|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6264th Meeting (PM)
Head of United Nations Mission, Briefing Security Council, Calls On Serbian, Kosovo
Authorities to Create Multi-Ethnic Society, Ensure Regional Prosperity
The senior United Nations official in Kosovo, briefing the Security Council today, called on the authorities in that territory and in Serbia, as well as on Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs, to work together on creating a multi-ethnic society, protecting cultural heritages and ensuring regional prosperity.
“I hope that Belgrade and Pristina demonstrate by their actions that the well-being of the population of Kosovo is not sacrificed on the altar of political agendas,” Lambert Zannier, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said this afternoon as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation.
He went on to say that, during the reporting period, Kosovo had remained largely peaceful and stable, although tensions and the possibility of flare-ups still remained in the north. Both the Kosovo authorities and the Government of Serbia had conducted peaceful municipal elections, without the involvement of UNMIK, a positive outcome of which had been increased participation by Kosovo Serbs in elections conducted by the Kosovo authorities, which had resulted in the establishment of three new Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities.
However, there had not been sufficient progress on the returns of displaced persons, the identification of missing persons, multi-ethnic courts and policing, among other areas, he said, though there had been some progress on creating a mechanism for protecting Serbian Orthodox cultural and religious heritage sites.
He said UNMIK continued to perform its functions under resolution 1244 (1999), in coordination with the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations country team. The Mission’s overriding objective remained ensuring lasting security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region, by supporting Kosovo’s communities, encouraging reconciliation and facilitating dialogue and regional cooperation.
Also addressing the Council, President Boris Tadić of Serbia said that his country’s position regarding the status of Kosovo was set in stone. “ Serbia will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly, recognize the unilateral declaration of independence,” he said. However, Serbia was committed to making 2010 the year of peaceful solutions, as the country was a democratic, forward-looking society that would soon join the European Union.
Emphasizing that the United Nations remained an indispensable actor in Kosovo, he said his country would also continue working to ensure that the role of the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) was not diminished, especially in the context of safeguarding Serbian patrimony, which continued to be under attack. He stressed also that Council commitments regarding Kosovo, including implementation of resolution 1244 (1999) in its entirety, must be honoured in full.
Pointing out areas where there had been little progress in Kosovo, he said the municipal elections held by the Kosovo authorities were illegitimate in the context of resolution 1244 (1999), a matter about which the Secretary-General’s report was silent. He also condemned proposals designed to impose acceptance of independence on the ethnic Serb majority in north Kosovo. “Should a choice be made to act on this proposal we would justifiably expect KFOR and EULEX to protect the Serbian community in north Kosovo from this aggressive intent.” In closing, he said the new generation of leaders must reject the extremism of the past and work for reconciliation.
Also taking the floor, Skender Hyseni of Kosovo surveyed recent progress, saying that the elections had been a step towards multi-ethnicity. Noting that 65 countries had recognized Kosovo’s independence, he said he looked forward to the day when it would be admitted as a member of the United Nations. Kosovo would continue to seek ways to further strengthen relations with its neighbours, including Serbia, he said, while denouncing that country’s recent nomination of prosecutors and judges for Kosovo as a severe attack on its court system and its efforts to restore law and order.
Following those presentations, Security Council members praised UNMIK’s evolving role, including its cooperation with EULEX, KFOR and OSCE. Most speakers also welcomed the lessening of tensions in Kosovo, but called for greater progress on the rule of law and improving the conditions that would allow the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes.
While many speakers welcomed the greater participation by Kosovo Serbs in municipal elections called by Pristina, Brazil’s representative, among others, expressed regret that UNMIK had not been involved in the polls. While some speakers did not address Kosovo’s declaration of independence, the representative of the United States, for one, welcomed it, while others, such as the delegate of the Russian Federations, rejected it. Others still said they would await an expected ruling by the International Court of Justice on the issue.
Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Japan, Austria, Gabon, France, Turkey, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, Uganda, Nigeria, Lebanon and China.
The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:46 p.m.
The Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), covering the Mission’s activities and related developments in the period from 16 September to 15 December 2009.
In the report (document S/2010/5), the Secretary-General calls on Serbia and Kosovo, the province that unilaterally declared its independence two years ago, to find ways to put aside considerations of status in the interest of pursuing regional cooperation. “I urge flexibility in continuing to define a modus operandi with regard to Kosovo’s participation in regional and international mechanisms and forums that are essential to the economic and democratic development and the long-term stability of the region.”
