Serbian Bishop Urges Germany Not to Recognize Independent Kosovo

(DPA, 26 January 2008)--BERLIN - The Serbian Orthodox bishop of Kosovo Saturday urged Germany not to recognize the breakaway Serbian province if it decides to declare its unilateral independence.

Radisavljevic Artemije, the outspoken bishop of Rasja and Prizren, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA he had held confidential talks with officials in Berlin to warn them of the seriousness of the situation in the breakaway Serbian province.

‘The situation in Kosovo is very serious,’ Artemije said.

Kosovo’s leaders announced their plans to declare independence after the end of Serbia’s presidential elections. The run-off between incumbent Boris Tadic and his nationalist competitor Tomislav Nikolic is scheduled for February 3.

Artemije said the aim of his diplomatic mission had been to show that independence for Kosovo would be in violation of international law.

‘Everything must be done to bring about an improvement of the situation and not a deterioraton,’ he said, noting that 150 Serbian Orthodox churches had been destroyed in the province in the past nine years through what he termed ‘acts of terrorism.’

‘I believe it is in the interest of everyone that we seek a solution, one that remains durable for a very long time,’ he said.

The fact that Kosovo’s population was 90-per-cent Albanian was no reason why the province should be wrenched from Serbia, which was now a democratic state, the bishop said.

The province’s demographic status had not come about through a natural development, but as a result of ‘mistakes made over the centuries.’

Serbs see Kosovo as the cradle of their history and religious culture.

James Jatras, the president of the Washington-based American Council for Kosovo, who accompanied Artemije, said the Berlin visit was part of a tour through London, Rome, Moscow, Brussels and Ottawa.

‘We are in Germany to appeal to the policy-makers to take another look at the Kosovo question, and to look first of all at what the consequences will be if the Kosovo government goes ahead and declares independence,’ he said.

Jatras said meeting had been held with German parliamentarians and with members of the government but declined to provide details.

He slammed the administration of President George W Bush, saying that until recently only a small number of officials in Washington had given serious thought to the Kosovo issue.

(Posting date 31 January 2008)

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