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Families of Missing in Kosovo Want to Know Fate of Loved Ones

FILE - Kosovo Albanians read the names of the victims killed during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, as part of a ceremony marking the 18th anniversary of the massacre in the village of Izbica, March 28, 2017.

Families in Kosovo are appealing to national authorities and the international community to learn the fate of their loved ones who went missing during the Kosovo war, fought from March 1998 to June 1999.

At the end of 2002, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported more than 6,000 people from Kosovo were unaccounted for. That number has gradually been reduced to 1,650. At a conference Thursday and Friday in Geneva, the U.N. Mission in Kosovo sought to clarify the fate of these people.

Families of the missing include members of the Albanian and Serbian communities in Kosovo. They issued a joint appeal to authorities in the Serbian capital, Belgrade; the Kosovar capital, Pristina; and the international community, urging the appointment of a high representative to end their suffering by recovering the remains of their loved ones.

Bajram Qerkinaj, a representative of the families, told VOA the process had stagnated and must be revived and speeded up.

"We have reached the point when we would be happy to find even a single piece of the bodies of our loved ones," he said. "This is what family happiness could be for us now — so that they at least could know where they could send a flower, or that they now can grieve for their members."

Among other things, the conference called for greater cooperation between the Serbian and Kosovar authorities to speed up the identification of the missing.

It said the search for missing persons must be intensified, as must the identification of human remains that have been exhumed. It also said families of missing persons should receive adequate and effective reparation.