The report says there has been an improvement in UNMIK’s relations with the Kosovo authorities after they had previously maintained very limited contacts with Lamberto Zannier, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, and describes the overall security situation as “relatively calm, but potentially fragile”.
According to the report, UNMIK has continued to support minority communities, encourage reconciliation and facilitate dialogue and regional cooperation. The Mission’s strategic goal “remains the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and in the region through engagement with all communities in Kosovo, as well as with Pristina and Belgrade [the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia] and with regional and international actors”.
The report says the Secretary-General is pleased with the continued strengthening of the positive relationship between UNMIK and the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which assumed its responsibilities a year ago. The Mission remains committed to facilitating the engagement of all sides in order to find practical solutions to issues of mutual concern, notably the justice and customs areas, where agreement has proved particularly difficult to reach.
An agreement on protecting Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo has yet to be reached, although the issue has been discussed extensively for many months, the report continues, recalling that Serbian Orthodox churches and Albanian mosques were destroyed or damaged during the fighting in 1999 and in outbreaks of violence since. While tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs have decreased significantly in the northern Kosovo community of Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani, the situation in northern Kosovo remains fragile, with inter-ethnic incidents continuing in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica.
The low number and slow pace of refugee returns also continued to raise concern, according to the report. There is a need to redouble efforts to address the reasons for the lag in order to avoid politicizing the plight of displaced persons wishing to return home.
UNMIK’s administration of Kosovo began in 1999, when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody fighting between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, but gave up its administrative role following the unilateral declaration of independence, which Serbia rejects, expecting the Mission to continue to play a robust role.
Briefing by Secretary-General’s Special Representative
LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, introduced the Secretary-General’s report for the period 16 September to 15 December 2009, saying that during that time UNMIK had continued to perform its functions under resolution 1244 (1999). The Mission’s overriding objective was to ensure lasting security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region by supporting local communities, encouraging reconciliation and facilitating dialogue and regional cooperation.
During the reporting period, he said, Kosovo had remained largely peaceful and stable, although tensions and the possibility of flare-ups still remained in the north. Both the Kosovo authorities and the Government of Serbia had conducted municipal elections without UNMIK’S involvement. Their peaceful and mostly orderly conduct was an encouraging sign, as was the participation by more Kosovo Serbs living south of the Iber/Ibar River in elections conducted by the Kosovo authorities, which had resulted in the establishment of three new Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities.
He said that, with tensions remaining high in the north over reconstruction and the provision of electricity, among other flashpoints, it was clear that UNMIK must continued to shepherd the reconstruction process and monitor the situation closely to ensure that all communities respected existing arrangements to preserve stability. Continuing consultations and coordination with all relevant actors was crucial.
While returns of displaced persons and refugees had risen significantly in comparison to previous quarters, he said, they were nevertheless low in absolute terms due to a variety of factors, including low economic prospects and concerns about freedom of movement. Though the Kosovo leadership had stated its commitment to a multi-ethnic Kosovo, and was open to returns, more needed to be done to make that a reality. Other measures required in that context included the reopening of offices for processing property claims filed by displaced persons.
On the other hand, he said, there had been encouraging progress on the relocation of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian residents of camps in northern Mitrovica to more suitable accommodations, which had been carried out with the assistance of the European Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Regarding missing persons, he said more must be done to persuade those with information to share their knowledge with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), EULEX and the Pristina-Belgrade working group. All those with information were urged to come forward.
There had also been less than desirable progress in the coordination and integration of police personnel from the various communities, he said, while welcoming the finalization of the terms of reference for the Kosovo Serb Deputy-Director-General of the Kosovo Police. There also had been little progress on setting up multi-ethnic courts in northern Kosovo and re-establishing a fully functioning customs regime in that region. However, some progress had been made in the area of cultural heritage, with an early agreement expected on the much-awaited appointment of a European Union envoy to provide a mechanism for cooperation on protecting the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church. UNMIK stood ready to assist in that area, he added.
The Mission had continued to facilitate Kosovo’s participation in regional and international forums, which was in the interest of the development and stability of Kosovo and the entire region, he said. Hopefully Belgrade and Pristina would find a way to put status considerations aside in the furtherance of that goal. In that context, he welcomed recent statements by both President Boris Tadić of Serbia and the Kosovo authorities aimed at reconciling ethnic differences. “I hope that Belgrade and Pristina demonstrate by their actions that the well-being of the population of Kosovo is not sacrificed on the altar of political agendas.”
