SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACKEEPING OPERATIONS

13 July 2000
SC/6889

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACKEEPING OPERATIONS

13 July 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6889

SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACKEEPING OPERATIONS

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Briefing the Security Council on the situation in Kosovo this afternoon, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations described a climate of continuing violence against ethnic minorities, persistent boycott of registration for municipal elections, and lack of full participation in local administrative structures.

Citing recent violence in Kosovo, Hédi Annabi said that during the second week of July, four grenade attacks on members of the Kosovo Romas community had left four people injured, including two children. Ethnic minorities in urban Pristina continued to report a lack of freedom of movement and access to essential services.

In northern Mitrovica, he said, the arrest of a Kosovo Serb by United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) police, after he had reportedly stoned a truck driven by a Kosovo Albanian, had sparked violence in which Kosovo Serbs and UNMIK police had been injured. Elsewhere, a well-organized group of Kosovo Serbs had ransacked UNMIK offices following the disappearance of a Kosovo Serb. The missing man had later been found dead.

He said special measures to enhance security for ethnic minorities had been taken since the last briefing to the Council by Bernard Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary-General. There were signs that the situation was stabilizing. In response to recent violence, UNMIK was concentrating on developing a special security force to deal with attacks against ethnic minorities. The UNMIK police would assist in educating the local population on crime prevention. Dr. Kouchner had enacted measures to curb the effects of irresponsible media coverage, including licensing regulations and a code of conduct.

Turning to the forthcoming municipal elections, he said UNMIK was reporting significant progress in voter registration, which was coming to a close. But despite the active participation of the Kosovo Albanian population, the Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Turks continued to boycott the process. On 7 July, Kosovo Serb leaders had organized a meeting where it had been decided not to register until security could be guaranteed and Kosovo Serbs refugees had returned home. On the other hand, the Kosovo Albanian Democratic Party had opposed a proposal for a proportional voting system with open lists of candidates.

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6889 4171st Meeting (PM) 13 July 2000

He said that the resumption of Kosovo Serbs participation in joint interim administration councils at the end of June had been tempered by the suspension of participation by the Democratic Party. The Kosovo Serbs had suspended their participation in the face of escalating violence in late May and early June. They had lifted the suspension following the signing of a joint understanding with Dr. Kouchner. But that had caused the Democratic Party to freeze its participation, citing fears that the agreement might lead to UNMIK delegating security powers to the Kosovo Serbs. The Kosovo Turkish population was also not participating.

Also this afternoon, the representative of the Russian Federation said his country could not support the holding of elections as scheduled in conditions of systematic violence with impunity against minorities. Holding elections at all costs could lead to a destabilization of the situation. The Russian Federation supported the principle of holding elections in a free political environment with guarantees of peace and would continue to insist on the full implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999).

Ukraine's representative noted that the general situation of Kosovo's national minorities had not improved. On the contrary, the systematic violence against non-Albanian minorities, especially Serbs and gypsies, was rising. Ukraine was, therefore, not fully satisfied with the activities of UNMIK and KFOR.

The representative of Malaysia said the Council should strongly condemn the violence and rioting in northern Mitrovica late last month in which the Kosovo Serbs had attacked UNMIK personnel, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international staff. Reports of the possible involvement of “foreign elements” should be clarified.

M. Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), Council President, speaking in her national capacity, reiterated her concern about the attacks on humanitarian agencies and personnel and expressed the hope that, with the resumption of humanitarian activities, more focus would be given to their protection. Jamaica supported the efforts of UNMIK and KFOR to ensure the security of international personnel.

Mr. Annabi also responded to questions and issues raised during the meeting.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, United States, Argentina, Canada, China, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Netherlands and Namibia.

The meeting began at 12 noon and adjourned at 2 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to hear a briefing on the subject of Kosovo.

Statements

HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that since the last briefing to the Council on the situation in Kosovo by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Bernard Kouchner, measures had been taken to enhance security for ethnic minorities, and there were signs that the situation was stabilizing. However, the resumption by Kosovo Serbs of participation in joint interim administration councils at the end of June had been tempered by the suspension of the Kosovo Albanian Democratic Party’s participation. The Kosovo Turkish population was also not participating.

Recalling that the Kosovo Serbs had suspended their participation in the face of escalating violence in late May and early June, he said they had lifted the suspension on 25 June for three months. However, the joint understanding leading to the resumption of their participation, signed by Bishop Artemije and Dr. Kouchner, had raised fears among the Kosovo Albanians that the agreement might lead to delegation by the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) of security powers to the Kosovo Serbs. The Democratic Party had then frozen its participation.

