|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5850th Meeting (PM)
‘KOSOVO SHALL REMAIN A PART OF SERBIA FOREVER’, SAYS SERBIA’S FOREIGN MINISTER,
TELLING SECURITY COUNCIL INDEPENDENCE DECLARATION ‘ILLEGAL AND ILLEGITIMATE’
Stresses His Government Will Not Use Force or Economic Embargo,
But Will Use All Legal, Diplomatic, Political Means to Assert Sovereign Rights
Forcefully denouncing Kosovo’s breakaway and vowing never to recognize the province’s self-declared independence, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić today warned the Security Council that the events in Kosovo had left the international system “wobbling precariously”, and may be a precedent that could be replicated in other parts of the world.
“Kosovo shall remain a part of Serbia forever,” Mr. Jeremić said in an open briefing to the Security Council, during which he called on those countries that had not recognized Kosovo in the wake of Pristina’s “illegal and illegitimate” 17 February declaration of independence to stay the course and help Serbia defend the international system from being undermined. “The Republic of Serbia will not accept the imposition of an outcome that fundamentally violates our legitimate national interests,” he declared.
In a letter transmitted late last week, Serbia’s Government called on the 15-member Council to urgently convene an open meeting to consider the “aggravation of the situation” resulting from Kosovo’s decision and the subsequent fallout from its recognition by a handful of European and Western countries.
He asked Council members to consider, with the frankness they owed to those most affected by this “perilous precedent”, but also with an eye to those who could be affected in the future, whether the principles of international relations had been advanced by wrenching Kosovo away from a democratically governed country. “Will the province of Kosovo, as an entity in limbo that could not acquire international legitimacy arising out of membership in the United Nations, be able to achieve sustainable prosperity without Belgrade?” he asked
Recalling that Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) placed a binding Chapter VII obligation on all Member States to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity, he urged the 20-odd countries that had recognized Kosovo to reconsider, as such recognition “supplies any ethnic or religious group with a grievance against its capital with a playbook on how to achieve their ends”.
Those countries had “furthered the secessionist cause of the Kosovo Albanians” and had contributed to making the international system more unstable and more unpredictable by, among other things, legitimizing unilateral secession by a provincial or other non-State actor. Recognizing Kosovo’s independence “transforms the right of self-determination into an avowed right of independence [and] legitimizes the forced partition of internationally recognized sovereign States”, he declared.
At the same time, he said, Serbia wished no ill will to the ethnic Albanians in its southern province -- which had been administered by the United Nations since 1999 -- and took seriously their right to obtain substantial self-governance, “while remaining under a common sovereign roof with Serbia”. But he also stressed that Serbia would do everything in its power to make sure Kosovo Serbs “are not isolated in ghettos as they have been for the past eight years”.
He also said that, while Serbia would continue to strongly oppose Pristina’s move, it would not try to undermine the province’s fragile economy. “It is in our vital interest that all of Kosovo’s communities prosper -- and prosper together in peace, security and reconciliation as neighbours in a progressive society of hope and forgiveness,” he said, noting that, since 17 February, the situation on the ground had been deteriorating. “This is why Serbia does not intend to impose an embargo and why we have a clear policy of not resorting to the force of arms.”
But, as long as there were attempts by some to exclude Serbia, it would keep coming back to the Council, among others, and would use all legal, diplomatic and political means to continue to assert its core sovereign rights, he continued, calling on all parties to meet, reason together and start talking to one another honestly. “And we must work in concert to instil the confidence necessary for all the Western Balkans to once again take bold, historic steps to a common, European future,” he said.
Noting that the European Union last month had authorized the deployment of a 2,000-strong force known as EULEX to Kosovo to train and mentor local police, justice and border officials, Mr. Jeremić said: “There must be no erosion of UNMIK’s clearly defined mandate by the Security Council. Therefore, we strongly demand that no further transfer of competencies from UNMIK to any other body take place.”
“It is a great pity that some European countries have joined in this dubious exercise,” he added. “First by recognizing the unilateral declaration of independence by the authorities in Pristina, […] and then by establishing EULEX and the affiliated International Steering Group of countries.”
Mr. Jeremić also took the opportunity to assure the Council that the majority of people in Serbia had reacted to the breakaway in a dignified manner in a mass rally of 21 February, but added that a small number of those who gathered that day had turned to violence. He offered his apologies to those countries whose embassies had been damaged during the riots and described the unrest as unacceptable and deplorable.
He went on to say that no one could afford to miss any more opportunities to build trust, to seek agreement, consolidate values and to arrive at a just, mutually acceptable solution that benefited all. The alternative to handling the issue “with great care and reverence for the UN Charter”, with great respect for the reputation of United Nations peacekeeping and with great concern for the credibility of the Secretary-General, “is simply too bleak to fathom”, he said.
While he regretted that the international community had come to this chasm, “let us now try to join together in order to build a bridge over it, […] to look beyond the immediate divide and to secure a future in Europe for the entire region.: For every day that went by without working towards some sort of agreement created unsustainable hopes, irrational fears and dangerous, uncoordinated outcomes on the ground, he said, stressing that Serbia was ready to host a series of meetings with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), including on such issues as the status of the Kosovo Serb population and that of Kosovo Serb judges and policemen.
“The Republic of Serbia stands ready to be a constructive partner in the achievement of regional peace, stability and reconciliation. We are committed to open dialogue and good-faith negotiation with all. And we continue to be faithful to the principles of international law,” he said.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:35 p.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record