Acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) until 15 July 1997. It took that action by unanimously adopting resolution 1079 (1996).
Also by the resolution, the Council requested the Secretary-General, as soon as possible after the successful holding of elections and no later than 1 July 1997, to provide recommendations for a further United Nations presence -- possibly in the form of a restructured UNTAES and consistent with fulfilment of the 1995 Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium -- for the six-month period beginning 16 July 1997. It also requested him to report to it on the situation in the region by 15 February 1997 and again by 1 July 1997.
The Basic Agreement, signed on 12 November 1995, provides for the peaceful integration of the territories of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into Croatia. The Agreement requested the Council to establish a transitional administration to govern the region for 12 months, which might be extended by up to a further 12 months, and to authorize an international force to maintain peace and security during that period and to otherwise assist in the implementation of the Agreement.
Further by the resolution, the Council called upon the Government of Croatia and the local Serb community to cooperate with UNTAES and to fulfil their obligations under the Basic Agreement and resolutions of the Security Council. It also called for their cooperation with UNTAES in creating the conditions and preparing for the holding of local elections in the region in accordance with the Basic Agreement, the organization of which is the responsibility of UNTAES. It reaffirmed the importance of the parties' maintaining the highest standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as specified in the Basic Agreement.
The Council also urged the Government of Croatia to ensure the rights of all national ethnic groups and reaffirmed the right of all persons originating from the Republic of Croatia to return to their homes of origin throughout that country.
Moreover, the Council emphasized that both the Government of Croatia and the local Serb community were responsible for improving the reliability and effectiveness of the transitional police force in cooperation with UNTAES and consistent with its mandate.
The meeting was called to order at 1:35 p.m. was adjourned at 1:39 p.m.
The text of resolution 1079 (1996) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its relevant resolutions concerning the territories of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium of the Republic of Croatia, and in particular its resolution 1023 (1995) of 22 November 1995, 1025 (1995) of 30 November 1995, 1037 (1996) of 15 January 1996, 1043 (1996) of 31 January 1996, and 1069 (1996) of 30 July 1996,
"Reaffirming once again its commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Croatia and emphasizing in this regard that the territories of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium are integral parts of the Republic of Croatia,
"Welcoming the success the United Nations Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) has had in facilitating the peaceful return of the territories to the control of the Republic of Croatia,
"Recalling that the Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia Baranja, and Western Sirmium (S/1995/951), signed on 12 November 1995 by the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the local Serb community (the Basic Agreement), requested the Security Council to establish a Transitional Administration to govern the Region during the transitional period,
"Recalling also that the Basic Agreement provided that the transitional period of twelve months may be extended at most to another period of the same duration if so requested by one of the parties,
"Noting that the local Serb community has requested that the transitional period be extended by twelve months, as indicated by the Secretary-General in his report of 28 August 1996 (A/1996/705),
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"Welcoming the Secretary-General's report of 26 October 1996 (S/1996/883), and noting in particular the Secretary-General's recommendations that the mandate of UNTAES be extended by six months, until 15 July 1997; that early extension would avoid a period of pressure and political turmoil; and that the Council consider at this time the need for a further six-month presence of the United Nations,
"Determining that the situation in Croatia continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,
"Determined to ensure the security and freedom of movement of the personnel of the United Nations peace-keeping operations in the Republic of Croatia, and, to these ends, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
"1. Expresses its full support for UNTAES and calls upon the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the local Serb community to cooperate fully with UNTAES and to fulfil all obligations specified in the Basic Agreement and all relevant Security Council resolutions;
"2. Calls upon the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the local Serb community to cooperate with UNTAES in creating the conditions and taking the other steps necessary for holding local elections in the Region, in accordance with the Basic Agreement, the organization of which is the responsibility of UNTAES;
"3. Reaffirms the importance of full compliance by the parties with their commitments as specified in the Basic Agrement to respect the highest standard of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to promote an atmosphere of confidence among all local residents irrespective of their ethnic origin, and in this context, urges the Government of the Republic of Croatia to ensure respect for the rights of all national ethnic groups;
"4. Urges furthermore the Republic of Croatia and the local Serb community to avoid actions which could lead to refugee movements and in the context of the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes of origin, reaffirms the right of all persons originating from the Republic of Croatia to return to their homes of origin throughout the Republic of Croatia;
"5. Emphasizes the responsibility of both the Republic of Croatia and the local Serb community to improve the reliability and effectiveness of the transitional police force, in cooperation with UNTAES and consistent with its mandate;
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"6. Requests the Secretary-General to keep the Council fully informed of developments and to report to the Council by 15 February 1997 and again by 1 July 1997 on the situation in the region;
"7. Decides to maintain the United Nations presence in the Region until the end of the extended transitional period as provided for in the Basic Agreement and:
"(a) Decides to extend the mandate of UNTAES until 15 July 1997; and
"(b) Requests that as soon as possible after the successful holding of elections, and in no case later than his report of 1 July 1997, the Secretary- General provide to the Council for its immediate action his recommendations, in the light of the parties' progress towards fulfilling the Basic Agreement, for the further United Nations presence, possible a restructured UNTAES, consistent with the fulfilment of the Basic Agreement, for the six-month period beginning from 16 July 1997;
"8. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
Report of Secretary-General
A report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) (document S/1996/883) recommends that the Security Council extend the current mandate of UNTAES by six months, until 15 July 1997. While UNTAES would likely complete its primary tasks by that date, a further six-month extension, until the end of a two-year transitional period, would provide for monitoring of the parties' compliance with their commitments under the Basic Agreement. That further extension would also foster an atmosphere of confidence among all local residents and facilitate the creation of a long-term monitoring and observation presence.
