The Security Council this afternoon expressed its readiness to consider favourably an extension of the mandate of the military observers serving with the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES). The observers' current mandate expires on 30 July, and the Secretary-General has recommended an extension until 15 January 1997, when the current mandate of UNTAES also concludes.
Through a statement read out by its President, Alain Dejammet (France), the Council noted with appreciation that the demilitarization of the region had proceeded smoothly and was completed on 20 June. It called on both sides -- the Croatian Government and the local Croatian Serb authorities in Eastern Slavonia -- to refrain from any action that might raise tension and to continue cooperating closely with UNTAES in maintaining peace and security.
The Council expressed satisfaction with the work already achieved by UNTAES to re-establish normal living conditions for all the inhabitants of the region and welcomed the efforts to begin the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes. It was equally important that persons who fled from their homes in Western Slavonia and elsewhere in Croatia, particularly the Krajina, be permitted to return to their homes of origin, the Council noted.
The Council expressed regret that the Croatian Government had not yet taken steps to adopt a comprehensive amnesty law concerning all persons who, either voluntarily or by coercion, served in the civil administration, military or police forces of the local Serb authorities in the former United Nations Protected Areas, with the exception of those who committed war crimes. It urged the Government to take such action as soon as possible.
Concern was expressed at the worsening economic situation in the region, particularly since the closure in April of the Djeletovci oilfields, the region's most important economic resource. Citing the subsequent lack of revenue available to the local administration to meet salaries and other operating costs, the Council urged the Croatian Government to cooperate
closely with UNTAES to identify and provide funding for the local administration and public services.
The Council expressed support for UNTAES efforts to establish and train a Transitional Police Force, as well as for its efforts, together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to facilitate mine clearance. It called upon States and others concerned urgently to contribute towards those activities.
The full text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/30, reads as follows:
"The Security Council, in accordance with paragraph 6 of resolution 1037 (1995), has considered the report of the Secretary-General of 26 June 1996 (S/1996/472) submitted pursuant to this resolution on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES).
"The Security Council notes that the implementation of the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (S/1995/951, annex), signed on 12 November 1995 (the Basic Agreement), is proceeding according to the timetable established by this Agreement. In particular, it notes with appreciation that the demilitarization proceeded smoothly and was completed on 20 June 1996. It expresses its satisfaction at the cooperation that both parties have shown in this respect. It calls upon both sides to refrain from any action that might raise tension and to continue to cooperate closely with UNTAES on all aspects of the Basic Agreement to maintain peace and security in the Region. It expresses its readiness to consider favourably the extension of the mandate of the United Nations military observers in UNTAES as recommended in the report.
"The Security Council expresses its satisfaction with the work already achieved by UNTAES, in particular through its operational joint implementation committees, for the re-establishment of normal conditions of life for all the inhabitants of the Region. The Council welcomes the efforts now in train to begin the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes in the Region. It notes that it is equally important that persons who fled from their homes in Western Slavonia and elsewhere in Croatia, in particular in the Krajina, should be permitted to return to their homes of origin. The Council calls upon both parties to cooperate fully with UNTAES in that respect.
"The Security Council recalls the statement of its President of 22 May 1996 (S/PRST/1996/26). The Council regrets that the Government of the Republic of Croatia has not yet taken steps to adopt a comprehensive amnesty law concerning all persons who, either voluntarily or by coercion, served in the civil administration, military or police forces of the local Serb authorities in the former United Nations Protected Areas, with the exception
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of those who committed war crimes as defined in international law. The Council urges that this action should be taken as soon as possible and calls on the Croatian Government to cooperate with UNTAES to that end.
"The Security Council expresses its concern at the worsening economic situation in the Region, particularly since the closure in April of the Djeletovci oilfields which constitute the Region's most important economic resource, and at the subsequent lack of revenue available to the local administration to meet salaries and other operating costs of the Region. The Council urges the Government of the Republic of Croatia to cooperate closely with UNTAES to identify and provide funding for the local administration and public services. It also underlines the importance of economic development in stabilizing the Region.
"The Security Council expresses its support for the efforts of UNTAES to establish and train a Transitional Police Force which will have the primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, operating under the authority of the Transitional Administrator and monitored by the United Nations civilian police. The Council also supports the efforts of UNTAES and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to facilitate mine clearing for humanitarian purposes. It calls upon States and others concerned urgently to contribute in support of such activities.
"The Security Council commends the Transitional Administrator and all the personnel of UNTAES for the impressive results they have achieved so far and expresses its full support for them.
"The Security Council will remain seized of the matter."
The meeting, which began at 1:05 p.m., was adjourned at 1:14 p.m.
