PRISTINA (Reuters) - President Hashim Thaci announced on Monday plans for a Truth Commission to help reconcile Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian majority and Serb minority, as allegations of atrocities committed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war continue to scar relations.
Thaci said it pained him that even youngsters born after the war saw their peers across the ethnic divide as “enemies and as a danger”.
“Kosovo cannot build a good future if it remains a hostage to its past,” the president said at a ceremony to unveil plans for the truth and reconciliation commission.
An estimated 10,800 Kosovo Albanians and some 2,200 Serbs were either killed or went missing during the 16-month conflict, which saw Serbian forces counter an Albanian insurgency waged by the Kosovo Liberation Army.
An estimated 1 million Albanians were forced from their homes by the Serbian troops before NATO launched air strikes and forced Belgrade to withdraw its forces.
World attention has long centred on the mass killings committed by the Serbian forces loyal to Slobodan Milosevic, while there has been less scrutiny of crimes committed by Kosovo’s Albanian troops.
Thaci, who led the guerrilla insurgency against Serbian forces and was prime minister when Kosovo won its independence in 2008, on Monday said it was necessary to determine the facts surrounding the conflict. But he did not detail how the commission would work and who would be involved.
Many Serbs refuse to recognise Pristina as their capital and Belgrade still considers Kosovo part of its territory.
Relations came under renewed strain in early January when French police arrested another former Kosovo prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, a rebel commander during the Kosovo war, on a Serbian warrant for war crimes he had allegedly committed.
Normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina is a key condition for both countries to progress towards European Union membership.
Opponents of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia say prosecutors have disproportionately targeted Serbs. A new court at The Hague established under Kosovo’s constitution will deal with alleged crimes committed by ethnic Albanians.
Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Richard Lough