Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
January 21, 1999
Once again, the situation in Kosovo threatens to deteriorate into full-scale armed conflict, posing grave risks for the civilian population and for the wider peace and stability of the entire region.
We urgently call on all sides in this conflict to respect the informal cease-fire agreement reached in October. The cease-fire, increasingly violated on all sides, offers the best hope for resuming the dialogue between the Yugoslav authorities and the ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo. Only through dialogue will a way forward be found that respects the legitimate rights and freedoms of both communities. Renewed dialogue offers the best hope for a new relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, one based on authentic self-government within the general framework of Serbia and Yugoslavia, with control of local institutions returned to the local population and effective guarantees of minority rights put in place.
We call on all sides to avoid further harm to the civilian population, which has suffered grievously. According to credible outside observers, the Yugoslav authorities bear responsibility for most of the harm suffered by civilians during this conflict. For the past year, the Yugoslav authorities have responded to separatist violence by deliberately targeting civilian lives and property, using indiscriminate and disproportionate force, and engaging in widespread human rights abuses. Last week's massacre of more than 40 civilians is simply the most egregious example of grave and ongoing human rights violations committed against civilians. We call on the Yugoslav authorities to end their repression and to cooperate with international efforts to investigate these incidents.
There are indications that both the KLA separatists and the Yugoslav authorities are preparing for renewed military action as spring approaches. We earnestly pray that the international community will redouble its efforts to forestall this impending calamity.