Rambouillet peace talks on Kosovo, spearheaded by the Contact Group of sixcountries: that is the USA, UK, Italy, Germany, France and Russia. The aim of thetalks was the conclusion of a peace agreement for an interim solution betweenwhat was then Yugoslavia (comprising Serbia and Montenegro) and a Kosovodelegation representing the ethnic Albanian majority population of Kosovo. TheRambouillet talks in Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999 weretorpedoed by Serbia, which was not seeking a political solution. It was not lookingfor peace. The Kosovar delegation signed up to the compromise deal offered bythe international community. On the other hand, Serbia, at the height of its hubrisas an occupier – a state that, in Kosovo, was waging its fourth war of aggressionagainst its fellow federal entities in less than a decade – called the bluff of theinternational community’s serious efforts to bring a peaceful end to the Yugoslavcrisis.
There is, of course, a lot of controversy surrounding the actualevents in Rae`ak and those deaths in January 1999. What was the impact of Rae`ak,and particularly its portrayal by the media on international intervention inKosovo?
Rae`ak was one among a series of concerted Serbian military and paramilitary actions against Albanians – mostly unarmed civilians, actually.As far as the controversy in Rae`ak is concerned, [it] is a fabrication by the Serbs but the reality is that more than forty civilians were slaughtered in a joint actionof the Serbian army and paramilitary police. The world was there to see it actually.The OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) monitorson the ground and the media broke the news and conveyed the unmediated imagesof slaughtered Kosovar Albanian civilians lying on the ground, with some of the bodies mutilated in a barbaric way. The top Serbian leadership involved in Rae`ak were tried and convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) earlier this year; each of them were sentenced to up to 22years’ imprisonment. The former Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia (as it wascalled back then), Nikola Sainovic,
as well as the Chief of Staff of the Militaryand the Chief of Staff of the Police – that is, Serbian military and police generals – were all convicted of having engaged in a joint criminal enterprise against theAlbanian population of Kosovo in the ﬁrst half of 1999. Therefore, because theICTY has convicted them of war crimes and crimes against humanity, this should bring the so-called controversy of Rae`ak to an end.
Moving on slightly to UN resolution 1244, which put Kosovo under international administration. Through what means did Kosovo manage to assert itsidentity and national feeling in those ten years or so?
Actually, in political and cultural terms, Kosovo had always beendifferent from the rest of Yugoslavia. In fact the name of the state, ‘Yugoslavia’,alienated Kosovo because it means the land of the southern Slavs: the Kosovar Albanians are a non-Slavic people. Now in terms of the culture, identity and
Interview with Dr Muhamet Hamiti