He said that discussions thereafter had focused on the design to be used in the forthcoming municipal elections. A proportional system with open lists of candidates had been proposed, but the Democratic Party had opposed that system. Despite the reluctance of Kosovo Serbs to register for the elections, Kosovo Serb representatives had begun participating in a number of local board meetings.

Returning to the topic of security, he outlined recent incidents. In the second week of this month, there had been four grenade attacks against members of the Kosovo Romas community, leaving four injured, including two children. Minorities in urban Pristina continued to report lack of freedom of movement and access to essential services. In northern Mitrovica, the arrest by UNMIK police of a Kosovo Serb suspected of stoning a truck driven by a Kosovo Albanian had led to violence by Kosovo Serbs in which Kosovo Serbs and UNMIK police had been injured. That had led to the suspension of services by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

He said similar violence had followed the disappearance of a Kosovo Serb. A well-organized group of Kosovo Serbs had ransacked UNMIK offices. The missing man had later been found dead. There had been a number of explosions in a Kosovo Serb village on 5 July. Two United Nations vehicles had been destroyed in the ensuing violence. When UNMIK and Kosovo Force (KFOR) police had arrived to investigate, the locals had placed their children on top of barricades to block them.

A KFOR weapons search had ended with the discovery of two large arms caches and a training ground nearby. Grenades, mortars and other explosives had been found. The caches were found to belong to the former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), but that had been denied.

On 7 July, a violent altercation had erupted in the Pec region involving a former KLA commander and several members of the successor Kosovo Protection Corps. The former commander had been wounded in the incident and had sought medical treatment from KFOR. He had eventually been flown to Germany and was yet to be interviewed by UNMIK investigators owing to his condition. An international prosecutor and an international investigating judge had been assigned to the case.

He said that in response to last month’s violence, UNMIK and KFOR were seeking all avenues to improve security. The UNMIK had concentrated recently on developing a special security force to deal with attacks against ethnic minorities. The UNMIK police would assist in educating the local population on crime prevention. Mr. Kouchner had also enacted measures to curb the effects of irresponsible media coverage. The measures included two regulations to govern the licensing and regulation of media coverage, as well as a code of conduct and an appeals process.

Regarding relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, he said UNMIK had proposed a Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) to address subjects of mutual concern with that country. The UNMIK was hopeful that it would be able to commence its activities shortly. There had been reports of an increased police presence in southern Serbia near the security zone. Some Serbs had fled into Kosovo after two elderly Serbs were killed in their homes.

Returning to the municipal elections, he said the civil registration was coming to a close and UNMIK was reporting significant progress in registering voters. Despite the active participation of the Kosovo Albanian population, the Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Turks continued to boycott the process. On 7 July, Kosovo Serb leaders had organized a meeting where it had been decided not to register until security could be guaranteed and Kosovo Serbs refugees had returned home.

He said that to boost the confidence of minorities, UNMIK had proposed measures going beyond the guarantees contained in international instruments, including the use of Turkish language on identity cards. On 8 July, Mr. Kouchner had signed regulations on the municipal elections under which he would have the authority to determine the election date after consultation with the Secretary- General.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said his delegation attached importance to the decision of the Serb National Council to participate in the Joint Administrative Structures. The decision was brave and courageous. Working within those structures was the best way to find a lasting solution to the problems in Kosovo. He hoped other minorities would participate in that institution. The United Kingdom remained concerned about the continued violence against Serbs and other minorities. It fully supported Mr. Annabi’s call for condemnation of violence by the Council whenever it occurred.

He drew attention to the need to put in place on time and on schedule procedures for the forthcoming elections. He reiterated the importance of participation in the elections by all communities in Kosovo. He urged everyone with influence to ensure that the registration process was completed. The United Kingdom welcomed the efforts of the Secretary-General to recruit more staff for UNMIK. It had provided some personnel for the judicial service. The United Kingdom was playing its part in stamping out crime in Kosovo, and it was on course to provide personnel by late August.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) noted that key provisions of resolution 1244 (1999) had still not been implemented. The problem of displaced persons and refugees had still not been resolved. He noted the systematic nature of the violence against minorities, and said the culture of impunity remained in place. The Russian Federation could not, in those conditions, support the holding of elections as scheduled this year. However, it supported the principle of holding elections, but in conditions in which a free political environment prevailed, and there were guarantees of peace. He drew attention to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) document which spelled out the criteria for conduct of elections. The policy of holding elections at all costs could lead to destabilization of the situation.