According to the Secretary-General, an early decision on the mandate's extension is required to terminate the uncertainty about the mission's duration and to avoid political pressures which could divert UNTAES from its main tasks. It would be impossible to complete the mandated tasks of UNTAES within the present mandate; the mission was already preparing for events, such as elections, extending well beyond 15 January 1997.
According to the report, UNTAES has furthered the peaceful reintegration of the region of Eastern Slovania, Baranja and Western Sirmium into Croatia in accordance with the Basic Agreement. It has also contributed to the normalization of relations between the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to the promotion of stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The six-month period that followed full deployment of UNTAES troops and civilian staff had seen complete demilitarization; establishment of
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the Transitional Police Force; and the integration of waterways, railways, roads, postal and telephone services with Croatian systems. The first disbursements of international financial assistance for economic reconstruction had begun, and Croatian funding had been secured for local agriculture.
Political dialogue had been instrumental in developing a satisfactory amnesty law, according to the Secretary-General. Over 10 per cent of residents in the region had applied for Croatian citizenship and that number was increasing. More than 45,000 Serbs and Croats had participated in UNTAES market days and 13,000 individual family reunion meetings had taken place. Four villages with over 600 houses had been demined and Croat displaced persons may return there by November; demining had commenced in other villages, including 1,000 houses, with returns expected in the spring.
According to the Secretary-General's report, completion of the UNTAES mandate would require the full and timely cooperation of the parties. Extremists on both sides had sought to disrupt implementation of the Basic Agreement, and the Government of Croatia had not met fully its commitments and obligations. An atmosphere of confrontation and obstruction had developed that appears to be related more to domestic political concerns than to the work of UNTAES. "This has increased the anxiety and fears of current residents of the region, playing into the hands of serb hardliners whose obstructionism, in turn, fuels extremists on the Croatian side."
Reviewing political developments in the region, the Secretary-General recalls that on 27 September, the House of Representatives of the Croatian Parliament unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution calling for regional elections to be held by 15 December 1996 and termination of the UNTAES mandate by 15 January 1997. Throughout October the Croatian media disseminated hostile and aggressive statements against UNTAES and the Croatian Minister of Defence threatened military action if the region was not returned by April 1997.
On 7 October, the report continues, the Transitional Administrator met with Serbian President Slobodan Miloševic, who endorsed a one-year extension for UNTAES and indicated that local Serb leaders had been advised that the Serb population should apply for documents and benefits from the Government of Croatia. President Miloševic also held out the prospect of Yugoslav citizenship to Serbs who acquired Croatian citizenship, should they decide to leave the region within three years of the normalization of relations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Croatia.
The next day, on 8 October, the Transitional Administrator met with President Franjo Tudjman to urge fulfilment of commitments by the Government of Croatia and to express concern over the confrontational tone of the Croatian media, says the report. President Tudjman promised full cooperation,
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indicating his readiness to make conciliatory gestures towards Serbs in the region. President Tudjman sought the Transitional Administrator's support for the holding of elections in December 1996, followed 30 days later by the termination of the UNTAES mandate. The Administrator emphasized that determinations concerning the UNTAES mandate could only be made by the Security Council upon the recommendations of the Secretary-General. He also stressed that fulfilment of the UNTAES mandate depended on cooperation received from the parties -- cooperation which had been lacking from the Croatian side in important areas.
The military situation within and outside the mission area continued calm and stable, according to the report. Activity by the armed forces of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had been limited to routine training, with the exception of a 9 October deployment, by the Yugoslav Army, near the Croatian border. The tanks were promptly withdrawn after a protest by UNTAES.
The mission area had seen only minimal incidents of undisciplined small arms fire, says the report. The UNTAES military units had contributed to peace and security and had provided confidence to the local population. A weapons buy-back programme, launched in cooperation with the Croatian authorities on 2 October, saw over 6,000 rifles, automatic weapons, grenades, portable anti-tank rocket launchers and 56,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibres exchanged for cash in only three weeks. However, considerable numbers of small weapons are thought to remain in private hands, the report states.
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