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First visit of UN chief to site of Srebrenica genocide 18 июля 2012, 11:48

Ban Ki-moon begins a tour of the Balkans this week which will include the first visit by a UN chief to the site of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and to Kosovo since it declared independence in 2008.
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. ©REUTERS/Stringer UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. ©REUTERS/Stringer
Ban Ki-moon begins a tour of the Balkans this week which will include the first visit by a UN chief to the site of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and to Kosovo since it declared independence in 2008, AFP reports. Ban will start his visit to all the countries and territories that emerged from the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s in Slovenia on Thursday. He travels on to Croatia and Montenegro. and arrives in Serbia next Monday. From there he will go to Kosovo and Macedonia, ending his week-long tour on July 26 in Bosnia. There he will be the first UN chief to visit the site of the Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys, the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II. Bosnian Serb troops brushed aside lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers and overran the UN-protected enclave on July 11, 1995. The UN has admitted it failed to protect the thousands of Muslims from surrounding villages who had gathered in Srebrenica for protection, but none of its officials were held responsible. Survivors of the massacre hope that Ban's visit to Srebrenica's Potocari memorial centre where over 5,600 victims are buried will keep the UN from looking on as genocide is carried out in future. "A UN flag was there and genocide was committed under that flag," Munira Subasic, who heads an association of Muslim women whose male relatives were killed in Srebrenica, told AFP. "No one can return our dead, but... it is important that world leaders, like Ban Ki-moon and others, say that what has happened in Srebrenica will not happen anywhere else again under UN protection," added Subasic, who lost her son and husband in the slaughter. Ban told Bosnian media on Monday that the Srebrenica atrocity, ruled a genocide by two international courts, will "remain rooted in the UN and world consciousness forever". "The United Nations were not capable of helping people there in times when they needed that help," he said, in comments translated into Bosnian. The two men accused of masterminding the slaughter, former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic, are on trial at the UN Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague after years on the run. Ban's visit starts in Slovenia, the only of the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia that is a member of the European Union. From there he will continue to neighbouring Croatia which is due to become the 27-nation-bloc's newest member in July next year. In Belgrade the announcement of Ban's visit to Kosovo caused some fears it could be an implicit recognition of Pristina's independence. However, Ban clarified in an interview that he was not visiting Kosovo as an independent state but it was a visit to the UN mission in Kosovo. UNMIK was established to administer the region after the 1998-99 conflict between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels which ended after a NATO bombing campaign against the regime of former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Pristina's 2008 declaration of independence is recognised by some 90 countries including the United States and most of the European Union but is rejected by Belgrade and its ally Russia. Kosovo is not a UN member. Ban will be in Belgrade Monday where he will meet with President Tomislav Nikolic, prime minister designate Ivica Dacic and outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Vuk Jeremic, who was voted in as UN general assembly chief in June. The UN secretary general told Serbian media ahead of his visit that he had been "worried for some time by the state of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and their failure to reconcile and cooperate" and added he would discuss the issue with the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders he is due to meet.

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