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10BELGRADE162 2010-02-02 11:03:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belgrade
Cable title:  

SERBIA TO CONTINUE TESTING KOSOVO VISITS POLICY

Tags:   PGOV PREL KV SR 
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1. (SBU) Following the recent expulsions from Kosovo of Serbian
officials, the Government of Serbia will likely continue to test
the Kosovo visits policy and the resolve of the international
community to enforce it. The EU Personal Representative Office in
Belgrade, which receives all Serbian visitation requests, maintains
that the system, while not perfect, functions sufficiently, based
on a March 2009 verbal understanding with both sides. The EU
office has encouraged the GoS to slow down on visits and abide by
this understanding, while continuing to help facilitate future
legitimate visits. In recent conversations with MFA and Ministry
for Kosovo officials we have urged a tempered response and have
pointed out the dangers of unilateral action on either side. While
maintaining our firm stance to use accepted procedures, we need to
prepare for some additional sensitive travel requests, particularly
the request by Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas to visit Decani
Monastery and a village near Prizren, scheduled for February 6-7,
and more importantly, the April 25 enthronement in Pec of the new
Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Irinej (Ref A). End
Summary.



GoS Protests Expulsions



--------------------------







2. (SBU) Following the January 26 expulsion of Assistant Minister
for Kosovo for Sustainable Returns Branislav Ristic (Ref B), GoS
officials protested to us and to EU officials in Belgrade. MFA
Special Advisor Damjan Krnjevic Miskovic told us on January 26 that
Ristic's temporary detention and expulsion was "a violation of
fundamental human rights," particularly the freedom of movement and
assembly. Ministry for Kosovo Special Advisor Vlada Jovicic made
similar points to us, adding that Ristic's expulsion sent a bad
message about the lack of safety for Serb returnees to Kosovo and
could further hinder return efforts. These protests followed an
earlier demarche by Prime Minister Cvetkovic of Quint Ambassadors
in Belgrade after the January 15 expulsion of Minister for Kosovo
Goran Bogdanovic (Ref C). In response to all protests we
encouraged Serbia to respect the established visit procedures, to
assist in calming the situation, and to avoid taking future
unilateral actions.



Visits Policy "Mostly Works"



--------------------------







3. (SBU) EU Personal Representative Peter Sorensen told the
Ambassador on January 31 that the current visits policy "mostly
works and the GoS needed to use it." He called the policy a
"political fact of life" that GoS officials needed to abide by if
they wanted to travel around Kosovo. Sorensen stressed that the
policy applied to all government officials on travel and to others
(such as returnee groups and pilgrims) who wanted a security
escort. He acknowledged in practice the policy worked efficiently
for non-official group visits, but that the GoS did not consider it
adequate for Serbian politicians. He expected the GoS would
continue to protest the policy but said the EU office would
continue to facilitate future requests.



More Visits Expected



--------------------------



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4. (SBU) The GoS has informed us and the EU Office that some
additional visits are being planned. On February 1, Jovicic told
us that while he expected there would be more requests, the GoS
"would try to stick to the procedure, even though the procedure
provides no credible result for us." While Jovicic acknowledged
that the process was acceptable for religious pilgrims, he said
pilgrims "are not the ones who can resolve outstanding issues with
the international community such as customs and judiciary" in
northern Kosovo.





5. (SBU) Sorensen told us Minister Bogdanovic likely wanted to
show that the problem of expulsions and visit denials was not
unique to him alone, and Bogdanovic was encouraging other Serbian
ministries to plan visits to Kosovo. Sorensen expected that there
would be little appetite in most other ministries to travel to
Kosovo, noting that few other government officials had done so in
the past. On January 29, Sorensen told us he had advised the GoS
to rethink its strategy, to slow down on visits and "take a calm
deep breath, in order to get things back on track."



Mayor Djilas Request to Visit



--------------------------







6. (SBU) Belgrade's Mayor Dragan Djilas has requested to visit
Decani Monastery and a village near Prizren on February 6 in order
to provide a financial donation from the City of Belgrade. In a
February 1 conversation with the DCM, Djilas asked for U.S.
assistance with approving the visit and provided assurances that he
would not visit any parallel institutions, including schools.
Djilas said he would only visit churches, in order to show support
for moderate clergy members, including Vicar Bishop Teodosije and
Father Sava Jansic at Decani. The EU office informed us on
February 1 that it had passed the request on to Pristina with a
recommendation that the GoK look favorably upon the request.



Proposed Patriarch Trip to Pec



--------------------------







7. (SBU) Looking further ahead, Jovicic confirmed for us on
February 1 that the Serbian Orthodox Church intends to have an
enthronement ceremony in Pec for newly installed Patriarch Irinej
on April 25. Sorensen said the Patriarch's travel could involve
travel by nearly 250 persons and requests for overflight clearances
into Kosovo.



Comment



--------------------------







8. (SBU) The effective implementation of the one-year-old,
EU-devised Kosovo visits policy is important for avoiding
unilateral actions by either the GoS or the GoK which could further
enflame the delicate situation on the ground. These bureaucratic
procedures were devised to assure regional stability while also
staying true to our broader Kosovo policy goals. As Serbia seeks
to test the policy, we will need to respond in a calculated manner,
providing flexibility when necessary but also zero tolerance for
any intentional unilateral provocations by either side. Key to
this will be the careful management of future humanitarian and
religious visits, particularly when those visits include the
participation of Serbian political leaders. End Comment.
WARLICK