|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5839th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS IN EMERGENCY SESSION FOLLOWING KOSOVO’S DECLARATION
OF INDEPENDENCE, WITH MEMBERS SHARPLY DIVIDED ON ISSUE
Serbia ’s President, Russian Federation Say Declaration Illegal;
United States , United Kingdom, France, Others Favour Recognition of New State
Meeting after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia yesterday, members of the Security Council were sharply divided in their approach to that action by the province that has been administered by the United Nations since 1999.
At the outset of the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that recent developments were likely to have significant operational implications for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Pending Council guidance, UNMIK would continue to consider resolution 1244 (1999) as the legal framework for its mandate and would continue to implement its mandate. Efforts were aimed at ensuring that the political and security situation in Kosovo and in the wider region remained stable. He urged all to reaffirm and act upon their commitments to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region.
Boris Tadić, President of Serbia, said the illegal declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanians constituted a flagrant violation of resolution 1244 (1999), which had reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija. “After this act, the world will no longer be the same,” he said, and warned that a large number of countries represented in the United Nations were plagued by the problem similar to Serbia’s. “The question before you is this: Are we all aware of the precedent that is being set and are we aware of the catastrophic consequences that it may lead to?”
He requested that the Council take effective measures in order to ensure that all the provisions of the Charter and of resolution 1244 (1999) were fully respected. He requested that the Secretary-General issue a clear and unequivocal instruction to his Special Representative to declare the unilateral and illegal act of the secession of Kosovo from Serbia null and void. He also requested the Special Representative to dissolve the Kosovo Assembly. “Here in the Security Council of the United Nations I say clearly and unequivocally: Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo. …Kosovo will forever remain a part of Serbia,” he said in conclusion.
The representative of the Russian Federation, who had requested the meeting, insisted that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was a “blatant breach” of the norms and principles of international law, above all of the United Nations Charter, and undermined the foundations of the international relations system. The resulting situation posed a threat to peace and security in the Balkans. He demanded that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo declare the unilateral declaration of independence null and void.
Representatives of the United Kingdom and United States -– two of the countries that had recognized Kosovo today -- argued that yesterday’s events had been a culmination of a long and unique process, caused by the violent break-up of former Yugoslavia. In that connection, the United Kingdom insisted that the legacy of Milosevic’s oppression had made it impossible for Kosovo to return to control by Belgrade. The United Nations Mission, European Union and NATO would work to ensure that the commitments made by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Thaci on 17 February, and the far-reaching provisions to protect minorities in the Ahtisaari plan, were implemented in full. Kosovo’s future would depend on how well she treated her minorities.
The United States’ representative said that the interim status was unsustainable. Kosovo’s leadership had acted in a mature, non-violent and responsible manner. The declaration of independence by Kosovo was fully consistent with resolution 1244 (1999) and recognized that the resolution would remain in force. The recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty by a substantial number of Governments in the first day since the declaration of independence ensured that the fact was irreversible. Now it was important to focus on working constructively with Kosovo and Serbia. He also confirmed his Government’s desire to maintain and strengthen relations with Serbia –- an ally in two world wars.
With some delegations, including Costa Rica’s representative, arguing that the brutal treatment of Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians under the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had led them to recognize the new Sate, others -– such as the representative of Viet Nam -- insisted that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was a breach of international law that would encourage other secessionist movements around the world. China’s representative warned that unilateral action by Kosovo could rekindle conflicts and turbulence in the region, which would adversely impact the entire region and beyond.
European members of the Council who recognized Kosovo as an independent State -– France and Belgium among them -– underlined that the future of Serbia and the Balkans existed within the European Union and stressed that negotiations, regrettably, had not led to an agreement on Kosovo’s future status. Kosovo’s declaration of independence had created a new reality. The European Commission’s police and justice mission -- EULEX -- would allow the international community to supervise the emergence of a Kosovo that was multi-ethnic and democratic, in which the minorities were protected. France’s representative said the common future of the peoples of the western Balkans, including Serbia, in the framework of the European Union was the best guarantee for their reconciliation.
While some speakers intending to recognize the new State underlined the uniqueness of Kosovo’s situation, and said the solution would not set a precedent, Indonesia’s representative argued that all issues on the Council’s agenda had their own unique character. They did share one overriding and fundamental quality, however, namely that dialogue and negotiations must be the preferred option. A mutually acceptable agreement emanating from dialogue and negotiation would better guarantee peace and stability in the region.
The representatives of Belgium, Italy, Libya, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Croatia, Costa Rica and Panama also took the floor.
The meeting started at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:33 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon in an unscheduled meeting to consider the situation after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. The Council convened at the request of the Russian Federation and Serbia in letters from the countries’ Permanent Missions to the Council’s President (see documents S/2008/103 and 104).
Statement by Secretary-General of United Nations
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, yesterday, his Special Representative had informed him that Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had adopted a declaration of independence. The 10 Kosovo Serb deputies of the Kosovo Assembly had not attended the session. The declaration had stated that Kosovo fully accepted the obligations contained in the Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement prepared by his Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari.
He said, in much of Kosovo there had been peaceful celebrations of tens of thousands welcoming the declaration. Today, in northern Mitrovice, up to 9,000 people peacefully protested against the declaration. The Kosovo Police Service, including Kosovo Serb members, had provided security. The situation had remained calm throughout Kosovo, although there had been two incidents of note in northern Kosovo.