The Security Council should seriously consider the issue. He referred to Mr. Annabi’s statement concerning the stockpiling of weapons belonging to the KLA. He said there had been demonstrations demanding the return of those weapons. He would like to know UNMIK’s reaction to those demonstrations, as well as the response of the head of the Interim Administration , Dr. Kouchner, to the ultimatum issued by the KLA over the seizure of the weapons. He recalled that his country had not received replies to issues it had previously raised. He noted that no explanations had been given about the non-implementation of some provisions of resolution 1244 (1999).

His delegation had drawn attention to the inclusion of persons with a criminal past in the joint interim administrative structures and that the KFOR knew about that. He said Kosovo had become a major transit point for drugs, but no reference had been made to that in the reports of the Secretary-General. He would like to know why. He would continue to insist that resolution 1244 (1999) was implemented in full.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) recalled that the head of the Interim Administration in Kosovo, Dr. Kouchner, had, on 9 June, given an overview of what had happened there in the first year of the Mission. The decision of representatives of Kosovo Serbs to join the interim administrative structures should be welcomed. The cooperation of all Kosovars working with international organizations could help the establishment of institutions in which all citizens could participate. He encouraged UNMIK to continue to pursue its efforts towards that end.

JAMES CUNNINGHAM (United States) noted the responses of UNMIK in dealing with problems on the ground. He said the Council must be realistic about how it re-evaluated problems. His delegation was heartened by the determined efforts to strike a balance between freedom of the press and security needs. Elections were the best way to temper passions. His delegation applauded the decision of the Serb National Council to participate in the joint interim administrative structures. He also welcomed the registration exercise for the municipal elections.

As regarded UNMIK’s request for more staff, he said the United States had forwarded some 200 resumés for consideration. He added that the United States condemned violence in Kosovo. HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said the continued precarious security situation in Kosovo remained a matter of serious concern for his delegation. Malaysia continued to support the ongoing efforts of both UNMIK and KFOR to address that serious problem. It had also emphasized on previous occasions the need for leaders of all communities in Kosovo to play their constructive role to contribute to those efforts. It noted the positive responses or actions that had been taken in that regard.

Malaysia welcomed the signing last month of joint declarations in Pristina and Gnjilane, in which the leaders of the Albanian, Serb and Turkish communities condemned all acts of violence and terrorism directed against any inhabitants of the two municipalities. He said they, at the same time, committed themselves to work together for common peace and prosperity. That was indeed a very heartening development that represented a concrete contribution towards lessening inter- ethnic tension, which should be emulated by the other municipalities throughout Kosovo, especially in Mitrovica.

He said the current de facto division of Mitrovica was unacceptable and must be reversed as soon as possible. Furthermore, the outbreak of a series of violence and rioting in the northern part of the town -- late last month -- during which UNMIK personnel, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international staff, as well as their offices, transport and other facilities, were attacked by the Serbs, should be strongly condemned by the Council. Those responsible should be held accountable, he said. He sought a clarification from Mr. Annabi on reports about possible involvement of “foreign elements” in the attacks and acts of intimidation.

His delegation noted the signing on 29 June of the Joint UNMIK-Serb National Council Understanding which laid down additional steps to improve the situation of the Serb community in Kosovo. The initiative was very important as part of UNMIK’s efforts to improve the level of freedom, security and fundamental rights of the Serb community. The agreement by the Serb National Council to participate in the Joint Interim Administrative Structures as observers for another three months fell short of expectations, he said. He asked for further details from Mr. Annabi on the mandate, functions and composition of a Special Security Task Force that had been proposed in the Understanding.

Noting that the Understanding had drawn negative reaction from some quarters in the Kosovo Albanian community, he called on Mr. Annabi to enlighten his delegation on efforts to encourage the Democratic Party of Kosovo to reconsider its position and to return to the Interim Administrative Council. He said UNMIK’s efforts to engage local leaders and population in the administration of Kosovo should be pursued vigorously to fully prepare Kosovars to handle their own affairs.

His looked forward to the successful conduct of the forthcoming elections, he said. He sought more details on the status of the registration process and whether UNMIK could reach the target of 1.3 million people by the closing date of 15 July. He also sought an update on the issue of detainees and missing persons.

