|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5821st Meeting (PM)
SERBIA’S PRESIDENT CALLS ON SECURITY COUNCIL TO PREVENT ENCOURAGEMENT, ADOPTION
OF ANY UNILATERAL ACT ON INDEPENDENCE OF KOSOVO
Says Resolution 1244 (1999) Guaranteed Serbia’s Territorial Integrity;
Government Will Use All Democratic, Legal, Diplomatic Means to Preserve Sovereignty
Serbian President Boris Tadić today appealed to the Security Council to prevent any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, saying that Belgrade was ready to grant the southern province the “largest possible autonomy” and had offered numerous compromises during negotiations in the past two years.
Pointing out that Security Council resolution 1244 -- which in 1999 authorized an international civil and military presence in Kosovo and placed it under interim United Nations administration -- guaranteed Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Mr. Tadić called on the Council to “prevent the encouragement and the adoption of a unilateral act on the independence of Kosovo”.
“Serbia will never recognize Kosovo’s independence and will preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all democratic means, legal arguments and diplomacy”, but would not resort to violence, he told the Council during an open meeting called to review the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and which was immediately followed by a closed-door session that included Mission chief Joachim Rücker and Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Calling on the Council to back Serbia’s position and decide to continue negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija, he said Belgrade was ready to continue the negotiations immediately, and was willing to participate as a “partner of the Security Council in a quest for a compromise and sustainable solution, which will ensure long-term peace and stability in the Balkans and a better life for all its inhabitants”.
Mr. Tadić said that “nobody has the right to destabilize Serbia and the Balkans”, and warned that “hasty unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence would no doubt be a precedent”, and would lead to unforeseen consequences for other regions “fraught with problems of ethnic separatism”. Serbia had made its position clear on a number of occasions that the solution must be in accordance with international law and a result of compromise acceptable to both sides.
“The fact is that the Serbian negotiating team invested enormous efforts in reaching a compromise. Unfortunately, the negotiations conducted under the auspices of the international mediation Troika failed to yield results,” he said, stressing, as well, that Pristina had refused to talk about the future status of Kosovo, which had been defined as the basic topic of negotiations beforehand.
He said that the other side’s only argument had been that Slobodan Milosevic and his regime were responsible for the situation in Kosovo, and had alleged that, because of the mistakes of that regime, Kosovo deserved independence. He reminded the Council that Serbia and its people had experienced “very trying times” -- sanctions, conflicts, killings, poverty, fear and uncertainty -- during the final decade of the twentieth century, because of the tragic mistakes made by Mr. Milosevic’s regime.
But Serbia had been democratic and peaceful for the past eight years and had negotiated hard and offered solutions and compromises. “There exists no justifiable reason, no legal argument, why Serbia and its people should be unjustly punished again because of a flawed policy and a bad regime almost a decade later,” he asserted.
With all that in mind, Serbia believed additional efforts were needed to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to ensure, in accordance with resolution 1244, a substantial, functioning self-government that would guarantee all the rights of Kosovo Albanians. “Such a solution is possible and attainable,” he said, assuring the Council of Serbia’s readiness to take part in the ongoing negotiations in a constructive and responsible way.
He said that the solution of the future status of the province must be taken in the Security Council, just as that organ must agree to any change of the composition of the civilian and military presences there. The people of Serbia were firmly committed to maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country and to a simultaneous continuation of European integration, leading to a better life and economic prosperity, he reiterated.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m.
The Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2007/768), as well as detailed comments by the President of Serbia that will be issued as an official document under the symbol S/2008/7.
According to the Secretary-General’s report, the United Nations, with support of relevant international organizations, is committed to assisting Kosovo in the path towards sustainable stability. In this regard, the Secretary-General notes the European Union’s readiness to play an enhanced role in Kosovo, as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council on 14 December.
The Secretary-General commends “the Troika”, comprising representatives of the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States, for its extensive efforts to facilitate discussions between Belgrade and Pristina on the status of Kosovo. A final round of talks was held on 26 to 28 November. With the presentation of its report on the current four-month period of further negotiations, the Troika has completed its mandate, but substantial differences still remain between the parties.
Moving forward with a process to determine Kosovo’s future status should remain a high priority for the Security Council and the international community, the report continues. Should the impasse continue, events on the ground could “take on a momentum of their own”, putting at serious risk the achievements and legacy of the United Nations in Kosovo. Uncertainty and a loss of forward dynamic in the future status process could create a risk of instability, both in Kosovo and the wider region, as well as a potential risk to the safety of United Nations staff. The parties are urged to reaffirm and act upon their declared commitments to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region.
The Secretary-General welcomes the fact that 17 November elections in Kosovo -- organized in a shortened time frame under UNMIK’s authority by Kosovo’s Central Election Commission, in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- were conducted in accordance with international standards. Successful holding of elections, which followed a campaign during which candidates acted in a respectful and restrained manner, were an indication of the maturity of Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions. It is important that the elections be followed by the smooth formation of a new multi-ethnic coalition Government. The first session of the new Assembly of Kosovo must be held within 30 days of the announcement of certified results, before 4 January 2008.
