Ban on Orthodox patriarch ‘disgrace’ for West – Serbian president
The decision by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian government to block the Serbian Orthodox patriarch from entering the breakaway province is as shameful as the silence of Pristina’s Western backers, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday.
“This is a great shame, not for us, but for them,” Vucic said in a televised speech. “But it’s important for us to see how decision-makers, mainly in the West, truly feel about our people and our country.”
Patriarch Porfirije of the Serbian Orthodox Church was turned away when he tried visiting the patriarchal seat in Pec on Monday. Vucic noted that Western governments reacted by speaking about the importance of “freedom of movement” instead, focusing on the barricades put up by the protesting Serbs in the north of the breakaway province.
“Why is there such hysterical insistence on removing the barricades? Because they need to remove the Serbs from northern Kosovo, both the Albanians in Pristina and some in the international community,” the Serbian president said. “Albanians don’t use those roads, only Serbs in the north, who support the barricades as a way to defend their existence.”
The very same powers that “trampled Serbia’s territorial integrity” in 1999, during the NATO war, are “trying to do the same today” in violation of all international laws and treaties, “because they consider territorial integrity of Kosovo more important than Serb lives,” Vucic added.
NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 and handed control of Kosovo to ethnic Albanian separatists, who declared independence in 2008 and have demanded recognition from Belgrade ever since. Serbia has refused, despite pressure from the US and EU.
Residents of several Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo put up roadblocks earlier this month, protesting the arrest of an ethnic Serb policeman and the heavy presence of ethnic Albanian police in their communities.
The Russian ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, condemned Pristina’s actions towards the Orthodox patriarch, calling them “absolutely unreasonable” and “a ban on Orthodoxy.” He also said the ethnic Albanian police demanded the patriarch make “anti-Serb statements.”
Patriarch Porfirije described Monday’s incident as “if someone for no reason, with a laughable explanation, tried to prevent the Pope of Rome from entering the Vatican.” He nonetheless appealed for restraint and a peaceful solution to the ongoing tensions.
“Serbs have lived in Kosovo and Metohija for 15 centuries, five of them alongside Albanians. If there is good will, we can find a way to live together,” he said on Tuesday.