The United Nations on Prevlaka peninsula
During the decade of United Nations engagement on the Prevlaka peninsula, the dispute was mostly overshadowed by the larger conflicts in the region. The military observers of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), assigned to the Prevlaka peninsula on 20 October 1992 under the authorization of Security Council resolution 779 (1992), carried out their mandate against the backdrop of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995). Efforts during that time to draw the parties into negotiations were not successful.
During the period 1996-1998, the parties focused mainly on the situation in Eastern Slavonia (Croatia) and despite the provision for a negotiated settlement of the Prevlaka dispute in the Agreement on Normalization of Relations signed by Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 23 August 1996, no progress was made. It was during this period, in early 1996, that UNMOP was established as an independent mission.
It was only after the conclusion of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) that the parties were able to begin a round of direct negotiations on Prevlaka in 1998. This initial dialogue, comprising four meetings alternately in Zagreb and Belgrade, was suspended with the commencement of military action against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in March 1999 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In October 1999, at the request of the Security Council (resolution 1252 (1999)), the UN Secretary-General presented a package of confidence-building measures to the parties. Although the measures were considered workable by the United Nations, neither of the parties were willing to accept the package in its entirety.
The absence of major conflict in the region and the change in government in both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 2000 created more favourable conditions for progress on the Prevlaka issue. A process of consultation between the two sides led to the formation in December 2001 of a joint Interstate Diplomatic Commission tasked with resolving the outstanding border disputes between the two States. During 2002, the Commission and its constituent sub-commissions met continually in an effort to develop a common agenda for resolving the Prevlaka dispute. By April 2002, both sides had reached the stage where they were able to report in a joint letter to the President of the Security Council that they were negotiating, in good faith and in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect, a comprehensive cross-border regime which "would eventually contribute to the successful ending of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka" .
United Nations military observers had been deployed in the strategically important Prevlaka peninsula since October 1992, when the Security Council, by its resolution 779 (1992), authorized UNPROFOR to assume responsibility for monitoring the demilitarization of that area. Following the restructuring of UNPROFOR in March 1995, those functions were carried out by the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation (UNCRO).
With the termination of UNCRO's mandate on 15 January 1996 and the imminent withdrawal of the military observers and civilian police monitors performing the mission's functions, the Secretary-General recommended to the Security Council that monitoring the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula continue. The Secretary-General proposed that the authorized strength of that military observer operation be increased from 14 to 28. That would permit the operation, to be known as the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP), to be self-sufficient and to more reliably patrol the areas concerned as well as maintaining liaison teams in Dubrovnik and Herceg Novi. By resolution 1038 (1996) of 15 January 1996, the Security Council authorized United Nations military observers to continue monitor the demilitarization of Prevlaka.
UNMOP became an independent mission on 1 February 1996. Its military observers served under the command and direction of a Chief Military Observer, who reported directly to United Nations Headquarters in New York. Although an independent Mission, for administrative and budgetary purposes, UNMOP was treated as part of the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH).
Throughout UNMOP's presence in the region, the situation in its area of responsibility remained stable and calm. In accordance with its mandate, the Mission monitored the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula and of the neighbouring areas in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Mission held regular meetings with the local authorities in order to strengthen liaison, reduce tensions, improve safety and security, and promote confidence between the parties. The Chief Military Observer also maintained contact with the authorities in Zagreb and Belgrade. Cooperation between UNMOP and the multinational stabilization force (SFOR) was maintained through regular meetings.
UNMOP maintained its 24-hour presence at the team site on the Ostra peninsula, at Herceg Novi in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and at the headquarters at Cavtat and the team site at Gruda in Croatia. Except when restrictions of movement were imposed by either party, it conducted vehicle, foot and standing patrols. The Mission protested about violations of both the demilitarized zone and the United Nations-controlled zone to the authorities in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including the Republic of Montenegro, in order to encourage greater respect for the security regime governing the zones.
UNMOP completes its mandate
In his report to the Security Council dated 2 October 2002, the Secretary-General said that that he was encouraged by the commitment of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to resolve their dispute over Prevlaka through meetings of the Interstate Diplomatic Commission and by other bilateral means. He was convinced that the parties would be able to narrow their remaining differences, in the near future, to the point where the presence of UNMOP was no longer needed. The Secretary-General recommended to the Council to extend the Mission for a period of two months, until 15 December, without change to the concept of operations and with the Mission preparing for its withdrawal to commence thereafter and to be completed by 31 December.
On 11 October, the Council authorized UNMOP to continue monitoring the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula for a final period of two months, until 15
December. By unanimously adopting resolution 1437 (2002), the Council also requested the Secretary-General to prepare for the termination of the Mission's mandate by gradually reducing the number of personnel and otherwise, adjusting its activities to reflect stable conditions in the area. By other terms of that resolution, the Council urged the parties to accelerate efforts towards a negotiated settlement in accordance with the Agreement of Normalization of Relations.
In the mean time, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia continued bilateral negotiations with a view to concluding an interim agreement providing for the normalization of the situation in Prevlaka. The Secretary-General, during his visit to the region in November 2002, urged the parties to conclude their negotiations by the end of the month to allow for an orderly handover by the time the mandate of UNMOP expired on 15 December.
On 10 December, the sides signed the Protocol between the Federal Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Government of the Republic of Croatia on the Interim Regime along the Southern Border between the Two States, establishing a provisional cross-border regime on the Prevlaka peninsula.
In his final report on UNMOP issued on the same day, the Secretary-General welcomed the Protocol and noted that the parties had advanced sufficiently in their bilateral relations so that an international monitoring mechanism was no longer required. The situation was quiet, demilitarization was not in question and there was no risk of renewed hostilities. Given the presence of mines, unexploded ordnance and ammunition in the area of handover, which required careful handling, it was the Secretary-General's intention to keep a small core staff for a few days beyond 15 December, but not to stay beyond 31 December 2002, to ensure that the handover was conducted in a safe and orderly fashion.
The Secretary-General observed that the responsibility for settling this dispute rested with Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that the gradual restoration of normal life between these two formerly warring parties provided hope that stability and peaceful coexistence could and should be their common future.
Speaking of UNMOP, the Secretary-General said that throughout a turbulent decade in the Balkans, the Mission had contributed to insulating Prevlaka from the surrounding conflicts and tensions and ensured that hostilities nearby did not create instability on the peninsula. It demonstrated that even a small United Nations presence, properly conceived and executed, can make a difference.
The Secretary-General paid tribute to the Chief Military Observer of UNMOP, to his predecessors and to the military and civilian staff who had served the United Nations on Prevlaka since 1992. He thanked them all for their contribution to the cause of peace.
The Security Council, in its Presidential statement also welcomed the Protocol signed by the Governments of Croatia and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Council commended the important role, played by UNMOP in helping to create conditions conducive to a negotiated settlement of the dispute. The Council also expressed its appreciation for the efforts of all UNMOP personnel, past and present, and its gratitude to those countries that contributed personnel or other resources in the successful completion of its mandate.