With regard to UNMIK’s continued deployment, he said the Kosovo authorities appeared to show a greater understanding of the Mission’s role. EULEX and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continued to perform critical functions that complemented those of UNMIK in the context of resolution 1244 (1999). The Mission was also focusing on enhancing its collaboration with the United Nations Kosovo Team (UNKT) to promote a shared vision of the Organization’s strategic objectives for peace consolidation.
BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, recalled that the Kosovo Albanian authorities had attempted to secede from his country through a unilateral declaration of independence two years ago. Serbia’s position regarding the province’s status was set in stone. “ Serbia will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly, recognize the unilateral declaration of independence,” he emphasized, pointing out that a substantial majority of Member States, and Council members, had not supported the attempt to impose the forcible partition of a United Nations Member State.
Recalling also that the General Assembly had tasked the International Court of Justice with determining whether the unilateral declaration of independence conformed to international law, he said its oral hearings had ended and the Court would deliver its conclusions this year. It was therefore important to respect the fact that the Court had begun its deliberations, which should be unhindered by political pressures, such as further recognitions of Kosovo.
He stressed that dialogue was the most effective means to achieve the only sustainable outcome: a mutually acceptable, viable solution that would not “recklessly” sacrifice the geo-strategic priorities of all on the altar of the aspirations of a single party. Serbia was committed to making 2010 the year of peaceful solutions. However, the psychological barriers were high and trust must be restored. “A first step is to realize that the 1990s are gone for good,” he said, stressing that contemporary Serbia was a democratic, forward-looking society that would soon join the European Union.
The United Nations remained an indispensable actor in Kosovo, he said, noting that the Organization’s constructive approach had set the stage for responsible stakeholders to act together in improving the lives of all Kosovo residents by setting aside considerations of status on a growing number of practical issues. That had produced tangible results, such as the Protocol on Police Cooperation between the Serbian Interior Ministry and EULEX, which had resulted in an increase in exchanges of information on organized crime and terrorist activities in Kosovo –- which remained the hub of a “sinister international network of arms, drugs and human traffickers”.
A shared dedication to status neutrality by responsible stakeholders had ensured that the “overall situation in Kosovo remains relatively calm but potentially fragile”, he said, citing the example of UNMIK’s external representation function, which was honoured by Pristina. Kosovo could and should participate in multilateral and regional forums in the presence of Mission officials, who would speak first, using either a “UNMIK-Kosovo” nameplate or a personalized one. “No other arrangements will work, despite all pressures to the contrary,” he emphasized.
Serbia would continue to engage with all responsible stakeholders to ensure that the role of the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) was not diminished, especially in the context of safeguarding Serbian patrimony, he said. KFOR’s direct responsibility for providing security for the Serbian Orthodox Church had been a success and proposals to hand over that responsibility to local police units would not contribute to improving the fragile security situation.
While considerable progress had been achieved on the sensitive matter of protecting Serbian cultural heritage, it was disappointing that no agreement had yet been reached. A European Union facilitator would be able to take appropriate measures to enforce strict compliance by the Pristina authorities on all matters relating to the protection, conservation and restoration of the holy sites in Kosovo. Unfortunately, the report passed over the fact that the ethnic Albanian authorities continued to defend the outrageous decision to pave over the remains of the twice-destroyed Serbian church in the centre of Djakovica. Was it possible that the international community was powerless to have that awful deed reversed?
Commitments made by the Council must be honoured in full, from implementation of resolution 1244 (1999) in its entirety to the Secretary-General’s six-point plan, he said. Unfortunately, real steps still had not been taken on the political implementation of provisions relating to the judiciary and customs service. The territorial jurisdiction of the court in Mitrovica, for example, had not been moved forward. Regarding customs, no progress had been made on the fundamental issue of revenue collection.
Noting that the report discussed at length local elections called by the ethnic Albanian authorities in south Kosovo, he pointed out that it was entirely silent on the illegitimacy of the election, which had not been held in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). Serbia could not have supported the elections, as conditions did not exist for the participation of a vast majority of Kosovo Serbs. “I also underline that the report paints an incomplete picture of a highly flawed exercise. It greatly underplays the level of fraud in Serbian areas and fails to account for credible evidence pointing to intense ballot-stuffing, voter intimidation and other grave violations of campaign and election-day procedures, such as disinformation tactics.”
