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Kosovo’s UNESCO application is attempt to gain independence by hook or by crook

November 06, 2015, 17:04 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, November 6. /TASS/. Russia’s and Serbia’s unanimously negative attitude to the idea of making Kosovo a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) relies on the hard fact the territory is not an independent state. Pristina has not recognized the numerous instances of the elimination of Orthodox holy shrines during the years-long inter-ethnic conflict in former Yugoslavia and it is pushing ahead with anti-Serbian policies, polled specialists have told TASS.

At the ongoing session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris the 195 member countries will consider, among other issues, the question whether Kosovo should be granted the organization’s membership. UNESCO’s main task is preservation of the cultural heritage, so Belgrade feels obliged to warn the participants there is a threat to cultural and religious monuments in Kosovo, where the Albanian extremists from the early 1990s to the beginning of the 2000s have been systematically destroying Orthodox monasteries. Russia’s UNESCO envoy Eleonora Mitrofanova has told the daily Kommersant that Russia is firmly opposed to Kosovo’s admission to the organization, because Moscow strictly adheres to the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1244, which it regards as a confirmation of Serbia’s territorial integrity.

The head of the Centre for the Study of the Contemporary Balkan Crisis at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yelena Guskova, believes that Kosovo should not be allowed to become a UNESCO member.

"Kosovo is not an independent state. Pristina’s application for UNESCO membership is an attempt to get the status of an independent state by hook or by crook after it failed to do so either at the United Nations or in the European Union. At first, Pristina tried to make its way towards such a status through the World Bank. Now it’s UNESCO’s turn. Naturally, both Belgrade and Moscow will oppose Kosovo’s yet another attempt to violate international law," Guskova told TASS.

"Those who have ever been to Kosovo, and I have been there dozens of times myself, will never forget the charred ruins of Serbian villages, the ruins of Orthodox monasteries from UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the modern equivalent of ghettos for Serbs in the surviving churches. In the meantime, the spiritual and artistic treasures of Kosovo and Metohija belong to the group of the highest achievements of Christian civilization," Guskova said.

In her opinion, the Serbian cultural monuments suffered the worst destruction in 1989-1999, when Kosovo’s Albanian extremists felt Western support, which ended with NATO’s aggression against former Yugoslavia. Even after the deployment of the KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo 107 Serbian Orthodox churches were ruined over just two years. "According to official statistics available from the commission for the protection of Serbia’s monuments more than 200 Orthodox historical and cultural sites, most of them of world significance, were strongly damaged or utterly ruined," Guskova said.

The director of the Slavonic Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Konstantin Nikiforov, believes that from the standpoint of international law Kosovo has no right to seek a seat in UNESCO. "Even though more than 100 countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state, this is not enough for Pristina’s full legitimacy. The request for UNESCO membership is just an attempt to find another loophole by the Kosovo authorities for manifesting themselves as an internationally recognized entity, and nothing else," Nikiforov told TASS.

"Kosovo’s authorities have not recognized their responsibility for the destruction of Orthodox monuments or presented apologies to the Serbian people just once. In the meantime, the scale of vandalism in Kosovo and Metohija is identical to the destruction of ancient cultural monuments by Islamic State militants in Syria’s Palmira or of the Buddha statue by the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains unclear why the international community does not feel horrified at all at the thought the unique heritage of the Byzantine culture of world importance continued to be systematically destroyed in Kosovo and Metohija for a number of years, up to the notorious raids of 2004," Nikiforov said.

"Even if one imagines the possibility UNESCO hypothetically makes Kosovo its member, that will mean that the authorities in Pristina will be responsible for protecting and taking care of the Orthodox shrines. In other words, Serbian cultural monuments will be left at the mercy of those who had raided them and who have not uttered a word of repentance to this day. This should not be allowed to happen. The historical heritage of Kosovo and Metohija must remain under the international protection of UNESCO, with the Serbian community of this territory playing a certain role," Nikiforov said.

Serbia’s ambassador to Russia, Slavenko Terzic, has told TASS in an interview, "Serbia is strongly against what some have described as Kosovo’s admission to UNESCO."

"Nobody has canceled Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council, which asserts the territorial integrity of Serbia and the temporary presence of the UN administration in Kosovo," Terzic said.

He believes that if UNESCO raises the question of Kosovo’s admission, that would mean the whole organization will get politicized and depart from the principles of protecting the cultural heritage of humanity. Terzic recalled that in Kosovo and Metohija Albanian extremists had destroyed the most precious items of Serbian culture - monasteries, icons, frescos and books.

"The real aim of the authorities in Pristina is to wipe out all traces of Serbian presence in the territory. This is something that the international community should never let happen," he said.

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