Dienstbier blames UN, K-FOR for Macedonian crisis

Jiri Dienstbier, UN Special Envoy for Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia

Macedonian troops continued to pound ethnic Albanian rebels in the hills surrounding the city of Tetovo on Tuesday, as the country slid towards what some are saying is a new Balkans war. One man known for his strong views on the Balkans is the former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, now serving as the United Nation's Special Envoy for Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia.

Jiri Dienstbier,  UN Special Envoy for Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia
Mr Dienstbier stayed true to form on Monday, laying the blame for the rapidly unfolding crisis in Macedonia squarely on the shoulders of the U.N. and the NATO peacekeeping force K-FOR. Earlier today Radio Prague's Rob Cameron asked Mr Dienstbier to explain his comments:

Jiri Dienstbier: They are responsible for not disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was their obligation under resolution 1244 of the Security Council. We did not send troops and administration to Kosovo just to help Albanian extremists promote their idea of a Greater Albania, or as they call it "liberation of all Albanians from Slavic slavery". It was a big mistake, and I hope that now that we have time finally to repair it, even if it will be much more complicated than at the beginning two years ago.

Radio Prague: But do you accept though Mr Dienstbier that some of the claims of the Macedonian Albanians are justified?

JD: Well, you see this problem is totally complex. All these regions like Southern Serbia and Western Macedonia and Kosovo belong to the poorest parts of the Balkans, and so it will take time before these regions can be developed. And in these regimes, especially in the Milosevic regime, all people were persecuted, all people were in this situation, but because the representatives of the regime were of Serb nationality for instance, or Macedonian nationality, it was understood by Albanians not only as political or social oppression but also as national oppression. We have to support the rights of these people, but the situation is misused by Albanian extremists who just promote their nationalist ideology by arms, and their goal is just to improve the life of these people.

RP: But nonetheless, some of the language that you have used in interviews about the Balkans - critics say you are pro-Serb, pro-Slav and anti-Albanian. You're quoted as describing Albanian society as a clan society with the rule of blood feuds. Does that not just lead to the demonisation of the Albanian people?

JD: Well, I don't demonise Albanian people. I repeated many times that most Albanians were always against extremism. I was in Kosovo before the bombing. During the bombing, I visited the camps of people who were brutally expelled from Kosovo. I was convinced after the local elections last year that the majority of Albanian population is against these terrorists and extremists and against violence. The problem is that international organisations didn't base their policy on supporting this majority of Albanian population. They were just afraid of these extremists, and were unable to challenge them.