The report was also entirely silent about facilitating the entry and transportation of Serbian officials within Kosovo, he continued, recalling that that his Minister for Kosovo and Metohija had been detained at gunpoint, a clear violation of resolution 1244 (1999). The status-neutral international institutions enabled by the Council to control the province’s police structure had an obligation to prevent such abuses. Also, more than 200,000 ethnic Serb victims of ethnic cleansing continued to be denied the right of return.
Serbia concurred with the assessment that the situation in north Kosovo was fragile, he said, adding that harsh rhetoric from Pristina regarding legitimate Serbian institutions in the region did not contribute to stability. By referring to them as “parallel” institutions, EULEX representatives had failed to respect their neutral status. The truly parallel institutions operating in Kosovo were those created on the basis of the unilateral declaration of independence, he said.
Calling attention to alarming news reports about a “final solution” for north Kosovo, he said that plan, sponsored by the so-called International Civilian Office, outlined a number of policies and actions designed to impose acceptance of the unilateral declaration of independence on the Serbian majority in north Kosovo and intended forcibly to implement the Ahtisaari proposal. Serbia harshly condemned Pristina’s unnecessary and hazardous provocations. “Should a choice be made to act on this proposal, we would justifiably expect KFOR and EULEX to protect the Serbian community in north Kosovo from this aggressive intent.”
“We will have to overcome our prejudices and tame our passions. This will necessitate reconciliation and learning to live with difference,” he said, adding: “It is up to us -- to this generation of leaders -– to find the necessary strength to do the right thing, for the extremists who will want to reject the opportunity we shall have this year, in truth, will be rejecting the future we all must share.”
SKENDER HYSENI of Kosovo said state institutions continued to be built on the basis of a new constitution and the provisions of the comprehensive Athisaari Plan. In 2009, Kosovo had completed its accession to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as successfully resolving issues of economy, justice and security. The well-being of minorities and the return of refugees were priorities and special efforts would be continued to intensify the return of Kosovo Serb refugees as well as the protection and restoration of cultural and religious heritage sites.
A total of 65 States had recognized Kosovo, which had entered into diplomatic relations with more than 25 countries, he said, adding that it stood ready to improve its relations with Serbia as well. Dialogue could take place on many issues, but it could only happen on an equal footing, as a dialogue between two independent States. Kosovo rejected calls for renewed negotiations on status, which were made by people who were unaware of the situation or those actively seeking to create disorder in the region. Kosovo’s independence was irreversible, he emphasized.
November and December 2009 had seen two important events, he recalled. One was the elections, held on the basis of the constitution and the law on general and municipal elections. The polls had been held in an orderly and peaceful manner, with sizeable participation by non-majority communities. That was clear evidence that Kosovo Serbs were increasingly taking part in institution-building. The elections had created a new momentum in the building of a multi-ethnic Kosovo, he said.
The second development was the oral statement to the International Court of Justice, he said, noting that his delegation had addressed the Court on 1 December, offering substantive information and asking the Court whether it deemed it appropriate to respond to the General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion. The unilateral declaration of independence did not contravene any applicable rule of international law, he asserted.
“We cannot and should not forget the crimes against humanity and other horrors that Serbia had inflicted on the people of Kosovo, yet we in Kosovo are determined to look towards the future,” he said. The common future of Kosovo and Serbia lay in membership of the European Union, he said, adding that he looked forward to the day when Kosovo could take its place as a member of the United Nations. Kosovo had agreed on a draft law to enable it to implement Security Council sanctions.
The overall security situation was calm and stable, although the situation in the north remained an issue of concern, and additional efforts were needed to improve it he said. The institutions and government of Kosovo had been cooperating with EULEX to combat crime and corruption, and to fight parallel and criminal structures in the north. The recent so-called nomination of prosecutors and judges by Serbian authorities had been a severe attack on Kosovo’s court system and an attempt to obstruct the joint efforts of EULEX and the Kosovo authorities to restore law and order through the establishment of multi-ethnic institutions. Kosovo would continue to seek ways to further strengthen relations with its neighbours, including Serbia, he said.
