BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS DRAWS MIXED REACTION FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS

24 August 2000
SC/6914

BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS DRAWS MIXED REACTION FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS

24 August 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6914

BRIEFING ON KOSOVO BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS DRAWS MIXED REACTION FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS

20000824

Russian Federation Says Upcoming Elections Prepare Ground for Province’s Separation from Yugoslavia

Following the completion of the civil registration process in Kosovo, the focus was now shifting to upcoming municipal elections, due to be held on 28 October, Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council this morning.

Briefing Council members on the situation in the province, he said one of the main concerns of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) during the pre-election period was the recent rise in what was perceived to be politically associated violence, particularly against members of the Democratic League of Kosovo. The Mission was therefore readjusting police priorities to face that challenge.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the international presence in Kosovo had been unable to end armed provocation. Pushing ahead with the planning of municipal elections regardless of the ongoing situation was unwise, particularly in the light of serious doubts being expressed by many international experts who were assessing the preparations. Holding those elections could also undermine efforts for peace.

He noted that the Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, had assumed the monopoly right to run Kosovo, and would be held responsible for the consequences of holding those elections without consulting either the Council or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The elections were preparing the ground for Kosovo’s separation from that country. He also questioned Mr. Kouchner’s activities, particularly his signing of an agreement to determine the status of KFOR and UNMIK without the involvement of the Council and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The representative of the United States said, however, that implementing resolution 1244 would take time and patience, and the elections would mark an important step in the transitional administration process. The recent commitment made by all the parties at Airlie House to respect the results of the elections and to ensure wide representation was also a welcome step; it would help ensure the goals of a multi-ethnic society and security for all.

China's representative expressed concern at the many events that served to undermine the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. A number of

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6914 4190th Meeting (AM) 24 August 2000

foreigners, for example, had visited Kosovo, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had had no say in the matter. A number of quasi-diplomatic operations had been set up with special privileges, which were again outside the purview of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Support for the independence of Kosovo could not be tolerated, he stressed.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the arrest by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia of two British policemen and two Canadian citizens was unacceptable, as were the conditions under which they were being detained. Three weeks after their arrest the detainees had still not been charged. He called on the Yugoslav authorities to either release the arrested persons immediately or bring charges against them. The entire incident, he said, was a comment on the state of affairs in Belgrade.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Bangladesh, France, Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, Tunisia, Jamaica, Ukraine, Namibia, Mali and Malaysia.

The meeting began at 10:47 a.m. and adjourned at 12:51 p.m.

Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6914 4190th Meeting (AM) 24 August 2000

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the situation in Kosovo by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hedi Annabi.

Briefing by Assistant Secretary-General

HEDI ANNABI, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that last month had seen the culmination of the first phase of the civil registration process in Kosovo. Some 90 per cent of Kosovo Albanians participated in it. Of those applications, 100,000 were subjected to a review process, which should be completed by the end of September. The total number of names on the civil registry was now over 930,000. Over the past month the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) had made major efforts to ensure that registration was simple and safe. Yet widespread intimidation by hard-line Serb elements had managed to dissuade the vast majority of Kosovo Serbs from participating. Kosovo Turkish participation was also limited, due to ongoing divisions within their own communities over the status of the Turkish language. Radical elements had repeatedly rejected UNMIK proposals despite the Turkish Government’s endorsement of them. Radicals maintained their demands for the imposition of Turkish as a third national language.

He said that following the completion of the civil registration process, the focus was shifting to upcoming municipal elections, which would be held on 28 October. One of the Mission’s main concerns during the pre-election period was the recent rise in what was perceived to be politically associated violence, particularly against members of the Democratic League of Kosovo. UNMIK was therefore readjusting police priorities to face that challenge. During two town hall meetings held by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, local residents had asked what measures would be taken to ensure that the elections were “free and fair”. Those town hall meetings were the first in a series that the Special Representative planned to hold throughout the province over the coming weeks.

As part of UNMIK’s commitment to equal rights for all of Kosovo’s communities, the Special Representative had launched a new initiative designed to improve conditions and services for non-Serb and non-Albanian communities. The initiative envisaged special support programmes for those communities in a number of areas, including health, education, social welfare and public services. On 21 to 23 July, 40 representatives of Kosovo’s Serb and Albanian communities met in Airlie, Virginia, at a conference convened by the United States Institute of Peace. The Airlie Declaration, which was adopted, endorsed the building of democracy in Kosovo as the highest priority, and the holding of free elections as a key element in the process.

He went on to say that the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Kosovo, Erik Morris, had stressed in talks with federal officials that it was not possible to promote the return of internally displaced persons until conditions for safe and sustainable return were in place. Mr. Annabi added that while voluntary return movements from Western Europe and other countries had continued at a regular pace, involuntary returns from Germany and Switzerland were rapidly rising. Although the Governments involved normally upheld UNMIK’s position on not forcing the return of minorities, a number of protection cases involving both Kosovo Roma and Gorani minorities had been detected.