He had received a letter from the President of Serbia, informing him that Serbia had adopted a decision stating the declaration of independence represented a forceful and unilateral secession of a part of the territory of Serbia, and did not produce any legal effect either in Serbia or in the international legal order. He had also received a letter from Mr. Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, informing him of the decision by the European Union to deploy a rule of law mission, within the framework provided by resolution 1244 (1999), and to appoint a European Union Special Representative for Kosovo.
He said those recent developments were likely to have significant operational implications for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Pending Council guidance, UNMIK would continue to consider resolution 1244 (1999) as the legal framework for its mandate and would continue to implement its mandate. “It is my intention to act in an effective, realistic and concrete manner. In doing so, pending Security Council guidance, I might have to adjust to developments and changes on the ground.” Efforts were aimed at ensuring that the political and security situation in Kosovo and in the wider region remained stable, and that the population of Kosovo and, in particular, the minority communities were protected.
He urged all to reaffirm and act upon their commitments to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region. Since 1999, the United Nations had overseen the creation and consolidation of Provisional Institutions of Self-Government with minority representation. The organization had created a functional justice system and a multi-ethnic police force, and had successfully organized and overseen five elections. Kosovo now had a vibrant and diversified political party scene. It had made considerable progress through the years on the implementation of standards, and the standards implementation process was now fully integrated into the European approximation process.
The Secretary-General said his overriding objectives in addressing the situation in Kosovo were to uphold international peace and security, while ensuring Kosovo’s overall stability and the safety and security of its population.
BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, said the illegal declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanians constituted a flagrant violation of resolution 1244 (1999), which had reaffirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija. “If a small, peace-loving and democratic country in Europe, a Member State of the United Nations, can be deprived of its territory illegally and against its will, historic injustice will have occurred because a legitimate democracy has never before been punished in this way.”
He said some countries at the table kept saying openly that Slobodan Milosevic was the culprit for the situation in Kosovo. However, Slobodan Milosevic was there no more, and Albanians had demanded independence for decades before Mr. Milosevic. In 1999, the citizens of Serbia had been unjustly and severely punished by three months of bombing. Eight years later, a now democratic and peace-loving Serbia was being punished again. “Indeed, this form of logic and this form of justice are impossible to explain or comprehend.”
Independence was granted to an ethnic community in the province which had been administered by the United Nations and the Kosovo Provisional Institutions of Self-Government for eight years, and nothing had been done all those years to enable the remaining Serbs and other non-Albanians to live a life worthy of human dignity, he said, continuing, “independence was being conferred upon those who, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, created in Europe Serbian ghettoes girdled with barbed wire and surrounded with cannon barrels and soldiers armed to the teeth.” Whoever might support Kosovo’s independence must realize that the act legalized the threat of violence as a means of creating new States. “After this act, the world will no longer be the same.” Serbia would continue to fight for law and justice in a dignified, peaceful and civilized way. “We shall never give up our legitimate interests and shall continue our peaceful and diplomatic struggle in pursuit of our legitimate European perspective.”
He said a large number of countries represented in the United Nations were plagued by the problem similar to Serbia’s. “The question before you is this: Are we all aware of the precedent that is being set and are we aware of the catastrophic consequences that it may lead to?” The Council and all Member States were bound by Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, as provided by resolution 1244 (1999). “ Serbia, as a sovereign country, requests that the Security Council abide by international law, the principles of international justice, the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of this Council’s resolution.” The Government of Serbia and the National Assembly of Serbia had declared the decision of the Pristina authorities null and void. The Government was taking all diplomatic and political measures to prevent the secession of a part of its territory. It would not resort to force.
The unilateral and illegal declaration of independence ran afoul of the first principle of the Charter -- the sovereign equality of all Member States, he said. “There are dozens of various Kosovos in the world and all of them lie in wait for Kosovo’s act of secession to become a reality and to be established as an acceptable norm. I warn you most seriously of the danger of the escalation of many of existing conflict, the flaring up of frozen conflicts and the instigation of new ones.”
He requested that the Council take effective measures in order to ensure that all the provisions of the Charter and of resolution 1244 (1999) were fully respected. He requested of the Secretary-General to issue a clear and unequivocal instruction to his Special Representative to declare the unilateral and illegal act of the secession of Kosovo from Serbia null and void. He also requested the Special Representative to dissolve the Kosovo Assembly. Pursuant to paragraph 9 of resolution 1244 (1999), the international security presence in Kosovo, KFOR, must remain status neutral. It must show special care for the most vulnerable, for the Kosovo Serbs, as well as for the clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its churches and monasteries.
The unilateral declaration of independence and the decision of some countries to recognize the illegal establishment of a State on the territory of a sovereign State would have unfathomable consequences. Such a decision legalized the ethnic cleansing carried out against the Serbs in 1999 after the arrival of KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo. “The States that recognize the independence of the Serbian province would take, by such an act, the responsibility for a possible new ethnic cleansing campaign directed against the Serbs remaining in Kosovo and Metohija.”
