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Southern Serbia: ethnic Albanians fleeing from Presovo area

Briefing notes

Southern Serbia: ethnic Albanians fleeing from Presovo area

15 May 2001

More than 1,000 ethnic Albanians have fled to Kosovo from southern Serbia's volatile Presevo area, amid new clashes between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces. A total of 969 people crossed into Kosovo on Monday alone. By Tuesday morning, the total number exceeded 1,000 and more people were reported crossing into Kosovo. They cited clashes in the village of Orahovica, just outside the NATO-controlled Ground Safety Zone, and a build-up of Yugoslav military forces in the area as the reasons for their departure. UNHCR on Monday urged the Yugoslav and the Serbian authorities and the area's ethnic Albanian leaders to show maximum restraint ahead of a planned hand-over by NATO of parts of the Presevo area to Yugoslav forces on May 24th. As you may recall, UNHCR previously called for caution on any changes in the status of the Presevo area, insisting that a number of confidence-building measures, including a multi-ethnic police force, be in place before the area is handed over to the Yugoslav army to avoid possible adverse humanitarian consequences.