YUKIO TAKASU (Japan), paying tribute to the contributions of all organizations working together in Kosovo, said he valued the mediating role that UNMIK was playing and hoped more progress would be made in the critical areas discussed in the Secretary-General’s report. The recent elections, in particular, were a welcome development. Japan had worked for a human-centred approach in Kosovo, he said, announcing additional bilateral programmes and pledging to continue working with all interested parties to ensure a peaceful and stable region.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria), expressing full support for UNMIK’s efforts to support dialogue among the groups and parties in the region, welcomed Pristina’s greater acceptance of its role as well as the result of recent elections, which he called an important step towards political integration. He called on more Kosovo Serbs to participate in political life. Welcoming advances in the areas of justice, rule of law and human rights, he supported NATO’s decision to restructure KFOR, saying this country would continue its contributions to it. More efforts must be made in protecting the cultural rights and sites, and in creating suitable conditions for the return of displaced persons. Austria was dedicated to the protection of the Serbian Orthodox heritage in Kosovo and called for flexibility on both sides to ensure progress in that and other areas.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said resolution 1244 (1999) had been intended to provide a legal framework for a negotiated solution and expressly recognized the need to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The resolution remained in force and that was the position that Brazil had expressed before the International Court of Justice. Until the Court’s opinion was issued, UNMIK should continue to play its constructive role in promoting engagement between Pristina and Belgrade, she said.
The calm security situation in Kosovo was due to the restraint shown by the parties and the population, she said, adding that EULEX should continue to operate under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations while preserving the integrity of resolution 1244 (1999). The fact that municipal elections not called by UNMIK had been held was worrying. Disappointed with the lack of concrete progress on the implementation of practical arrangements for the protection of Serbian cultural heritage, Brazil urged the parties to resume efforts to reach an agreed solution.
EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET ( Gabon), acknowledging UNMIK’s important contribution in promoting cooperation, reconciliation and stability in the region, agreed that the Mission should remain until a negotiated solution was found. Gabon supported the six-point plan and welcomed the involvement of the European Union through EULEX, as well as that of KFOR and OSCE. As for status issues, Gabon rejected any unilateral declaration of independence and awaited the opinion of the International Court of Justice.
GERARD ARAUD ( France), welcoming the results of UNMIK’s reconfiguration as well as the drop in tension and violence in Kosovo, said it would be desirable to continue a drawdown of the Mission as the work of EULEX advanced. France invited the Serbian and Kosovo authorities to serve the needs of their peoples and build dialogue in the context of the region’s integration into the European Union. Belgrade, in particular, must keep that goal in mind, while Pristina must continue to make progress in the areas outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, especially the rule of law.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said he was confident that the reconfigured UNMIK would continue to provide valuable assistance to Kosovo’s institutions. At the same time, Turkey welcomed the expanded role of EULEX and was committed to contributing to the European Mission and KFOR. More effective coordination between UNMIK and EULEX, as well as with KFOR, would help achieve the desired goals and enable each mission to concentrate on its respective mandate.
Welcoming the 15 November municipal elections as an important milestone, he said the increased participation by Kosovo Serbs, as compared to 2004 and 2007, was encouraging. However, participation had been low in northern Kosovo and the fragile overall situation there remained a cause for concern. The future of ethnic Serbs in the north rested with that of Kosovo, and all concerned should refrain from actions that would impose unnecessary burdens on their lives.
He said his country viewed Kosovo’s unilateral declaration as irreversible, noting that independence would contribute to lasting peace in the region. Since the declaration, the situation had been largely calm and Kosovo had joined the World Bank, among other bodies. Its participation, particularly in regional cooperation mechanisms, was important. He agreed that, by setting aside status considerations, Belgrade and Pristina would enable Kosovo’s representation in regional and international forums. At the same time, a democratic and prosperous Serbia was vital to the Balkans, and the global community should encourage the region’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.
LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) welcomed the decrease in violence against minorities, noting that the European Union, through EULEX, had successfully consolidated its role as the principal organization to develop the rule of law. Kosovo’s future lay in participating in integration into the European Union, he added.
The success of the local elections had demonstrated the importance of decentralization, he said, calling on the Kosovo and municipal authorities to further deliver minority rights throughout the territory. Kosovo Serbs should recognize the practical benefits of decentralization. To consolidate progress, Kosovo must work to improve standards and the rule of law, while addressing human rights violations.