In conclusion, he said only a peaceful and stable Balkans might bring economic prosperity to all its citizens. Unilateral decisions, like the one taken in Pristina, could not contribute to a legitimate solution and did not favour the perspective of regional peace and security. Serbia threatened violence to no one. Its strength was in powerful arguments. “Here in the Security Council of the United Nations I say clearly and unequivocally: Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo. We shall never renounce Kosovo and we shall not give up the struggle for our legitimate interests. For the citizens of Serbia and its institutions, Kosovo will forever remain a part of Serbia.”
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that his delegation fully understood the reaction of the Serbian leadership to the Kosovo developments expressed by President Boris Tadić and supported Belgrade’s legitimate demands to restore the territorial integrity of the country. The Russian Federation continued to recognize the Republic of Serbia within its internationally recognized borders.
Yesterday’s declaration of independence by the Serbian province of Kosovo’s local Assembly was a blatant breach of the norms and principles of international law, above all of the United Nations Charter, and undermined the foundations of the international relations system, he continued. That illegal act was an open violation of Serbia’s sovereignty, the high-level Contact Group accords, Kosovo’s Constitutional Framework, resolution 1244 (the basic document for the Kosovo settlement), and other relevant decisions of the Council. The unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition were incompatible with the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, which clearly specified the principles of inviolability of frontiers and territorial integrity of States, which allowed changes to State frontiers only in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.
The situation developing as a result of illegal steps of the province’s leadership posed a threat to peace and security in the Balkans, he said. In accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), which remained fully in force, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo must continue to carry out the responsibilities of provisional administration of Kosovo assigned to them, not least of all the implementation of the democratic standards approved by the international community. In order to implement their mandates under resolution 1244 (1999), the international presences in Kosovo must take immediate steps to bring the situation in Kosovo back to what had existed prior to the illegal act of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.
He also reaffirmed his country’s demand that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission declare the unilateral declaration of independence by the Kosovo Albanian leadership null and void in accordance with his mandate under resolution 1244 (1999) and prerogatives arising from the Kosovo Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government and in order to prevent negative consequences. The Kosovo Force functioning in Kosovo under the aegis of the United Nations must comply strictly with its mandate in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), under which KFOR had to facilitate and assist UNMIK and the parties to implement resolution 1244 (1999), but not to breach that resolution. KFOR, together with the United Nations Civilian Police, bore the primary responsibility for preventing and stopping violence in the province and for ensuring security of the population and international personnel.
He also expressed serious concern over the situation of the Serb municipalities in Kosovo, above all in its northern part in the area of northern Mitrovica. The Russian Federation regarded as categorically inadmissible and illegal any attempts by the international presences to take repressive measures against non-Albanian minorities and their leaders in case of their expected non-compliance with the “sovereignization” of that Serbian province. He also addressed that warning to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.
The so-called European Union Rule of Law Mission had been launched without the necessary decision of the Security Council, he said. The parameters of the European Union Mission in Kosovo, above all from the viewpoint of the mandate given to it in Brussels, did not agree with the provisions of resolution 1244 (1999) and subsequent Security Council decisions on the functions and composition, including the modalities on the “distribution of contributions” among United Nations partners, and most importantly on the mandate of the international civil presence in Kosovo. The Council had not authorized the launching of that operation. Nor could the European Union Rule of Law Mission be part of the international civil presence as defined in resolution 1244 (1999), since according to paragraph 1 of the Secretary-General’s report (S/1999/672), UNMIK covered all of the “space” allocated by that resolution to the international civil presence.
The illegal acts of the Kosovo Albanian leadership, and those who supported them, set a dangerous precedent, he continued. They were fraught with an escalation of tension and inter-ethnic violence in the province, and could have destructive consequences for international relations that had taken decades to build. The Russian Federation firmly believed that a durable and sustainable solution to the Kosovo status issue could be achieved only on the basis of a decision to be worked out with the leading role of the Security Council, which would fully comply with the norms of international law and be based on agreements between Belgrade and Pristina. He hoped that, in the Kosovo affairs, reason and the lawful approach would nonetheless prevail. He was convinced that United Nations Member States, which cherished their own territorial integrity, were interested in a legal, not a unilateral solution.
WANG GUANGYA ( China) said that China stood for peaceful resolution of disputes through political and diplomatic means and supported a negotiated and proper settlement of the issue of Kosovo’s status. China opposed unilateral action and objected to imposed solution by pressure. The best way to resolve the issue of Kosovo’s status was for the two parties concerned to reach a mutually acceptable solution through negotiations. That should be the common goal of all the parties concerned.
Last year, under the auspices of the international contact group/Troika, Serbia and Kosovo had held several rounds of direct negotiations on the status issue, he continued. It was true that no substantive breakthrough had been achieved during months of negotiations. Nevertheless, if negotiations were to be fruitful and successful, all participating parties needed to show sincerity and flexibility, rather than giving up and even shutting the door to negotiations, because of their differences. Instead of doing any good for the settlement of ethnic conflicts, the achievement of a multi-ethnic society and the maintenance of peace, stability and development in the former Yugoslavia, unilateral action by Kosovo could rekindle conflicts and turbulence in the region, which, in turn, would cause a serious humanitarian crisis and adversely impact the entire region and beyond. China was deeply concerned by that possibility.
Safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity was one of the cardinal principles of contemporary international law enshrined in the Charter, he continued. The issue of Kosovo’s status did not have its special nature. Nevertheless, to terminate negotiations, give up pursuit of a solution acceptable to both parties and replace such efforts with unilateral action would certainly constitute a serious challenge to the fundamental principles of international law. He called on all relevant parties to take full account of the complexity and sensitivity of the Kosovo status issue and make a sober assessment of the potential adverse implications of unilateral action for peace and stability of the region, act with maximum prudence and do their utmost to preserve peace, security and stability there.
Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained the political and legal basis for the settlement of the Kosovo issue, he said. Before the adoption of any resolution by the Council, all efforts and actions for the settlement of the issue should conform to the relevant provisions of resolution 1244 (1999). If a resolution adopted by the Council was not observed and implemented, the resolution in question would become a mere scrap of paper, and the authority and credibility of the Council would be compromised. That was the worry not only of China, but also of the international community. Therefore, his Government hoped that all members would show a responsible attitude and consider and address that issue seriously and prudently.
China agreed that the future of both Serbia and Kosovo lay in their eventual integration into Europe and appreciated the European Union’s desire to play an active role on the Kosovo issue, he continued. China hoped that the European Union would take into account, not only the interests of Serbia and Kosovo, but also the concerns of other countries in the region. It needed to uphold the authority and role of the Security Council in resolving the Kosovo issue. He hoped the European Union would make greater efforts to reconcile the positions of Serbia and Kosovo, urge the two parties to continue their dialogue and encourage them to find a way out in the process of seeking integration into Europe. He hoped all parties concerned would keep in mind the long-term interests of peace and security of the Balkan region, Europe and the world at large, and conduct candid negotiations and discussions for a constructive solution to the issue of Kosovo’s status. The Council and the international community should encourage Serbia and Kosovo to continue their pursuit of a mutually acceptable solution through political and diplomatic means.
JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said that, in October 2005, the Council had supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to initiate a process in order to produce a definition of Kosovo’s future status. That was a process that neither of the two parties could stop unilaterally. Regrettably, despite the commitment of the two parties, the Council and the international community, a negotiated solution could not be found. Realities on the ground could not be ignored. The Kosovo authorities had declared independence and Belgium would recognize Kosovo.
He said one year ago, Martti Athisaari had recommended independence, supervised by the international community. That recommendation had been supported by a wide range of the international community, including the Secretary-General and the European Union. The Athisaari proposal was the only realistic option. The European Union had stated it was ready to accompany the Kosovo authorities in important commitments. The new European Mission -– EULEX -- was a concrete testament to that.
He reaffirmed the Belgium and European Union position that the future of Serbia and the Balkans existed within the European Union. A strong and prosperous Serbia within the European family of nations would contribute to the stability and prosperity of the entire region. He encouraged Belgrade to choose for a European future. Independence of Kosovo could not be considered any type of precedent. The independence of Kosovo was now a reality and it offered the best prospect for peace, stability and prosperity for the region.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said that one certainly could not say that yesterday’s declaration of independence by Kosovo had caught anyone unprepared. Momentum had been building on the future Kosovo status. Italy had strongly supported extensive negotiations conducted last year and believed that no stone had been left unturned. Continuation of negotiations would be senseless, as all means had been explored. Nothing led him to believe that a few additional months of negotiations would have allowed the parties to reach a shared solution. The fact that negotiations had been exhausted underscored the unsustainability of the unresolved situation and instability that prolonged indecision could cause. There was a profound contradiction between calling for continued negotiations and the fact that the status quo in Kosovo was unsustainable. With growing uncertainties, clarity was needed to benefit all.
Continuing, he deeply regretted the failure to secure a negotiated solution and the fact that the Council could not agree on the way forward. Internationally supervised independence was the only solution, at this point. Kosovo’s independence was a new reality that must be acknowledged. Together with other European States, his country intended to quickly recognize the supervised independence of Kosovo and would do its part by continuing to endeavour to develop a European perspective for both Belgrade and Pristina, promoting credible integration of both parties into the European structures. Italy would continue to participate in European Union and NATO missions to maintain regional stability –- an issue closely connected with Italy’s security.
In the efforts to promote stability and reinforce the European perspective, the European Union should take an extensive share of responsibilities in the territory, and preparations were under way for a European Union mission there, which would work closely with other partners, he said. Complex administrative arrangements had been worked out for Kosovo, on the basis of the Ahtisaari proposals. The European Union would be able to monitor the implementation of those provisions and contribute to the building of the rule of law. Its actions were fully consistent with the provisions of international law and relevant international documents, as well as resolution 1244 (1999). The goal was to establish a multi-ethnic society, based on the rule of law.
In conclusion, he urged all sides to maintain peace in the region and avoid violence, threats and intimidation. He welcomed the intention of the leadership of Kosovo to protect all minorities, as well as full acceptance of the obligations of Kosovo laid out by Mr. Ahtisaari. He also stressed his country’s strong appreciation for the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for their continued efforts and emphasized the need to ensure safe and orderly conditions for all communities in Kosovo. Italy would continue to actively promote regional stability, of which Serbia was an essential factor. Its role was essential to the stability of the region. Membership in the European Union was the goal that Serbia also needed to achieve.
MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said the latest political development in Kosovo was a source of profound concern. The Kosovo issue had certain unique qualities, but it could be argued that all issues on the Council’s agenda had their own unique character. They did share one overriding and fundamental quality, however, namely that dialogue and negotiations must be the preferred option. He regretted the failure to reach a solution on Kosovo through dialogue and negotiation, resulting in the unilateral declaration of independence. A mutually acceptable agreement emanating from dialogue and negotiation would better guarantee peace and stability in the region.
He said that some contended that the status quo had become untenable. The directly affected parties themselves appeared to recognize that. The direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina were, after all, designed to address that situation. “We do not believe that all avenues for negotiated outcome have been exhausted” and it was difficult to comprehend the readiness to declare the talks as exhausted. “Dialogue, negotiation, reconciliation; not might; have alleviated us from the challenge of prolonged conflicts.” The potential implications of the forced decision on final status became especially poignant when set against the principles enshrined in the Charter, namely the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of all Member States. Those paramount principles had to be consistently upheld by all Member States.
He expressed Indonesia’s deepest hope that Kosovo’s declaration of independence would not cause tension and new open conflict. The tragic history of the Balkan region should provide the Council with the necessary insight to chart its course in a careful and measured manner. The Council should, at the minimum, transmit a clear message to all parties to exercise restraint and remain calm. The Council must inform itself fully and build a common and shared understanding of how that latest development would impact on the work and policy of the current and legal administrator of Kosovo, namely UNMIK. “Uncertainty and lack of clarity on this issue would not be helpful.”
He said, time after time, the Council had been able to react in a proportionate and careful manner on various global issues. “This is one of the global issues that we, the Council as a whole, simply don’t have the comfort of time to remain indecisive, and to be at the sideline.” The Council had to maintain its cohesiveness and exercise its leadership. “Even at this juncture, we will continue to espouse the need for dialogue and negotiated solution within the framework of international law,” he said.
JOHN SAWERS ( United Kingdom ) said that a new State had been established in Europe against the wishes of its former parent State and a permanent member of the Council. That new State had been recognized by many countries, including the United Kingdom today. It was important to understand how that had come about and to understand why the events of recent months, of yesterday and today, were inevitable, as well as exceptional. At the heart of today’s controversy was a resolution adopted by the Council in 1999, in which the Council had taken an unprecedented step. It had effectively deprived Belgrade of the exercise of authority in Kosovo. It had done so because the then-regime in Belgrade had not just unilaterally deprived Kosovo of its powers of self-government, thereby triggering a rebellion, but had also tried to expel its majority population from Kosovo. The events of 1999 had shaped the events that we saw today.
In resolution 1244 (1999), the Security Council had recognized that the human rights of the people of Kosovo and the stability of the region could be secured only if Serbia did not exercise authority over Kosovo, he continued. It had also established a United Nations mission to serve as Kosovo’s interim Government. The Mission had to help Kosovo establish its own institutions of self-government and to pass authority progressively to those institutions; and to facilitate a process to determine Kosovo’s future status. The resolution placed no limits on the scope of the status outcome. Paragraph 11 (a) was clear that the substantial autonomy which Kosovo was to enjoy was an interim outcome “pending a final settlement”.
Since then, a new democratic Government had come to power in Belgrade. That Government and its successors had wrestled with the legacy of Milosevic’s war crimes. They were right to argue that they should not be punished for those crimes, but equally, they had a duty to help resolve the problems and accept that the legacy of Milosevic’s oppression had made it impossible for Kosovo to return to control by Belgrade. When, in the middle of the status process, the Government of Serbia had changed its Constitution to exclude any future for Kosovo outside Serbia, it had effectively ended any chance of a negotiated settlement. The international community could not be party to a settlement that was opposed by over 90 per cent of a territory’s population. Apart from anything else, it would be contrary to its overriding priority of upholding peace and security.
His Government was convinced that the proposal of the United Nations special envoy for supervised independence that the Kosovo Assembly had embraced was the only way forward, he said. It committed Kosovo to protect its minority populations. Other than the Kosovo Serbs, all of them had endorsed the Ahtisaari plan. The United Kingdom urged the Kosovo Serb population to play a full part in the life of Kosovo. The United Nations Mission, the European Union and NATO would work to ensure that the commitments made by Prime Minister Thaci on 17 February, and the far-reaching provisions to protect minorities in the Ahtisaari plan, were implemented in full. Kosovo’s future would depend on how well she treated her minorities.
His Government also expected Serbia and Kosovo Serb leaders to take no action to promote the separation of the north of Kosovo from the rest of the country, he said. Excluding Kosovo’s Government from the majority Serb areas of Kosovo would not be accepted. Kosovo Serb leaders should work with the Government in Pristina and with the international presences. Kosovo should also accept continued international supervision. NATO had agreed to continue to provide security in Kosovo, and the European Union had agreed to deploy a rule of law mission to oversee the build-up of Kosovo’s capacity.
Continuing, he disagreed with one delegation’s argument that the European Union mission could only be deployed with express agreement of the Security Council. The European Union had been part of the international civilian presence in Kosovo from the outset. The United Nations Mission had evolved and developed, adapting to changing circumstances within its original broad mandate, without requiring new decisions of the Council. The European Union was committed to the future of the region as a whole.