However, Kosovo Serbs’ low participation in the elections highlighted the fact that many members of the Kosovo Serb community, particularly in northern Kosovo, do not feel represented by Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions. Instead, they continue to depend on parallel structures for the provision of basic services, which are supported by the authorities in Belgrade. Belgrade had called for a boycott of the elections. In many areas in Kosovo, local Kosovo Serb officials refused to allow school buildings to be used as polling stations, forcing UNMIK to provide mobile polling centres instead. There were also reports of intimidation of candidates and voters throughout the campaign. The assessment of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative was that those incidents played a major part in ensuring a low Kosovo Serb voter turnout.
According to the report, political representatives of the Kosovo Serb community, as well as the Belgrade authorities, need to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate constructively in Kosovo’s institutional life. At the same time, Kosovo’s Government and political leaders should continue to reach out to the Kosovo Serb and other minority communities.
The Secretary-General further notes steady progress by Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions in the implementation of Standards, stating that the process should be further accelerated. The incorporation of the Standards implementation into the broader European integration process for Kosovo is also a welcome development. Continued engagement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo, in particular in ensuring the protection of minorities and respect for human rights is also of critical importance.
The report also acknowledges the commitment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as expressed at the Ministerial Meeting on 7 December, that the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) shall remain in Kosovo, that national force contributions, including reserves, will be maintained at current levels and with no new caveats, and that NATO will respond resolutely to attempts to endanger the safety of any of Kosovo inhabitants.
Regarding security, the report states that, overall, the situation remained calm during the reporting period. However, there were some inter-ethnic incidents, including shots fired at Kosovo Serb households and Molotov cocktails thrown at the Serbian Orthodox Church in Gjilan/Gniljiane. Also of note were some incidents of a criminal nature, including a bomb explosion in a restaurant in Pristina, as well as recurring protests demanding improved living conditions and escalating rhetoric and propaganda by extremist groups. Alleged members of the Serbian Tsar Lazar Guard and the Albanian National Army made media appearances, purportedly featuring interviews with alleged commanders. The Albanian National Army claimed that it was “patrolling” in the north of Kosovo in support of KFOR to “defend” it from regular and extremist Serbian forces. A banned public gathering of Tsar Lazar Guard members in Mitrovica was prevented by UNMIK and Serbian police on 14 October.
BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, said that the solution of the future status of Kosovo and Metohija must be a result of compromise and the all participants in the process must approach the problem “carefully and with a high level of responsibility”. In the past two years, Serbia had participated in the negotiations on the future status of its southern province of Kosovo in a constructive way, and had also put forward a number of proposals that favoured the largest possible autonomy as the best solution for Kosovo and Metohija.
He said that substantial autonomy had figured in various models as a functioning, sustainable and successful solution. It had been proved that such solutions were in accordance with international law and that they were the only way to arrive at a compromise in conflicts similar to the Kosovo conflict.
That was why the Belgrade negotiating team measured its proposal of substantial autonomy against the manner in which China had resolved the question of Hong Kong and Macao, and Finland had addressed the status of the Aaland Islands. Subsequent analysis had corroborated that the solution to the future status of Kosovo and Metohija could be found in a similar way. He added that Europe’s history over the past 50 years was rife with examples demonstrating how sovereignty could be harmonized with self-government.
“The fact is that the Serbian negotiating team invested enormous efforts in reaching a compromise. Unfortunately, the negotiations conducted under the auspices of the international mediation Troika failed to yield results,” he said, stressing, as well, that Pristina had refused to talk about the future status of Kosovo, which had been defined as the basic topic of negotiations beforehand. It had also tried unsuccessfully to impose negotiations on relations between independent States, “which obviously was a prevarication of a previously set goal of the negotiations”.
He said that the other side’s only argument had been that Slobodan Milosevic and his regime were the parties responsible for the situation in Kosovo, and had alleged that, because of the mistakes of the former regime, Kosovo deserved independence. He reminded the Council that Serbia and its people had experienced “very trying times” during the final decade of the twentieth century, because of the tragic mistakes made by the past regime. Indeed, sanctions, conflicts, killings, poverty, fear and uncertainty characterized the lives of everyday Serbians for more than 10 years.
“The consequences of a bad and irresponsible policy culminated in the unjust punishment of Serbia in the spring of 1999 during the three months of bombing,” he said, declaring that the citizens had been punished, while the regime had gotten off “scot-free,” until the people had thrown it out in October 2000, in defence of their will to hold democratic elections. Serbia had been democratic and peaceful for the past eight years and had negotiated hard and offered solutions and compromises. “There exists no justifiable reason, no legal argument, why Serbia and its people should be unjustly punished again because of a flawed policy and a bad regime almost a decade later,” he asserted.
