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Kosovo: Rambouillet talks 'last hope'

Briefing notes

Kosovo: Rambouillet talks 'last hope'

12 February 1999

In Kosovo, UNHCR has noticed a pattern of returns to areas where there is an international monitoring presence. The atmosphere among Kosovo's civilian population is marked by fear and anxiety as the Rambouillet talks continue. Many describe the talks as their "last hope."

At UNHCR's request, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe-Kosovo Verification Mission is establishing a 24-hour presence at Racak village to build up confidence among people who wish to return.

Thousands of ethnic Albanians attended on Thursday the burial at Racak of 40 people who were killed there on 15 January during a government offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army. Only eight old men have remained at Racak following the massacre. It was previously home to more than 1,700 people.

Internally displaced have been returning to villages where there is a permanent KVM presence. The examples are Malisevo in central Kosovo and nearby Dragobilje. The recent opening of a KVM office at Slapuzane has drawn back a quarter of its 1,000 residents.

Meanwhile, a visiting UNHCR team was told on Thursday by villagers and KVM field staff that about 70 percent of the 3,000 residents of Nevoljane have returned. The village was emptied last month after a clash in which a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army was killed. However, the kidnapping of a Serbian civilian on Tuesday outside Nevoljane has made people consider leaving again, villagers said.

UNHCR's two four-wheel drive trucks have been delivering relief aid from various agencies at the Rugova Canyon in western Kosovo for more than 3,000 people who have been trapped in their isolated homes on mountain sides heavily covered with snow. The first convoy that brought blankets, mattresses and hygienic kits from UNHCR on Tuesday took five hours to negotiate 18 kilometres of icy roads. Similar supplies were sent on Wednesday. On Thursday the convoy took 22 tons of food there. Another 14 tons were to be delivered on Friday. The food supplies are for one month.