15 August 1996


Press Release
SC/6256



SECURITY COUNCIL AFFIRMS READINESS TO CONSIDER EXTENDING MANDATE OF UNTAES

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Stressing the importance of the ability of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) to complete its tasks, including the organization of elections, promptly and fully, the Security Council this morning affirmed its readiness to consider extending UNTAES' mandate beyond its current 12-month deadline which expires on 15 January 1997.

In a statement read on its behalf by its President, Tono Eitel (Germany), the Council recalled that the mandate could be extended by up to 12 months at the request of one of the parties to the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, signed on 12 November 1995 by the Croatian Government and the local Serbian community. The extension could be granted on the basis of the Agreement, Council resolution 1037 (1996) and a recommendation from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, according to the Council text.

Turning to the funding of public services in UNTAES-administered territory, the Council -- while expressing appreciation for the recent agreement on the matter between UNTAES and the Croatian Government -- noted that the amounts agreed to will not cover all of those services. It expressed its expectation that the Government will urgently and unconditionally provide more funds and reminded it of the need to contribute to the mission's operational costs.

Also reminding the Croatian Government of its responsibility to cooperate with UNTAES and create conditions conducive for maintaining stability in the region, the Council called on it to take the necessary action without further delay.

Then, noting with concern that the amnesty law and actions taken by the Croatian Government were insufficient for creating confidence among local Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, the Council again urged the Government to adopt a comprehensive amnesty law for those who had served in the civil administration, military or police forces of the local Serb authorities in the United Nations Protected Areas (UNPAs). The law, according to the text, should cover all those who had served either voluntarily or by coercion, as long as they had not committed war crimes.


Noting that Presidents Tudjman and Milosevic had agreed in Athens on 7 August that a general amnesty was indispensable for the safe return of refugees and displaced persons, the Council stated that it expected concrete measures to follow up on that agreement.

The Council welcomed the progress UNTAES has made in promoting the peaceful integration of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia and stressed that the restoration and maintenance of the Region's multi-ethnic character were important to international efforts to maintain peace and stability around the former Yugoslavia. It underlined the importance of Eastern Slavonia's economic rehabilitation, the creation of a Transitional Police Force, the holding of elections and the Croatian Government's promotion of the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes of origin in Croatia.

The meeting, which was called to order at 10:21 a.m., was adjourned at 10:34 a.m.

Presidential Statement

The text of the statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1996/35, reads as follows:

"The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General of 5 August 1996 (S/1996/622) on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), and the letter from the Secretary-General of 2 August 1996 (S/1996/632) concerning the funding of the existing local administrative structures in the area of operations of UNTAES.

"The Security Council welcomes the progress made by UNTAES in implementing 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), and in promoting the full and peaceful reintegration of the region of Eastern Slavonia into the Republic of Croatia. It stresses that the restoration and maintenance of the multi-ethnic character of Eastern Slavonia are important to international efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region of the former Yugoslavia as a whole. It reminds both parties of their obligation to cooperate with UNTAES. It underlines the importance of economic rehabilitation of the Region, the establishment of a Transitional Police Force and the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes in the Region, as well as the importance of the promotion by the Government of Croatia of the return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes of origin elsewhere in the Republic of Croatia. It further underlines the importance of the holding of elections in accordance with the Basic Agreement, once the necessary conditions have been established.


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"The Security Council reminds the Government of Croatia of its responsibility to cooperate with UNTAES and to create conditions conducive to maintaining stability in the region. It calls on the Government of Croatia to take the necessary action without further delay.

"The Security Council recalls the statements of its President of 22 May (S/PRST/1996/26) and 3 July (S/PRST/1996/30) and again urges the Government of Croatia to adopt a comprehensive amnesty law concerning all persons who, 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 as defined in international law. The Council notes with concern that the amnesty law and the action subsequently taken by the Government of Croatia, as described by the Secretary-General in his report of 5 August, have been insufficient to create confidence among the local Serb population in Eastern Slavonia. The Council notes the general agreement reached by President Tudjman and President Milosevic in Athens on 7 August 1996 that a general amnesty is an indispensable condition for the safe return of refugees and displaced persons. It expects this agreement to be followed up by corresponding concrete measures.

"The Security Council notes with appreciation the agreement reached by the Government of Croatia and UNTAES on issues relating to the funding of public services on the territory administered by UNTAES (S/1996/648, annex). It notes, however, that this funding is not sufficient to cover all the costs of such services and it expects further funding to be made available by the Government of Croatia urgently and without conditions. It stresses the importance of ensuring a functioning civil administration so as to maintain stability in the region and help ensure the fulfilment of the mission objectives of UNTAES. The Council, having regard to its resolution 1037 (1996), also reminds the Government of Croatia of the need to contribute towards the costs of the UNTAES operation.