The European perspective offered incentives for further reform, he said, welcoming Serbia’s application for European Union membership. Continued disagreement over status issues would only serve to distract from that aim. Status issues should be set aside in favour of cooperation on such issues as heritage. A total of 65 United Nations Member States had recognized Kosovo, which made its progress towards becoming a viable, independent State irreversible.
IVAN BARBALIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina), commending UNMIK’s focus on mediation and supporting minority communities, stressed that efforts to encourage inter-community dialogue and confidence-building were of particular importance in the area of refugee returns, which remained very low in number. Bosnia and Herzegovina wished to see an increase in the number of “go-and-see visits”, which allowed displaced persons to visit their properties while assessing first-hand conditions in the receiving community.
UNMIK’s role in assisting the Reconstruction Implementation Commission, in coordination with the Council of Europe and the European Commission, had been significant, he said. Such efforts aimed to ensure the participation of key stakeholders in the reconstruction of cultural and religious heritage sites. Strengthening the rule of law was of great importance and Bosnia and Herzegovina supported the continued strengthening of relations between UNMIK and EULEX, as well as with OSCE and NATO.
Reiterating that stability and security in Kosovo were significant for regional peace, he urged the international community to continue supporting the aspirations of the Balkan countries towards integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. At the same time, the countries of the region should continue to cooperate with the global community to reach that goal. Fostering good relations with neighbouring countries was of utmost importance for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) welcomed the fact that the evolving coordination of UNMIK with other missions was occurring in the context of neutrality. Improvements in the situation of Kosovo were welcome, but there was a need to create conditions for displaced persons to return to their homes. Mexico encouraged UNMIK, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to work with the parties on improving that situation.
Emphasizing the need to strengthen the protection of cultural sites, the rule of law, access to justice, the fight against impunity and the promotion of human rights, he reiterated his country’s prioritizing of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. Until the Court took a decision, all Member States must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
PATRICK MUGOYA ( Uganda) welcomed the consolidation of stability in Kosovo as well as UNMIK’s efforts to improve the situation further, while calling on all parties to maintain restraint and work for dialogue. He also called for the continued strengthening of cooperation among the international missions in Kosovo, particularly in the search for a sustainable solution to tensions between communities. It was crucial for UNMIK to continue to facilitate Kosovo’s participation in international forums.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria), while welcoming the growing engagement between UNMIK and Belgrade, expressed concern about the lack of progress in implementing practical arrangements in such areas as justice, peace, customs and cultural heritage. All parties should intensify their engagements on those issues. Nigeria supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to appoint a facilitator to advance an agreement on cultural heritage sites.
She also welcomed the return of Kosovo Albanians to the northern parts of Mitrovica, while imploring Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians to eschew violence in their northern communities, where there were still reports of isolated attacks against minorities. UNMIK’s engagement with the parties should be directed at reaching agreement in the difficult areas of justice, peace and cultural heritage. Dialogue should be employed at all times, she said, calling on the parties to forge a united front, through flexibility and compromise, to resolve the contentious issues.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO ( United States) said that, since its declaration of independence two years ago, Kosovo had made tremendous progress in numerous areas. A total of 65 countries had recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent State, and the United States commended its actions to implement the Ahtisaari Plan. It also congratulated Kosovo on the peaceful holding of municipal elections and noted the authorities’ outreach efforts to the ethnic Serb communities. Kosovo had also taken steps to strengthen regional relations, with its security forces having provided humanitarian assistance to neighbouring Albania.
While Kosovo had demonstrated its readiness to play a constructive role in the region, it should redouble its efforts on the return of refugees, she said, urging the reopening of the Kosovo property offices without delay. Welcoming UNMIK’s efforts to facilitate reconstruction of certain monasteries and churches, she said a mechanism was needed to address concerns such as vandalism of cultural and religious monuments. The United States supported the proposal to appoint a facilitator to reach an agreement on that issue. Meanwhile, parallel institutions continued to threaten the rule of law, she noted, emphasizing that Kosovo’s independence was irreversible. The United States would continue to support its aspirations and those of all countries in the region for Euro-Atlantic integration.
IGOR SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) said his country’s views on Kosovo were consistent: resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force and was the basis for a permanent solution to the situation. In that context, no one could prevent UNMIK from carrying out its mandated tasks, upon which, in addition, cooperation with other international missions should be built. International presences must be vigilant in preventing violence, and proposals for extreme solutions to the disagreement of Kosovo Serbs with the authorities must be stopped, he said.
