Sub 
Working Group on Cultural Heritage finalized an operational 
order for the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) which enhances KPS 
efforts to protect Serbian Orthodox church sites.  At the 
same meeting, the Technical Working Group received a report 
from UNMIK about interim security measures to guard some of 
the most vulnerable RIC sites, some of which have been 
burglarized more than once.  UNMIK reported that KPS officers 
are guarding the sites on a 24-hour basis, and that a private 
security company, hired with 50,000 euro approved by the 
previous Kosovo government, has begun installation of 
sensors, cameras, and its own guard posts for longer-term 
protection of these sites. 
¶8.  (C) The Ministry of Culture, in coordination with USOP, 
ICO, and CoE, has also taken measures to correct problems 
with language it generated in 2005 describing major Serbian 
Orthodox sites, such as Decani Monastery and Pec 
Patriarchate, as "Byzantine-Illyrian" monuments, thus 
implicitly denying their Serbian heritage.  The language 
found its way onto a website run by the Ministry of Trade and 
Industry's Department of Tourism in January 2007, causing a 
reaction in the Serbian press and unnerving Bishop Teodosije. 
 CoE has agreed to provide more accurate language, and 
Minister of Culture Skender Hyseni told COM on February 29 
that he and his staff will be open to approving it for use. 
Synod Indecisive for Now 
¶9.  (C) The Serbian Orthodox Synod - the group of senior 
clerics which governs the church - sent a delegation of 
bishops to Kosovo on March 3-4.  The group met at the Pec 
Patriarchate (in Peja/Pec municipality) on March 4 and then 
visited the Visoki Decani monastery and some RIC sites in 
Djakova/Djakovica and Prizren.  Artemije did not attend the 
session:  Father Sava informed us that Artemije claimed to 
have "other things to do."  We alerted Peja/Pec mayor Ali 
Berisha of the meeting, along with KFOR and the KPS, and 
there were no security incidents during this visit. 
According to readouts of the group's visit to the RIC sites, 
the bishops were impressed with the quality of the 
reconstructed churches. 
¶10.  (C) Sava and Teodosije had hoped that the Synod bishops, 
led by Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, would discuss 
Artemije's communications restrictions and his statements 
about the RIC, but instead the group avoided any comment on 
these.  Sava told us he had planted a question with a Serb 
radio reporter to be directed at Amfilohije about Artemije's 
order, but that Amfilohije gave a vague answer, indicating 
that there would be no problem with clergy "contacting 
internationals who have been here for a longer time and who 
have contributed to the protection of churches and 
monasteries."  Sava and Teodosije are therefore "deeply 
distressed," in Sava's words, that Artemije's order 
apparently still stands.  On March 4, Sava described the 
situation inside the Synod as "blocked," with the nationalist 
forces around Artemije having the upper hand due to their 
close allegiance with PM Kostunica's government.  Sava 
assured us he would keep contact with us via e-mail, but will 
establish an "alias" e-mail address for more sensitive 
¶11.  (C) Even this vague, noncommittal statement from 
Amfilohije drew more bilious rhetoric from Artemije, who, on 
March 5, denounced Amfilohije's words as an "...impermissible 
and uncanonical interference in the affairs of another 
diocese."  He went to say that Amfilohije's stance was 
contrary not only to his own, but to the positions of the 
Serbian government and Parliament, and then attacked 
Amfilohije in a more personal way: "If he (Amfilohije) is the 
deputy of the Patriarch he is not the deputy of the other 
bishops," adding that "surely no one (among Kosovo's clergy) 
will obey him."  Artemije also explicitly attacked the visit 
to Prizren, which claimed took place without his agreement as 
the top spiritual authority in Kosovo; this was "another 
violation of the canon, which he (Amfilohije) consciously 
¶12.  (C) Bishop Artemije's pressure upon his clergy to reject 
Kosovo's independence mirrors the Serbian government's 
pressure on all Serbs to do the same.  While Serbs of all 
political persuasions oppose independence, it is dismaying 
that the few moderates who are trying to remain constructive 
also feel constrained by his rhetoric, at least for now. 
Artemije's direct attack upon Amfilohije indicates either a 
touch of madness or supreme confidence that he has more 
support for his hardline positions in the church.  The lack 
of a definitive statement from Amfilohije, despite Artemije's 
attack against what little he did say, constitutes an 
effective endorsement of Artemije's recent pronouncements. 
The survival of the RIC - the only organization in which 
Belgrade, Pristina, and the Serb Orthodox Church participate 
- is now very much in doubt.  Besides his direct attack upon 
the RIC itself, Artemije's new arrangement between the church 
and the Serbian government is another sign that any 
cooperative church reconstruction project has little chance 
of succeeding at the moment.  If the Synod, which retains the 
authority to decide such matters, does not end up deciding to 
discontinue participation in the RIC, we will work with the 
CoE and Bishop Teodosije to try to continue this important 
undertaking.  For its part, the Government of Kosovo has 
taken many of the right steps to protect church sites; we 
will maintain dialogue with the central and local government 
officials to ensure that this continues.  At the moment, 
however, Artemije and his allies appear to hold the 
advantage.  END COMMENT.