He also added that, as the European Council had said in 2007, a stable and prosperous Serbia, integrated into the family of European nations, was important to the region. That was the future open to Serbia, and his Government called on Serbia to look ahead and focus on that prize. He encouraged Serbia to practice restraint and desist from punitive measures or threats against Kosovo. He was concerned over violent demonstrations against some embassies in Belgrade and the attack on international offices in north Mitrovica.
The Council was facing an extraordinary set of circumstances, he said in conclusion. It was not ideal for Kosovo to become independent without the consent of Serbia and without consensus of the Council. The unique circumstances of the violent break-up of former Yugoslavia had made it a sui generis case, which created no precedent.
LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) said that his country had been consistent in its position that any solution to the issue of Kosovo, including its future status, must be based on the fundamental principles of international law, the Charter and resolution 1244 (1999), which had been adopted by the Council with consent of the parties concerned. All the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter were important, because they were fundamental. Among the most important principles was that of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States. Resolution 1244 (1999), while providing for a future status of Kosovo to be negotiated and agreed upon by the parties concerned, did reaffirm the commitments of Member States of the United Nations for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, whose successor now was the Republic of Serbia and other States in the region.
Proceeding from that position, Viet Nam had persistently urged the parties concerned, with the support of the international community, the United Nations and, until recently, the Troika, consisting of the United States, Russian Federation and the European Union, to engage in good-faith dialogue and peaceful negotiations to resolve their differences and arrive at a durable comprehensive solution conforming to the fundamental principles of international law, the Charter and resolution 1244 (1999) –- in the interests of peace and stability, not only in Kosovo, but also of the Balkans, Europe and the world.
In the context of the earnest appeals of the international community, many United Nations Member States, including members of the Council, for the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was not in conformity with resolution 1244 (1999) and would only add to tension in Kosovo and the Balkans and deepen divisions in Europe. By creating a dangerous precedent, that development had negative implications for international peace and security. Prompt reactions in the Balkans, in the very heart of Europe and in the world testified to those worries. Viet Nam would continue to follow the situation closely. He called upon the parties concerned to act responsibly, exercise restraint, refrain from acts of violence and undertake measures to protect civilians and United Nations personnel discharging their duties on the ground. He urged UNMIK, in implementation of its mandate, to provide such protection.
GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) said he hoped that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence would not signal a return to the 1990s, when the former Republic of Yugoslavia dissolved in violence. Both parties had reiterated their determination to follow a path of peace and negotiated settlement. He reiterated his call to both parties to refrain from any provocative actions and to remain committed to their pledge to renounce violence. He welcomed the pledge by Kosovo authorities to implement the Ahtisaari plans regarding, among other things, minority rights, to create the conditions for the returns of internally displaced persons and regarding property rights. He called upon Serbia to refrain from any actions that would have a negative impact on the already poor living conditions of the people living in Kosovo.
He said his country would be supportive of the principles of justice and international law that stipulated sovereignty of all States and their territorial integrity. How would the world look like if those principles were forfeited? he asked. It must, however, be recognized that there was an exceptional situation in an exceptional region. His country could not accept that yesterday’s events constituted a precedent that could undermine the territorial integrity of States. The Council must state its respect for the territorial integrity of States and must make clear that the situation could not be used as a precedent.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said that the fact that, once again, the Council had been called upon to hold a debate on Kosovo demonstrated the great importance and complexity of the problem and the urgency, because of the events that had been happening since yesterday. His delegation had hoped that, after lengthy talks on all fronts, the management of the issue would lead to a satisfactory outcome and promote understanding among the parties. That would have maintained unity of Serbia and sealed peaceful coexistence of the parties. Such an outcome would have been a victory for the international community and the cause of peace.
That was what his country had advocated, convinced that everything must be attempted to make the dialogue prevail, he said. Unfortunately, that was not what had happened, because of the unilateral decision by Kosovo. Serbs and Kosovars, who had existed together for many years, had been unable to overcome their contradictions and preserve the tolerance, on which they might have built a strong and viable State. He regretted that all United Nations efforts, including those through UNMIK, had not been crowned with success. Burkina Faso could only take note of the new situation. He still felt that there was reason to fear the consequences and called upon the parties concerned to avoid any violence in order to preserve peace and security and secure the basic rights of all the communities. There had already been some violent actions, and he hoped they would not spread.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said that his Government had taken note of the unilateral declaration of independence by the Assembly of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of the Serbian Province of Kosovo. He regretted that such a step had not been taken in conformity with a legal and political process envisaged by resolution 1244 (1999). Throughout the debate on Kosovo, South Africa had consistently reiterated the principle of peaceful process in the resolution of conflicts. It was difficult, in light of his country’s own national experience, to accept that negotiations, no matter how difficult, could not lead to an amicable conclusion. Even at this late hour, he still believed that there remained space for dialogue and negotiation that could help contribute to long-term peace in the Balkans.
South Africa, as a member of the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union, upheld and promoted the principle of the territorial integrity of States, he continued. It was clear that the current developments in Kosovo had serious implications for the international community. South Africa would study the political and legal implications thereof. The unilateral action by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo presented the international community with a serious challenge. In view of that, South Africa would remain seized on that complex matter.
NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said yesterday’s events had created a new political reality in the region. Kosovo’s declaration of independence, however, could not be seen in isolation. All along, Kosovo had been a unique case that required a unique solution. As Croatia had always expressed the hope for a negotiated solution, it was disappointed that no agreement had been reached. All shared a desire to see a stable and prosperous region. His country took note of Kosovo’s commitment to the provisions of the Athisaari proposal.