The Russian Federation called on UNMIK to discharge its obligations to facilitate Kosovo’s participation in international forums, but to do it in a manner consistent with resolution 1244 (1999), but not exceeding its terms. The lack of progress in many areas in Kosovo, including the creation of conditions for the return of displaced persons and the protection of religious heritage sites was regrettable. The Russian Federation reiterated its opposition to the unilateral declaration of independence, agreeing with the competency of the International Court of Justice in that area.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) welcomed the improved security situation in Kosovo, and urged restraint in the north. He welcomed also UNMIK’s continued role and urged the Kosovo authorities to engage in a constructive way with the Mission as well as with other international organizations within a framework of neutrality. While awaiting the decision of the International Court of Justice on the declaration of independence, Lebanon encouraged all parties to work together for the good of all the region’s peoples, while encouraging Pristina and Belgrade to maintain dialogue towards that end.
Council President ZANG YESUI (China), speaking in his national capacity, said his country respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and hoped that the Serbian and Kosovo authorities would find a solution acceptable to both sides. UNMIK should continue to implement its mandate on the basis of resolution 1244 (1999) and in line with the situation on the ground. China hoped the Secretary-General would continue to help advance the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, while welcoming the continued implementation by EULEX of its task under the authority of the United Nations.
President TADIĆ ( Serbia), taking the floor for a second time, reiterated that a peaceful negotiated solution on the future status of Kosovo was a priority for his country. Serbia, a constructive and reliable partner, was also committed to becoming a member State of the European Union and supported other countries in the region in their similar endeavours. He thanked the 127 States that had respected the basic principles of the United Nations Charter, and his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by not recognizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.
It was deeply disappointing and shocking that Mr. Hyseni had claimed that new talks and negotiations on status issue could provoke a new conflict, he said. That was a strange understanding of dialogue and “a direct threat”. It also showed the destabilizing consequences of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. As for the elections, he said that, according to a United Nations report, 6,022 Kosovo Serbs had voted in the first round. Since more than 100,000 Serbs currently lived in Kosovo, that meant that only 6 per cent of them had voted.
Turning to the question of electricity in northern Kosovo, he said his country’s power industry had provided electricity to the people living in the region only because the Kosovo Energy Corporation had cut supplies to the north. By its provision of electricity to ordinary people, a humanitarian catastrophe had been avoided. Hopefully it would be possible to find a practical solution and that the issue could be depoliticized.
Responding to the statement by the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said Serbia would continue to support fully that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, while opposing any attempt to partition that or any other State. The acceleration of European Union acceptance by Bosnia and Herzegovina was a priority and the completion of the reconciliation process an imperative for the region. The forthcoming resolution on the Republika Srpska was intended to contribute to that process and to enhance regional peace. Serbia remained committed to working other Member States on resolving all outstanding bilateral and regional issues.
Mr. HYSENI of Kosovo recalled that Serbia and Kosovo had negotiated Kosovo’s final status for two and a half years, with the Kosovo side finally suggesting a friendship and cooperation treaty with joint commissions to observe the implementation of provisions on the protection of the ethnic Serb minority in Kosovo. Kosovo was committed to peace and dialogue with all its neighbours, and the last country that would want disorder and destabilization, having suffered more than a century of violence under various foreign regimes.
Kosovo was not interfering in Serbia, although that country was interfering with systems in Kosovo, he said. Kosovo would be the last country on earth to destabilize the region, but negotiations on its independence were not acceptable. However, it was willing to discuss all issues of common interest with Serbia, he reiterated. Kosovo was also willing to take part in regional initiatives, but Serbia was blocking its participation, just as it was blocking Kosovo’s exports. The issue of electricity was becoming almost ridiculous, he said, asking which country would tolerate its citizens’ refusal to pay its electric bills, as the vast majority of the ethnic Serb community had done for more than 10 years.
Responding to President Tadić’s reference to the Interior Minister’s visit, he said it had been done on a day and in a place calculated to make it a clear provocation. While Kosovo wished to work with Serbia and all parties, it would not discuss its independence. Kosovo had been recognized by 65 countries and many more were on the way. Kosovo was not asking Belgrade to recognize Kosovo formally in the near future, but to work with it on issues of mutual interest.
* *** *For information media • not an official record