In Pristina, the UN Secretary-General's acting Special Representative, Sergio Vieira de Mello, called together leaders of the Albanian and Serbian communities to focus exclusively on the pressing issue of security for all people in Kosovo. This is the first time that Albanian and Serb leaders of Kosovo have sat down to discuss concrete issues. They issued a joint statement calling for restraint and respect for human life, which was broadcast on radio and television by the United Nations mission in Kosovo.
The text of the statement is as follows:
Today, we have met at the headquarters of the UN Mission in Kosovo to urgently address a problem that affects all the people of Kosovo: people who want to return to their homes here, people who want to stay here, people who have returned in the past few weeks, people who have remained here throughout recent tragic months.
We have met to discuss security and human rights; in order for the human rights of all people to be exercised they must be free of fear. They must feel safe staying in their homes, going to their jobs, going to their places of worship, visiting friends and family, taking their exams at university, and going about all the other tasks of everyday life.
We know that we have to urgently address this problem if we want to realise our joint goal of a civil society in Kosovo, a society where no one has to have fear for his lie, his family, his job, or his home just because of his ethnicity or belief. We are determined not to look back but to look forward. In this respect we reach out to all national communities living in Kosovo. In particular, we want to stop the exodus of Serb, Montenegrin and other civilians from Kosovo and encourage the return of those who have already left.
We have a rich common heritage. We want to preserve it. We therefore call on everyone: stay in and come back to Kosovo. K-FOR and UNMIK have promised us that they would do their utmost to secure your safety and to guarantee your future in your homeland. We trust them and we urge you to do likewise.
Both sides condemn the crimes of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo. Persons suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity shall be brought to justice. We support the role of ICTY. Peace can only be built on justice, not on revenge.
We urge all Kosovo inhabitants, whether of civilian or military status, to refrain and
to actively discourage others from any acts of violence against their neighbours. Such
actions are unacceptable. Those responsible will be brought to justice.
We insist that the identity of all prisoners that have been transferred to prisons outside Kosovo be made public and that they are immediately returned to Kosovo to be handed over to UNMIK to be tried or released as appropriate. We insist that political proceedings now being held in Serbian courts cease. We insist that all political prisoners be released immediately. We also insist that all People that are missing be also immediately handed over to UNMIK. We support the joint efforts already undertaken by human rights activists in the Albanian, Serb and other communities, together with UNMIK and other nternational organizations, to realise these demands.
The road to reconciliation will be long and difficult. There is no such thing as natural hatred among people in Kosovo.
We have to work together. As first steps we have agreed today: to establish a joint immediate line of communication among ourselves, UNMIK and K-FOR and to hold regular meetings such as today's; to issue joint messages of cooperation and reconciliation on TV and radio; to establish a joint crisis task force, together with UNMIK and K-FOR, to be able to quickly address security problems whenever they occur including in and around historical and religious sites and to organize an early meeting among religious and spiritual leaders to call for tolerance and respect for religious sites; and to establish, with the help of UNMIK and K-FOR, local joint committees involving different national communities to devise concrete pilot projects to promote the gradual return of all people to their homes, starting with Mitrovica and
Gnijlane which can then be extended to other areas.
The statement was signed on the Albanian Kosovar side by Kol Berisha (L), Rexhep Qosja (LBD), Blerim Shala (Independent) and Hashim Thaci (UCK), and for the Kosovo Serbs by Bishop Artemije and Father Sava of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, along with Dushan Ristic and Momcilo Trajkovic for the Serbian Resistance Movement.
De Mello said earlier today that despite efforts of the international security force, it was felt that the security situation was deteriorating and the spiral of violence was widening, affecting greater numbers of people, and Serbs in particular.
In addition to issuing the joint public statement, the two sides also agreed to form a "crisis group" to respond rapidly to security emergencies and a "hotline" linking all parties.