He said UNMIK’s Trepca administration would now assess the technical, environmental and financial feasibility of the entire Trepca mining and metallurgical complex in northern Kosovo. At the same time, UNMIK would repair or replace safety and production equipment. As part of that effort, up to 2,000 local Trepca workers would be employed over the next year. The budget for that phase of the mine’s renovation was set at $16 million and included funds from workers’ salaries, equipment and payments to the consortium. Most of that sum had already been raised from the European Union, the United States, France and Italy.

An upsurge of violence and instability in the city of Mitrovica over the latter half of July underscored the fragility of the peace process in Kosovo. Incidents of inter-ethnic violence were accompanied by periodic outbreaks of organized unrest among elements of the Kosovo Serb community in the northern part of the city. That unrest became particularly acute in the wake of the UNMIK police’s detention of a Kosovo Serb “bridge watcher” on 16 July. Following the unrest, UNMIK police officers were illegally detained, their weapons and equipment seized and apartments broken into and ransacked. While the situation had calmed significantly, such episodes of organized unrest highlighted the relative ease with which troublemakers could raise tension in the northern part of the city.

Minority populations , he said, continued to be target of ethnic violence and intimidation. Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Roma, in particular, had been the victims of shootings and grenade attacks. In one of the most recent incidents, a group of Kosovo Serb children were injured in grenade attacks in Oblic in the Pristina region. Low-intensity guerrilla activity also continued to be observed in the Presevo valley. There had been intermittent reports of violent clashes, which were believed to involve the self-styled Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac and Serbian security forces. At the end of July a series of incidents, including extended exchanges of gunfire and mortar attacks, were recorded inside the Ground Safety Zone east of Dobrosin. Recent developments served as a reminder that the stability of the situation in Southern Serbia was still an issue of concern.

Statements

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), noting that a number of positive developments had taken place, welcomed the announcement that municipal elections would be held in October. That would be the first major step towards implementing democracy in Kosovo. It was also noteworthy that more than 1 million people had participated in the voter registration process, but it was regrettable that about 100,000 Serbs had not registered. However, the ongoing cycle of violence must end and Kosovars, irrespective of their ethnic origin, must unite against those who disrupted peace and threatened the peaceful coexistence necessary for building a safe, democratic, and multi-ethnic future for Kosovo.

UNMIK should concentrate on security aspects, particularly as elections were upcoming, he continued, because political violence could increase with their approach. The judiciary in Kosovo had also been dysfunctional, mainly due to a lack of judges, and the recent appointment of more than 400 judges and prosecutors by the head of UNMIK was welcome.

Referring to the situation of missing persons and detainees, he pointed out that the persistence of that issue bred mistrust and was counter-productive to attempts to build inter-ethnic harmony. In addition, the pace of economic activity in Kosovo needed a boost; that would engage Kosovars in pursuit of jobs and allow them to look forward to the future rather than be haunted by the past.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said progress was only being achieved on certain levels, as many people who lived in Kosovo constantly feared for their lives. Some were still unable to return to their homes. The establishment of a free, multi-ethnic, safe society was still as far away as it was one year ago, and resolution 1244 was still being violated. The relevant tasks were being unsuccessfully tackled and the territorial sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was still being violated. Violence continued and, as usual, those responsible remained unidentified. The international presence had been unable to end armed provocation, and pushing ahead with the planning of municipal elections regardless of the ongoing situation was unwise, particularly in the light of serious doubts being expressed by many international experts assessing the preparations.

Holding elections could undermine efforts for peace, he stressed. Such policies could only promote lawlessness and illegality. It was necessary for refugees and displaced persons to participate, but the measures to ensure their participation were not in place. The reasons given by the Assistant Secretary- General for the non-participation of Serbs were insufficient. The main reasons were that the Serbs continued to feel far from secure in their situation, constantly felt threatened for their lives, had no freedom of movement and were witnessing Albanian elements carrying out illegal activities against them with impunity. Holding municipal elections in Kosovo might provoke a regional crisis; the decision to hold those elections should have been made only after consultations with the Council.

He noted that Mr. Kouchner had assumed the monopoly right to run Kosovo, and would be held responsible for the consequences of holding those elections without consulting with the Council and with the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The elections were preparing the ground for separation from Yugoslavia. Recently, Hashim Thaci had referred to Yugoslavia as a neighbouring country, without being corrected by UNMIK. Also, he would like to question Mr. Kouchner’s activities, particularly his signing of an agreement to determine the status of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and UNMIK without the involvement of the Council and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. KFOR had violated its commitment to resolution 1244 by signing that agreement, and it had no legal status. The resolution must be implemented by both the political and ethnic groups in Kosovo, as well as the United Nations and its relevant bodies. In addition, citing environmental and health concerns as reasons for the take-over of the Zvecan smelter was unacceptable. It could be considered a seizure and alienation of property which belonged to Serbs.

