CEOL - OSCE Head Urges Kosovar Albanians To End Violence

ISTANBUL, Nov 18, 1999 -- (Reuters) The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appealed to Kosovar Albanians on Thursday to break the spiral of violence in the province and end attacks on minority Serbs.

Knut Vollebaek, who is Norwegian foreign minister, also expressed hope that Yugoslavia would end what he called its self-imposed isolation, but said this would require substantial democratic reform.

Opening a two-day summit of the 54-nation OSCE in Istanbul, Vollebaek said the goal of a stable, multi-ethnic Kosovo remained a distant vision five months after the deployment there of a NATO-led international force.

"The spiral of inter-communal violence, much of it directed against Serbs and Roma (gypsies), gives cause for particular concern," he said.

"The Kosovo Albanian majority has suffered, but it now has a special responsibility for breaking the spiral of violence. Those who used to be the victims must not become the perpetrators."

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were driven out of Kosovo by Serbian forces early in 1999.

However, the return home of the Albanians following the entry of the NATO-led force in June has been accompanied by numerous attacks on Serbs and other minorities.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, referring briefly to Kosovo in his opening address at the OSCE summit, described the building of a free, pluralistic and multi-ethnic Kosovo as "an appallingly difficult task".

Call for end to Belgrade's isolation

The OSCE, which promotes civil and minority rights, arms control and conflict resolution, groups the United States, Canada and all European countries. Yugoslavia was suspended in 1992.

Yugoslavia has also been excluded from the so-called Stability Pact, a European Union-led commitment by some 40 countries to back economic reconstruction in the Balkans to help prevent future wars, until democratic reforms are introduced.

Vollebaek said there could be no long-term stability in southeastern Europe "until the self-imposed isolation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been broken".

"One day the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will assume its place in the OSCE family of nations. This cannot happen until substantial democratic reform has been carried out," he added.

The West's chief coordinator for Balkans reconstruction, Bodo Hombach, said the West needed to move beyond declarations of principle and get reconstruction efforts moving in the Balkans.

"We now need to get to work on the ground," he said in a statement. "The Stability Pact has raised high expectations. These expectations must be met."

Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia, three of the poorest countries in the region, have complained about the slow delivery of aid promised after the end of the Kosovo conflict.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]