In considering this matter, the Council had before it a related report by the Secretary-General (documents S/1996/472 and Add.1). In it, he recommends extending the mandate of the military observers serving with the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) until 15 January 1997, noting that the region is still tense and subject to the possibility of infiltration. He says a continued presence of the military observers will enhance the ability of UNTAES to ensure that demilitarization remains complete, to monitor any infractions, and to report on other relevant development. The cost of extending the mandate of the 100 military observers for six months would be $1.9 million.
The UNTAES was established under Security Council resolution 1037 (1996) of 15 January 1996 for an initial period of 12 months, the report states. Its
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objectives were to include bringing the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium, demilitarized and secured, under the sovereign control of the Government of Croatia. The Secretary-General was asked to report monthly to the Council, with the first such report to be submitted within one week after the date on which the demilitarization was to be completed. The demilitarization of the region began on 21 May and was completed on 20 June.
Since its establishment, UNTAES has achieved significant progress in implementing its mandate, the Secretary-General states. It has also contributed to the gradual normalization of relations between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Families and individuals who had not seen or heard from each other in many years are finally in touch. After five years of war and tension, there are signs of a new spirit of cooperation between the parties.
According to the Secretary-General, the parties have displayed a willingness to abide by the Basic Agreement of November 1995 which provided for the peaceful integration into Croatia of the specified region. The UNTAES will endeavour to build confidence by maintaining stability and security in the region in the post-demilitarization period.
The report indicates that Transitional Administrator Jacques Paul Klein (United States) has maintained a close dialogue with senior officials of the Government of Croatia. He has also met with President Franjo Tudjman and the Croatian cabinet on several occasions to discuss the implementation of resolution 1037 (1996) and the Basic Agreement. The Croatian Government has established an office at Osijek for cooperation with UNTAES. President Tudjman and other senior Croatian interlocutors have expressed their general satisfaction with the progress achieved so far by UNTAES.
As of 26 June, the total military strength of UNTAES was close to 5,000 combat troops and support units, the Secretary-General states. It has an authorized strength of 600 United Nations civilian police monitors, of whom 432 had arrived in the mission area as of 22 June. There are also 44 civil affairs officers, and 15 operational joint implementation committees and subcommittees in the areas of public services, education and culture, civil administration, and human rights. The civil affairs component has worked on such confidence-building measures as family reunions, town hall meetings and reinstatement of pensions. It has also facilitated meetings at the local level of the Croatian and Serb commissions for prisoners of war and missing persons.
Pending the establishment of a temporary police force, the United Nations civilian police moved rapidly to establish its presence in all the local police stations and to monitor their functioning, the report states. It also monitored the treatment of arrested offenders and the prison system. A joint implementation committee on police matters has agreed on the size and
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structure of the Transitional Police Force, which was to be established on 1 July at a strength of 1,300 personnel. Following demilitarization of the local police, the Transitional Force will now have primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, operating under the authority of the Transitional Administrator and monitored by the United Nations civilian police.
Prior to the hostilities, the region was among the most affluent in the former Yugoslavia, with an industrial capacity of some $250 million, the report states. This is estimated to have declined by 90 per cent since 1991. The region's single most important economic resource is the oilfield around Djeletovci. Production of crude oil there stopped 16 April. On 7 June, UNTAES established control over the oilfield, and discussions are now under way to restart the production.
The UNTAES is required to establish procedures for monitoring of existing border crossings and to facilitate the free movement of persons, the report states. As of 22 June, 28 UNTAES border monitors had been deployed. Operational monitoring of the region's nine identified international crossing points by road and rail began on 27 May.
The UNTAES is currently producing, three times a month, 50,000 copies in the Croatian and Serbian languages of a two-page UNTAES Bulletin, which has already established a large readership, the report states. The UNTAES also broadcasts daily on the local radio station at Vukovar, which is heard throughout the region, and makes radio "call-in" presentations on several other stations. The UNTAES has organized seminars and workshops for journalists from the region, other parts of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to discuss the role of the press and press freedom as these relate to its mission.
Many challenges await UNTAES in the next phase of its mandate, with the return of displaced persons among the most daunting, according to the report. The work of enabling people to go back to their homes is not going to be easy, not least because of the danger posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, the destruction of housing and infrastructure, and the urgent need to rebuild or repair houses before the onset of winter. Another challenge will be to define mechanisms and assurances, acceptable to all and underwritten by the international community, that will protect the cultural and social identities and heritage of national minorities in a multi-ethnic society.
Noting that the financial situation of the region is precarious, the Secretary-General appeals for generous contributions from Member States so UNTAES might increase its activities for reconstruction of the region, removal of war debris, demining, and the provision of employment for ex-combatants.
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