ANNA MARIA MOGLIA (Argentina) noted the improvements in the establishment of institutions such as the Ombudsman. She welcomed the decision of the Serb National Council to participate in the Joint Interim Administrative Structures. She pleaded with the Serbs to create conditions for peace in the region, and urged similar action by Albanians. There should be room for every community in the area, and she hoped they would all participate in the elections. She said efforts should be continued to prevent acts of vengeance.

Her delegation was concerned about the recent discovery of a cache of arms, and called for strict application of the arms embargo, by all States, including neighbouring countries. She also called for the return of all refugees and displaced persons.

DAVID R. ANGELL (Canada) said the issuance of the Municipal Election Law for Kosovo, which Mr. Annabi spoke of, was an important further step towards free and fair elections in the fall. Self-government at the local level would give Kosovars a chance to elect the leaders who would conduct politics that affected people directly.

Canada was pleased that, through extensive consultations with local representatives and international organizations, UNMIK had decided upon a system which would create optional conditions for candidates to participate in local politics. Pluralism would be promoted by the use of a proportional system with open lists: smaller parties, groups or communities would have a fair chance of being elected to office. The requirement that one third of all candidates on the top of the lists be women would reinforce the importance of equitable representation for all segments of society. Full participation in the elections was the best guarantee for communities to be fairly represented at all levels of public administration and contribute to the shaping of the future of the province.

He said UNMIK faced important challenges in organizing free and fair elections; the support of the international community was essential in that process. Efforts must be made to prevent violence and intimidation from being a factor in the elections. Ongoing intensive security measures were clearly needed. UNMIK's actions to ensure that the media refrained from publishing information which could be reasonably expected to incite hatred, intolerance or violence were also important. Canada encouraged UNMIK to continue to closely monitor media operations in the run-up to elections in order to maintain civil law and order and to protect human rights. Canada supported the creation of an Ombudsman in Kosovo.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) expressed the hope that UNMIK would make greater efforts to ensure the participation of all sections of the Kosovo population in the municipal elections. China was very concerned about attacks against ethnic minorities, which were obviously organized and premeditated.

He said that investigations into those violations of human rights had not yielded any results. They were not ordinary acts of revenge or even criminal acts, but attempts to transform Kosovo into a homeland for a single ethnic group. A very dangerous culture of impunity was being created.

The KFOR protection measures were not effective, he said. While proposed measures to improve security were welcome, not enough work had been done in adopting actual measures. China was concerned about whether free and just elections could be conducted under those circumstances. Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) had not been carried out in an effective manner.

ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) recalled the Council’s focus on Kosovo during UNMIK’s first anniversary last month. The phase of critical emergency had passed without major incidents, and basic services had been restored and were returning to normal.

However, Tunisia was concerned over the wave of violence against minorities stirred by hate and intolerance, he said. Those attacks were unacceptable and must be condemned as they jeopardized the efforts of the international community.

He hoped the electoral campaign would focus on the protection of minorities. The need to promote a culture of peace, tolerance and multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo, as well as in the entire Balkan region, must be emphasized.

VALERI P. KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said his country applauded the signing of the 29 June Joint UNMIK-Serb National Council Understanding on the participation of Kosovo Serb representatives in institutions under the Joint Interim Administrative Structures. The document laid concrete steps to be taken by UNMIK to enhance security and access to services for the Kosovo community, in particular, the creation of the UNMIK Police Special Security Task Force. Those measures were extremely important and timely and should ease the hardship of the Serb community. At the same time, he said nothing should prevent UNMIK from signing similar agreements with other Kosovo national minorities.

He called for more information about the concept of the establishment of a Kosovo war and ethnic crimes court proposed by UNMIK, and the correlation between its jurisdiction and that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Ukraine remained convinced that progress towards turning Kosovo into a peaceful and tolerant, democratic and self-governing entity within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia could hardly be achieved until the basic human rights of all ethnic groups, most of all the right to life, was respected. He noted that the general situation of national minorities had not improved. On the contrary, the systematic violence against non-Albanian minorities in Kosovo, especially Serbs and gypsies, was rising. Ukraine was, therefore, not fully satisfied with the activities of UNMIK and KFOR.

While acknowledging their efforts in promoting an atmosphere of safety and security, Ukraine encouraged them to take a more assertive approach to stopping all acts of violence, and to eliminate the illegal possession of weapons.

As regarded the forthcoming elections, his delegation was profoundly concerned that almost no Serbs had registered to vote. It had learned with interest of UNMIK’s plans to establish quotas for national minorities in the municipal elections irrespective of their participation in them. The approach might contradict the very notion of democratic elections, despite its good intentions. The problem of insufficient UNMIK police personnel was still very critical, he said. His country had offered a special unit of 115 policemen. They had been waiting for a United Nations inspection, which had been postponed several times.

