Kosovo: accord on controversial road to Decani monastery

Agreement facilitated by Italian ambassador with KFOR support

12 November, 15:12

    (ANSAmed) - PRISTINA, NOVEMBER 12 - An agreement has been reached on the controversial issue of building a road in the immediate vicinity of the Serbian-Orthodox Visoki Decani monastery, thanks to mediation by the Italian Embassy with the support of the Kosovo Force (KFOR). The Implementation and Monitoring Council (IMC) met November 9 in Pristina and approved a deal that includes the synchronous development of both a local road that was the subject of Serbian opposition within the special protective zone (SPZ), as well as a bypass road external to the SPZ boundaries around the monastery, aimed in particular at international traffic of heavy vehicles.

    A statement by the IMC said the arrangement aims at fostering inter-community relations through the protection of religious cultural heritage and bolstering the economic development within the municipality of Deçan/Dečane and the region.

    The statement said the arrangement was facilitated by Italian Ambassador to Kosovo Nicola Orlando, with support and expertise provided by KFOR Commander Major General Michele Risi.

    IMC members will follow up on implementation of the arrangement with the support of KFOR, acting within its mandate.

    The building of a road in the immediate vicinity of the Serbian-Orthodox Visoki Decani monastery had long been at the centre of a bitter controversy between Belgrade and Pristina.

    The Serbian side opposed the project, maintaining that the road was illegal and damaging, for the traffic that it would bring, the safety of the monastery, and the works of art housed there.

    Local Kosovar authorities, on the other hand, consistently maintained the need for the road, which they said was important for economic and tourism development in the region.

    In the accord reached on Thursday, a middle ground was found that should satisfy both sides.

    The building of the external road bypassing the SPZ around the monastery should, in fact, absorb the majority of the traffic from heavy vehicles, which are considered more damaging for the stability of the monastery and the works of art inside. Construction of the disputed road had in the past been suspended several times, in conjunction with mediation by the Italian ambassador and KFOR, whose soldiers are charged with ensuring security at the Visoki Decani monastery.

    The Medieval-era monastery, which belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Church, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its frescoes and Byzantine works of art.(ANSAmed). (ANSA).

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