Djuric: The idea that Serbia or America is behind the events in Banjska is absurd

Marko Đurić
Source: The Washington Diplomat

The idea that Belgrade is behind the events in Banjska is absurd and nonsensical! It is clear to everyone that until that week, we were watching how Kurti himself destroyed the position of the so-called independent Kosovo and disrupted relations with the very international actors who led to its creation. We had momentum, and much harsher measures against Kurti should have been considered. You can support the Serbian position or be against it, support or be against the current Serbian Government, but we can agree that it is not so naive as to shoot itself in the foot," Marko Djuric, Serbia's Ambassador to the United States, said in an interview with Kurir.

He also adds that the idea that the United States is behind the events in Banjska is as absurd as the idea that official Belgrade is behind these events.

"If there is one thing that we agree with the Americans when it comes to Kosovo, it is the preservation of stability and support for efforts to seek solutions through dialogue. When it comes to specific issues related to the position of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija, despite our disagreement on its status, US authorities have played a constructive role. The United States, like Serbia, definitely does not want another conflict in Europe".

What was the first reaction that reached you regarding the events in Banjska? And how did what you heard from representatives of Serbia differ from what could be heard from the US side?

The reaction of the United States is an expected reflexive response of a great power that was among the first to support the independence of the so-called Kosovo. However, I believe that Serbia and the United States still share one fundamental common interest in Kosovo and Metohija, and that is stability. Albin Kurti has been diligently working for more than 20 months to provoke a reflex reaction from the states that supported unilateral secession 15 years ago. The logic is simple: They don't have to like me or what I do, but at the end of the day, they recognized Kosovo as independent, which means that if they want to remain consistent with that strategic decision, they cannot deny me the right to do what I want and to present it as the sovereign exercise of authority on my territory. Moreover, if I disguise it in liberal and democratic rhetoric, the sky is the limit. So, all Kurti needed was even the slightest real or fabricated pretext to shift all the pressure from himself to the Serbian side. This happened last week, and all supporters of the so-called Kosovo welcomed it with relief. The events in Banjska are a great tragedy for Serbia, the Serbs as a whole, very bad for the Albanians, and by far the worst for the families of the victims. If it hadn't been for this, something else would have served as a trigger. Kurti's regime has taken away from the Serbs all their collective political and economic rights, and unfortunately, a significant portion of their basic human rights as well. Kurti consciously created all the conditions for conflicts and events like this to occur.

Is the theory that this was staged by Pristina with the help of Western centers of power unfounded, given that Pristina, led by Albin Kurti, has been failing in the dialogue in recent weeks? What is your view?

Official Belgrade is not behind the events in Banjska, and this political situation is not in any way favorable for Serbia. We want to shift the focus back to the terror against the Serbs, which has been further intensified after this tragedy. I wouldn't speculate about the role of foreign intelligence agencies. Belgrade is calling for an independent international investigation into the events in Banjska. We are looking for the cause of death and justice for all the victims. We have reason to believe that Pristina is hiding evidence and manipulating facts. The families of the victims have the right to know what happened. The world public should also know this. If it is true that Bojan Mijailovic was shot in the head at close range after surrendering and that the late Afrim Bunjaku was killed by an explosive device, it sheds new light on these events. It is a shame that this has to be discussed publicly in this way instead of being addressed by prosecutors and judges.

Considering that the events in Banjska are not in any way favorable for Serbia, is there any reason, in your opinion, for Serbia, or official Belgrade, to be behind it, and what could be the reason for that?

The far greatest, almost exclusive responsibility for the crisis in Kosovo and Metohija lies with the regime of Albin Kurti. He and his accomplices must also be held accountable for creating the environment in which the tragedy in Banjska occurred. I am fully confident that they will eventually bear that responsibility. The values of Serbia and the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are not the values of violence, repression, and hatred. If I generalize, I would say that I believe that the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija are people of tolerance and love who want to be themselves in their own land.