SHAMIM AHMED (Bangladesh) expressed concern that UNMIK lacked the desired staffing requirements for civil administration and civilian police as requested by the Secretary-General. In addition to ongoing efforts to improve the security situation, it needed a full complement of police personnel, judges and civilian administration personnel.

He said that the continuing plight of missing persons and detainees was a source of constant agony and anxiety for their relatives. It bred mistrust and was counter-productive to attempts to build inter-ethnic harmony. The sooner the problem was resolved, the better the outlook for peace.

Welcoming the recent draft regulation on the structure and function of municipal administrations throughout Kosovo, he said that defining the powers and responsibilities of the municipalities was a prelude to the establishment of institutions for democratic and autonomous municipal self-government. It was also a step towards the gradual transfer of administrative responsibilities from UNMIK to local authorities.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands), referring to the boycott of the registration process by Kosovo Serbs, said it was in their own interest to participate in the municipal elections. However, the Netherlands was concerned about the violence against ethnic minorities, against KFOR and among the Kosovo Albanians themselves.

He said his country had often expressed its support for Dr. Kouchner, but expressed it with added conviction in rejecting criticism in some Kosovo Albanian quarters that the Special Representative's joint understanding with Bishop Artemije might lead to a delegation of security powers to the Kosovo Serb population.

TJI-TJAI UANIVI (Namibia) praised the tireless efforts of UNMIK and KFOR, which were often undertaken in extremely difficult conditions. He supported Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Turk participation in the municipal elections, which, he hoped, would be free and fair and would pave the way for peace, reconciliation and stability.

He expressed his country's satisfaction with the appointment of an Ombudsman in Kosovo.

M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), President of the Council, speaking in her national capacity, said she remained concerned that the acts of violence against minorities continued unabated, in particular, the attacks on Kosovo Serbs. Jamaica had noted the special measures being put in place to better protect the Serb communities, especially in the most violent areas. It joined other members of the Council in welcoming the signing of the Joint Understanding between UNMIK and the Serb National Council-Gracanica on additional measures to protect the freedom, security and fundamental rights of the Serb community. It looked forward to the positive impact that the development of a special security task force would have on the lives of the Serb community.

Her delegation noted the municipal election law that had recently been signed and that the civil registration period would close on 15 July. It noted also that very few Serbs had registered. She believed that it was necessary to ensure, as far as possible, the participation of all groups in order to encourage a sense of ownership of the democratic process. While there needed to be freedom of the press, there must also be responsible, unbiased reporting, she said. A careful balance must be maintained.

Equal importance must continue to be given to the promotion of reconciliation and tolerance in order for Kosovo to break free of its cycle of violence, she said. She reiterated her delegation's concern about the attacks on humanitarian agencies and personnel. She was also alarmed at the recent outbreak of violence that destroyed United Nations offices in Strpce in the southern part of the territory. She hoped that, with the resumption of humanitarian activities, more focus would be given to the protection of those personnel and equipment. She supported the efforts of UNMIK and KFOR to deal with the security of international personnel.

Responding to members’ questions and comments, Mr. Annabi said he had taken note of concerns expressed by Council members, particularly the representatives of the Russian Federation and China, concerning the forthcoming municipal elections. He said the announcement of the date of the elections would be made after consultations with the Secretary-General and after all aspects of the situation, including security, had been taken into account.

With regard to the discovery of the arms cache, he said he was not aware that KFOR intended to return the weapons to their owners. The head of the Interim Administration, Dr. Kouchner, had made it clear that the understanding between UNMIK and the Serb National Council was to ensure security for minorities. He had called for cooperation to also ensure better security for all communities.

He said the provisional identity cards issued by UNMIK were for registration purposes and strictly for use in the elections in Kosovo. They were not citizenship identity cards. The liaison offices established by some donor countries in Pristina were aimed at facilitating cooperation with UNMIK. They were not diplomatic missions, he said.

As regarded the staffing of the Mission, he said Member States had information on the precise needs of UNMIK when vacancies were expected, with departures and rotation of staff.

He said an ethnic crimes court had not yet been established and that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had confirmed that it would not affect its mandate. Replying to another issue, raised by Ukraine’s representative, he said delays in carrying out inspections of units offered to the Mission were caused by the need to inspect all those offered in one journey by Secretariat officials. Another contributing factor was the financial aspect.

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For information media. Not an official record.