He went on to say that if the community of European nations had been created 50 years ago on the prospect of lasting peace, it was necessary that such a great value take root in the Balkans today. “We must make every effort to solve the misunderstandings and conflicts in our part of Europe peacefully and by agreement only, not by making unilateral moves, he said, adding that: “A unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence would, no doubt, be a precedent.”
“Nobody has the right to destabilize Serbia and the Balkans by hasty and unilateral decisions which would have unforeseeable consequences for other regions fraught with problems of ethnic separatism as well,” he said. Serbia had made its position clear on a number of occasions that the solution must be in accordance with international law, a result of compromise acceptable to both sides and that it had to bring about long-term peace and prosperity to all citizens of Serbia and to the region. “We must bear in mind that the common goal of all peoples of our region is to find solutions that will prepare us for a future in the European Union,” he added.
With all that in mind, Serbia considered that additional efforts were needed to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to ensure, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), a substantial, functioning self-government that would guarantee all the rights of Kosovo Albanians. “Such a solution is possible and attainable,” he said, assuring the Council of Serbia’s readiness to take part in the ongoing negotiations in a constructive and responsible way. Such talks could be held in Belgrade, Pristina or any other part of the world, in any form that the Council might consider appropriate.
He also pointed out to the Council that the Charter guaranteed the principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of internationally recognized States. If a legitimate democracy were deprived of an integral part of its territory contrary to its will, that would amount to a violation of the Charter and endanger the credibility of the United Nations, and undermine international legal norms. He believed that all the Council’s members knew that resolution 1244 guaranteed Serbia’s territorial sovereignty, he said, calling on the Council to “prevent the encouragement and adoption of a unilateral act on the independence of Kosovo”.
He said Serbia respected the Charter and resolution 1244, as well as the Helsinki Final Act and all relevant international documents, owing to its commitment to the continued quest for a mutually acceptable solution. Serbia would never recognize Kosovo’s independence and would preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all democratic means, legal arguments and diplomacy. He stressed that Serbia would not resort to violence and war.
He went on to point out that Serbia’s State institutions continued to have good cooperation with the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) and that diplomatic efforts had saved many lives in March 2004, when militant and extremist members of the Albanian community in Kosovo had burned 35 churches and monasteries, 800 homes and expelled 5,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians over three days. Serbia had insisted that the other negotiating partner renounce violence, but, unlike Serbia, the other side had failed to do so.
“If any violence were to break out in Kosovo and if KFOR could not react and protect the Serbs in an appropriate way, we are ready […] with the agreement of competent international institutions and exactly in respect of international law, to help provide protection to the threatened population,” he asserted.
Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on the situation and implementation of standards in Kosovo, he said that the report did not reflect the real situation in a true way. Pointing to the “most painful” issues, such as the security of the Serbian population and the return of internally displaced persons, he said that the basic human right to freedom of movement was being denied to members of ethnically discriminated communities in Kosovo and Metohija. A basic human right to freedom of movement, denied in United Nations Member States only to prisoners, was denied to Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija only for reasons of their ethnicity.
He said that the Kosovo Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo had achieved no results in the returns. That was a main indicator of the failure to build a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo and Metohija. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), eight years after the arrival of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo and Metohija, 207,000 persons remained internally displaced in Serbia. In Kosovo and Metohija, itself, about 22,000 persons had been expelled from their home to some other “place of abode” in the province. The right to return was based on the international principles of the protection of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, and on the humanitarian standards included in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
In sum, there had been 250,000 “expellees”, 207,000 of which were internally displaced in Serbia. Further, human rights violations and restricted freedom of movement for members of Serbian and other ethnically discriminated communities persisted, as did constant intimidation of Serbs, including attacks on their property and cultural and religious heritage. As of January 2007, there had been more than 7,000 ethnically motivated attacks, and 581 Serbs and 104 members of other ethnically discriminated communities had been killed since the arrival of UNMIK, and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) in 1999. In addition, 841 Serbs had been abducted, and 960 persons had been seriously wounded. Almost 18,000 houses had been destroyed, and the same number had been looted, while 27,000 apartments and houses had been usurped. That “sea of data” spoke volumes about the real situation in Kosovo.
He said that the solution of the future status of the province must be taken in the Security Council, just as that organ must agree to any change of the composition of the civilian and military presences there. The people of Serbia were firmly committed to maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country and to a simultaneous continuation of European integration, leading to a better life and economic prosperity.
Calling on the Security Council to heed the position of Serbia and decide to continue negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija, he said, “We are ready to continue the negotiations immediately. Serbia is willing and ready to participate as a partner of the Security Council in a quest for a compromise and sustainable solution, which will ensure long-term peace and stability in the Balkans and a better life for all its inhabitants.”
* *** *For information media • not an official record