He said the recognition of independence was a sovereign decision by every individual State. His country would initiate measures to do so. All parties, as well as the international community, should seize the opportunity to welcome a democratic Kosovo as contributing to stability and prosperity in the region as a whole. He supported the wish of the European Union to play a leading role in Kosovo, and the recent launching of its EULEX mission, in conformity with provisions of resolution 1244 (1999), should be seen in that line. There was no doubt that democratic Serbia would be embraced by the international community, in particular by the European Union. The common goal was to speak with one voice of freedom, democracy and a European perspective.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said the declaration of independence of Kosovo had been a source of tension in the Council. He would have preferred that the question had been resolved through a process of dialogue. However, today’s fait accompli had not come as a surprise to anyone. The international community had known that the day would come. His country had carefully analyzed the legal arguments put forth by both sides. There was no absolute truth in the matter. Recognizing the ethical motivations in both positions, his Government had decided to recognize the independence of Kosovo.
He said his country was responding primarily to the will of the Kosovar people -– a people who found it impossible to live together with a Serbian majority within the same country after a campaign of ethnic cleansing against them in 1998. He sincerely hoped that, by living in two different countries, Serbs and Kosovars would be able to build a relationship of respectful coexistence and cooperation that would bring them mutual benefits. In taking its position, his country believed it was contributing to the progress and welfare of the Kosovar population, which, just as the Serbian population, should find a better future within the realm of the European Union. He stressed that his country’s decision could not be invoked as a precedent.
ZALMAY KHALIZAD ( United States) said that, in an exercise of its sovereign rights, the United States had recognized an independent and sovereign Kosovo today. He congratulated Kosovo and welcomed it to the family of nations.
Pondering on “how we got to where we are”, he said that Kosovo’s independence was a culmination of a long and unique process, caused by the violent break-up of former Yugoslavia. Towards the end of the 1990s, responding to the ethnic cleansing launched by the Government of Slobodan Milosevic, NATO had led a military intervention that had stopped the violence and brought peace to Kosovo. The Security Council had solidified that action in its resolution 1244 (1999), which provided for an interim political framework and called for the determination of Kosovo’s final status. Intensive efforts to settle the final status of Kosovo had left no stone unturned, but the parties had been unable to reach agreement.
Last year, Marti Ahtisaari had recommended that Kosovo become independent, subject to a period of international supervision, maintaining that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo had exhausted its potential to facilitate further progress. Only an independent Kosovo could produce the fully mature democratic institutions to realize Ahtisaari’s vision. His country continued to accept his wisdom. Regrettably, the Council had been blocked on adopting a resolution endorsing that plan. A series of special representatives and the Secretary-General had told the Council repeatedly that the interim status was unsustainable. Kosovo’s leadership acted in a mature, non-violent and responsible manner. The declaration of independence was fully consistent with resolution 1244 (1999) and recognized that the resolution would remain in force. The recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty by a substantial number of Governments in the first day since the declaration of independence ensured that the fact was irreversible. Now it was important to focus on working constructively with Kosovo and Serbia.
He understood the concern that Kosovo’s independence would set a precedent, but Kosovo was clearly a special case and had been treated as such by the United Nations since 1999, he said. The actions of Slobodan Molosevic had led the international community to act and, by the adoption of resolution 1244 (1999), Serbia had long been prevented from exercising authority in Kosovo, which had been placed under an interim international administration. Those actions were among the factors that made the situation in Kosovo different from other conflicts and situations and one that did not set a precedent for other regions. His country’s recognition of Kosovo was based on the fact that it had not, did not and would not accept Kosovo’s example for any other dispute.
Kosovo had the Ahtisaari plan as a blueprint to become a functional multi-ethnic country, he said. The commitment in its declaration of independence was heartening. Kosovo sought to become a peaceful State, and it should take its place in the family of nations. The international community should work together to help it implement the plan, including the commitment to protect the rights of Kosovo’s minorities. The European Union had made an extraordinary offer to help implement the reforms required for European Union membership, and the United Nations should welcome that support. A new international presence in Kosovo was needed. The United States would stand with Kosovo as it assumed responsibility for its destiny.
To President Tadić, he confirmed his Government’s desire to maintain and strengthen relations with Serbia -– an ally in two world wars. The United States wished to work with Serbia and would be a strong supporter as it sought membership in the European Union. The time for scoring political points was over. Now, it was important to encourage relations between Kosovo and Pristina, and the United States would do its part in that regard.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT ( France) said that, according to international law, it was up to every State to decide whether or not to recognize the new State of Kosovo. France had done so, and the great majority of European Union members would likewise do so. The international community was facing a new reality that the Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations would take into account. He reiterated that the events concerned a unique situation, in that it marked the outcome of a particular historical process, namely the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The international community must shoulder its responsibilities by seeing to it that the process would take place without any destabilization of the region and with protection of minorities. Calm was prevailing on the ground.