"The Security Council recalls that the Basic Agreement provides for a transitional period of 12 months which may be extended at most to another period of the same duration if so requested by one of the parties. It stresses the importance it attaches to UNTAES being able to complete its mandated tasks, included the organization of elections as provided for in the Basic Agreement, promptly and in full. These tasks are, as the Secretary- General notes, the building blocks for the difficult process of reconciliation. To that end, the Council affirms its readiness to consider, at an appropriate time, extending the duration of the mandate of UNTAES, on the basis of the Basic Agreement, its resolution 1037 (1996), and a recommendation from the Secretary-General.


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"The Security Council expresses its appreciation to the Transitional Administrator and his staff, and reaffirms its full support for the efforts of the Transitional Administrator.

"The Security Council will remain seized of the matter."

Report of Secretary-General

In his current monthly report on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) (document S/1996/622), the Secretary-General asks the Security Council to consider indicating its intention to extend the UNTAES mandate by up to a further 12 months to enable it to accomplish its tasks. He emphasizes that uncertainty over the mission's duration is having a negative effect on the confidence of the local Serb populations and UNTAES work. While the mission is making progress in implementing its mandate, it is not expected to complete its tasks by the end of its mandate on 15 January 1997. The UNTAES was established by resolution 1037 (1996) to help administer, demilitarize and reintegrate Eastern Slavonia into Croatia under the terms of the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, signed on 12 November 1995 between the Croatian Government and the local Serbian community (the Basic Agreement).

Stating that the mission's most immediate concern was to get funding to administer the Region, the Secretary-General asks the Council to remind the Croatian Government of its responsibility to contribute to UNTAES costs and to financially support the region's administration. The Croatian Government has not yet been prepared to provide such funding, despite the Council's repeated demands that it help offset the mission's costs. Unless negotiations with the Government are soon concluded satisfactorily, the Secretary-General states that he might consider informing the Council that one party has significantly failed to comply with its Basic Agreement obligations.

The Secretary-General further states, in a 2 August letter to the Council President (document S/1996/632), that the precarious state of finances for running the region is eroding public confidence in UNTAES, with several demonstrations already held outside UNTAES headquarters. The mission may be facing a rising tide of social unrest as the situation worsens and if funds for local administration are not disbursed in the next three to four weeks. He asks for the urgent provision of $10 million in extraordinary financial support for the administration of Eastern Slavonia for five to six months, starting 1 August, pending the provision of a reliable source of funding by Croatia. The sum would be used to maintain local administration and public services, set up and control the Transitional Police Force and launch reconstruction projects to reduce unemployment and absorb demobilized fighters into the economy.


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In both his letter and report to the Council, the Secretary-General explains that the financial situation has been deteriorating since April's closure of the Djeletovci oil field. The local administration has been unable to pay the salaries of some 3,600 civil servants and operational costs. While the Croatian Government initially indicated it would provide some $2.2 million monthly, it has so far made a one-time payment of about $1.2 million. Meanwhile, efforts to agree on how to use the Djeletovci oil field revenues to administer the region have stalled, with the Government maintaining that its national oil company cannot afford to make regular monthly payments and that profits would not be generated from the oil fields for two to three months. While the European Commission has pledged $10 million for reconstruction, part of which may be used to support local administration, the funds will not be available until September at the earliest.

According to the Basic Agreement, the Secretary-General recalls, the mandate may be extended by another 12 months at the request of a party to the document. Based on exploratory discussions with some Croatian officials, UNTAES estimates that they would contemplate an extension of a few months with a revised mandate under certain conditions, one of which is the holding of elections in the Region by December. The local Serb Regional Assembly decided on 6 June to ask the Council to extend the UNTAES mandate to 15 January 1998. Meanwhile, an electoral needs assessment mission, sent to the Region from 13 to 21 July, has reported that, under current conditions, the earliest date for holding elections could be late February or early March 1997.

Turning to the mandate's other political aspects, the Secretary-General states that, while progress is being made to reintegrate the Region into Croatia, the local Serbs' fears have increased. They are related to the deterioration of the economic situation, the absence of funding for administration, delays in disbursing international help and the Croatian Government's pressure for the termination of the UNTAES mandate in January. While it is quiet on the military front, the Secretary-General expresses concern over the presence of Croatian Special Police at several positions in the zone of demilitarization (formerly the zone of separation) which is under UNTAES control.

In a subsequent note (document S/1996/648), the Secretary-General transmits the text of the Agreement on Interim Co-financing of Public Services on the Territory Administered by UNTAES concluded on 8 August by the Croatian Government and UNTAES. By its terms, the Government will regularly pay 4,500,000 kuna monthly to co-finance public services on the territory administered by UNTAES. Those services include health and social welfare, education, police, administration, operating costs and related administration expenses. The Agreement also stipulates that the proportion of the designated funds to be used for the Transitional Police Force shall be defined by a separate agreement between the Ministry of the Interior and UNTAES.

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