Even though Serbia condemned the killing of members of the Kosovo Police, Pristina has not made any statement regarding the murder of at least three Serbs, including family members. How do you view this, and what does it tell us?

Kurti's regime wants to see Kosovo and Metohija without Serbs. Everything they do is exclusively in service of that goal. I do not expect humanity from such people. I am genuinely sorry for the death of the Albanian police officer and for our multi-generational conflict in general. People like Kurti want to pass the wars in their minds on to the next generations. Kurti should never have sent his armed personnel to the north. Everyone knows well what Article 9 of the Brussels Agreement says about the presence of the Kosovo Police Service in northern Kosovo.

Do you think that Pristina can benefit from all of this? Should our people in Kosovo and Metohija be apprehensive in the coming period, given that they are already suffering from terror by Kosovo institutions, even before this event?

Pristina (i.e., Kurti, I don't like to use the name of that important city in a pejorative context) has long been preparing this trap. Our people in Kosovo and Metohija have Alexander Vucic as a seasoned and dedicated representative and protector in a strategic sense. However, unity and dedication of the entire Serbia, as well as all its institutions to this issue, are necessary. There is a big difference between Serbia and the so-called Kosovo. Kurti's regime, with its entire apparatus and partial international support, lives in conflict with us 24/7. This is a reality we must accept, no matter how much we dislike it. We need to fight wisely and more strongly than ever. However, many people do not like the idea that addressing this issue requires patience, wisdom, and effort to improve the entire society. It is much easier to look for a scapegoat.

Many rushed to condemn Belgrade for declaring a day of mourning for the deceased Serbs. What do you have to say about that?

I say they should be ashamed.

It has been confirmed that Milan Radojicic, the former vice president of the Serbian List who resigned from that position, participated in the conflict. He confirmed this himself on Friday.

It is important for the Serbian position that President Vucic stated that everyone's responsibility on the Serbian side would be investigated. No one should be above the law, and I mean this sincerely, not just as a phrase. Our state stands or falls on this principle. I want to share the truth with you regardless of the danger and the intensity of the witch hunt that is underway. As someone who led the dialogue for eight years and is familiar with the local circumstances and people, I cannot imagine that Milan Radoicic or other Serbian leaders in Kosovo and Metohija would knowingly and intentionally jeopardize Serbian interests or the lives of their compatriots and neighbors. I have been through a lot with these people in Kosovo and Metohija, sometimes through institutions, sometimes on barricades, fighting for the survival of their people in a far from normal time and circumstances. I believe it is responsible and honorable that Radoicic has taken responsibility and accepted cooperation with state authorities to establish the truth.

Some opposition members quickly called for an emergency parliamentary session in light of the events in Banjska. Considering that the previous session, also initiated by them, ended in a fiasco due to their behavior, can we expect a more constructive parliamentary dialogue this time, or do you consider it to be a futile waste of time?

A very small number of people on the political scene possess deep knowledge and understanding of the Kosovo and Metohija issue. In party debates, we mostly hear slogans and phrases. Tragically little basic knowledge. Conduct a survey among members of certain, often the loudest, political parties and ask them to name the leaders of parliamentary parties in Kosovo or geographical terms, the distribution of economic and natural resources, or even to list all 10 municipalities with a Serb majority, and everything will become clear about who we are dealing with. Many of them only know how to shout, point fingers, and seek culprits. I am sad because of this. Serbia should unite on the Kosovo and Metohija issue, at least when it's difficult. Together, we could achieve everything.

After everything that has happened, does it make any sense to expect the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and what can the Serbs expect from it?

I believe there will be meetings. However, meetings, as our dark experience teaches us, are not the same as dialogue, let alone understanding. It would be nice if there was real dialogue. We Serbs are always for dialogue. However, at the moment, there is a hybrid attack on the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and on Serbia itself, orchestrated by Kurti. The sooner real dialogue starts, the better for everyone.