He called upon the Council to give its full support to the Secretary-General. The United Nations, in particular UNMIK and KFOR, would bear the responsibility for the maintenance of order. The European Union had decided to send a potential police and justice mission, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). That would allow the international community to supervise the emergence of a Kosovo that was multi-ethnic and democratic, in accordance with the Athisaari plan, in which the minorities were protected. Serbia had reiterated its will to integrate to the European Union. He welcomed that European choice and was convinced that Serbia’s progressions towards European Union membership could be accelerated. The common future of the peoples of the western Balkans in the framework of the European Union was the best guarantee for their reconciliation.
President of the Council, RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama), speaking in his national capacity, said that his country would have preferred a negotiated solution to the issue of the status of Kosovo, but accepted what had occurred yesterday. The declaration of independence by Kosovo had created a new reality that several States had accepted as a valid one. His country placed peaceful coexistence over and above political and geographical interests. That was particularly important in today’s globalized world, where borders were increasingly less contentious, where countries could not live without one another. That was why the United Nations was promoting various initiatives to promote understanding and rapprochement among various groups. He appealed to Serbia and Kosovo to rise above past conflicts, come to terms with today’s reality and seek mechanisms to achieve peaceful coexistence. Panama had always maintained that violence should not be used as a way to resolve differences.
He went on to say that what occurred in Kosovo should not be used as an example in other situations that appeared to be similar. Kosovo had enjoyed autonomy, much like that of the old republics of the former Yugoslavia, and attempts had been made to deprive it of that autonomy. The province had also been administered by the international community under provisional self-government, and many countries had recognized the declaration of independence by Kosovo’s leadership. He appealed to the European Union and countries that had supported the declaration to make sure that the issue of political secession was soon resolved through prompt incorporation of both Serbia and Kosovo in the European Union.
As for resolution 1244 (1999), one could not deny that its mandate had been overtaken by the realities on the ground, he added. He also pointed out that, when the text had been adopted, no deadline for its implementation had been set. That should serve as a lesson for the Council that all its resolutions should have a clear deadline, so the mandates, instead of being rolled over, could be modified and readjusted to bring them in line with reality.
Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. TADIĆ, President of Serbia, said the main question now was whether international law, the United Nations Charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States would be respected -- pillars on which the modern world had rested since World War II. He said he was not only defending the rights of the Serbian people, but also the right of each and every small country whose sovereignty and territorial integrity was threatened. The status process could not be blocked unilaterally. However, the independence declaration was a unilateral act. It was an act that denounced all the principles of international justice, the principles on which the work of the Council and the United Nations was based.
He said some in the Council had stated that Kosovo should have independence, because a large population wished so. The large majority of all secessionist regions of the world, however, wanted independence. Some Council members had said that Kosovo should be granted independence as a consequence of the crimes in the 1990s, criminalizing the present authorities of Serbia. However, the whole region had committed crimes. As President of Serbia, he had extended apologies to all peoples in the former Yugoslavia against whom some of the Serbian people had committed crimes. He had not, however, received apologies for crimes committed against his people.
All Albanians who prior to the war lived in Kosovo continued to live in Kosovo today, whereas 250,000 Serbs who used to live in Kosovo before UNMIK did not live there anymore, but lived in refugee camps, he said. The recognition of independence legalized the expulsion of the Serbians from Kosovo. He called on the Secretary-General to implement clear legal measures to annul the act of adoption by the Provisional Institutions of Kosovo without the participation of Serbs. If Kosovo would become independent in an illegal way, the world would not stay the same. The only question was which country would next be affected by that principle. If regional States would recognize Kosovo, they would commit at the same time the act of non-recognition of the territorial integrity of Serbia. Such recognition would lead to lowering of bilateral relations.
He said it was up to Council members to help integration of the Balkans, and not to instigate new conflicts and disagreements. He warned those Council members that were members of the European Union that, by recognizing Kosovo, they were not helping the European future of Serbia. The entire region would be pushed into instability, as there were many Kosovos. Serbia would not resort to violence. Serbia was a legitimate democracy that had a full right to be a member of the United Nations and the European Union. It requested the right to protect its borders and its territorial integrity.
The Secretary-General, BAN KI-MOON, in his concluding remarks, said that, today, the situation on the ground, as well as in the Security Council, was very different from the earlier period of UNMIK. Within the mandate provided by resolution 1244 (1999), elements of international civil presence had, over the years, evolved to address differing needs and changing circumstances. That had been envisaged within that resolution. The Secretariat continued to operate in Kosovo on the understanding that resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force, unless the Council decided otherwise. He expected everyone in Kosovo to act in a manner consistent with the operational framework for the international civil presence established in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).
As noted earlier, he had taken note of the European Union’s decision to deploy a rule of law mission and a European Union Special Representative, he said. He would consider that an enhanced role of the European Union in Kosovo and would be assessed in the context of the overall concept of operations of UNMIK, the objectives of the United Nations in Kosovo and the objectives of protecting the United Nations legacy in Kosovo and the Balkans.
“The imperative need to ensure peace and security in Kosovo obliges me to address the reality on the ground as it develops and in light of the evolving circumstances,” he said. As the international community sought to manage the situation on the ground, he would like to underline to the members of the Council that his principal objectives were to ensure the safety and security of the population in Kosovo, with particular attention to the minority communities, to uphold international peace and security and the overall stability in Kosovo and regional stability, to ensure the safety of United Nations staff, and to safeguard the United Nations achievements and legacy in Kosovo and the Balkans.
* *** *For information media • not an official record