Kosovar Interior Minister 'Kosovo's Territorial Integrity is Inviolable'
In a SPIEGEL interview, Kosovar Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi discusses the tense situation along the republic's northern border, which grew deadly last week during clashes with ethnic Serbs. He also calls on countries that have not yet recognized Kosovo as a state to reconsider their position.
SPIEGEL: During the anti-Serbian riots of 2004 you played the role of moderator as the first-elected prime minister of Kosovo. Last week, in your current role as interior minister, you sent special troops to the northern border crossing, even though you knew Serbs there would fight back. Why?
Rexhepi: The two time periods cannot be compared. In 2004, the situation was out of control, and the masses were acting in chaos. Today the Republic of Kosovo has a constitution and its own laws. I have the responsibility and legal obligation to implement them by all necessary and legal means, and across the entire state.
SPIEGEL: The general director of police, Reshat Maliqi, has said he was not informed of your operation and had therefore stepped down. Why didn't he know what was happening?
Rexhepi: All relevant actors that should have been informed, were informed.
SPIEGEL: It is said that the United States and European Union member states have encouraged your government to take over control of the country incrementally. But Spain and Greece don't even recognize the Republic of Kosovo. Aren't you working under absurd conditions?
Rexhepi: Both the International Court of Justice and the United Nations General Assembly have emphasized that the Kosovo's territorial integrity is inviolable and this means that there is no return. The countries that have not recognized us should reconsider their position.
SPIEGEL: You still live on the northern bank of the Ibar River, an area populated mainly by Serbs. Do you feel safe there?
Rexhepi: I will be there in the future too. The situation is tense, but I have the highest confidence that the (NATO-led Kosovo Force) KFOR troops and the national police will maintain security in this part of Kosovo too.
Interview conducted by Walter Mayr