JEAN DAVID LEVITTE (France) said his delegation welcomed the decision made by the Secretary-General's Special Representative on 8 July, in accordance with Council resolution 1244, on the upcoming elections. Those elections were taking place at the right time to establish a culture of democracy in Kosovo. Elections required a climate of calm which UNMIK and KFOR were tirelessly striving to establish.

He said much progress had been made over the last two months. That must continue, he stressed. The continuation of violence in the province, however, was intolerable, especially when it was carried out against children and mission personnel. He said that the European Union, through its reconstruction arm, would provide aid to the tune of over 6 million euros to help rebuild mining facilities in the province.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said the arrest by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia of two British policemen and two Canadian citizens was unacceptable, as were the conditions under which they were being detained. The detainees to date had only been allowed one telephone call to their families. That and other irregularities were inhumane and unjustifiable. Three weeks after their arrest the detainees had still not been charged. He called on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia either to release the arrested persons immediately or bring charges against them. The entire incident, he said, was a statement on the state of affairs in Belgrade.

It was essential to do everything possible to make the 28 October municipal elections a success, he said. He added that could not agree with the doubts expressed by the Russian Federation about the process. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was doing good preparatory work to ensure that the elections took place under the best circumstances. The United Kingdom had responded well to the request for more staff by the OSCE, and had provided 12 people. His delegation deplored the violence associated with the lead-up to the election, and condemned the recent attack on Serb children. Those responsible must be prosecuted. The clear message was that violence against democracy was unacceptable.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said implementing resolution 1244 would take time and patience, and the elections would mark an important step in the transitional administration process. The recent commitments made by all the parties at Airlie House to respect the results of the elections and to ensure wide representation was also a welcome step that would help ensure the goals of a multi-ethnic society and security for all. However, the level of violence continued to be a matter of concern. Such activities should not be tolerated, he stressed. Acts of violence were unacceptable, and all forms of intimidation during the campaign must be rejected.

He stated that the smelter did pose environment and health risks. Such a situation would not be tolerated by any Government in the Council. It had been closed in the interest of the Serbs. Also, resolution 1244 had conferred legal status upon KFOR and UNMIK, and they were acting in their right in issuing a statement on that status. He also recommended that the authorities in Belgrade either release or charge the Canadian and British detainees.

JOOP W. SCHEFFERS (Netherlands) noted that his Government would contribute to the transitional process by providing more than 30 observers for the elections. Condemning the recent violent attempts to destabilize the peace process, he pointed out that polarization between the international community and Kosovo must be avoided. Also, UNMIK was acting within its right when it closed down and took over the smelter.

Referring to the upcoming elections, he said the Kosovo Serbs must be allowed to participate. Furthermore, persistent reports of violent activities by Kosovar extremists continued to be a matter of concern. In addition, he too believed that the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should make a decision on the treatment of the detainees.

PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) also expressed concern over the detention of two Canadians and two British citizens and the long denial of consular notification and access. He was convinced that the charges of espionage and terrorism against the detainees were unfounded. Those types of accusations put personnel working with or for the United Nations missions in the area at risk. The incident indicated their vulnerability to political manipulation.

He said the signing of the Airlie Declaration by representatives of the Serb and Albanian communities of Kosovo was important for reconciliation. Also, the recently issued regulation on the self-government of municipalities in Kosovo laid the foundation for local democracy, which would take root when the elections were held. However, it was disappointing that Kosovar Serbs had not participated in the registration process. They must be encouraged to do so, as that was the best guarantee for full representation of all communities in the public administration process.

UNMIK faced important challenges in organizing free and fair elections, and the support of the international community was necessary. Ongoing intensive security measures to prevent violence and intimidation would be crucial. He also supported the decision to close down the mining and metallurgical complex in Trepca.

CHEN XU (China) said the situation in Kosovo had not improved in any fundamental way. Violence continued, while Serbs and other minorities were still unable to return home. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) also continued to carry out activities that contributed to a climate of fear. The United Nations had been in Kosovo for 14 months, and according to today’s briefing both UNMIK and KFOR had made great efforts. The indisputable fact, however, was that the situation in Kosovo was critical. Unless something was done, the credibility of the Organization would be called into question. The personal safety and freedom of movement of all residents of the province had to be ensured. An unfair election would also cause further ethnic conflicts.

He said the takeover of the Trepca mining complex was not a simple environmental issue but a sensitive political one. It was a complex on which the Serbs depended for their livelihood. The takeover would only serve to agitate more ethnic strife. He also expressed concern at the many events that served to undermine the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. A number of foreigners, for example, had visited Kosovo, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had had no say in the matter. A number of quasi-diplomatic operations had been set up with special privileges, which were again outside the purview of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Support for the independence of Kosovo could not be tolerated, he stressed.

HOLGER FEDERICO MARTINSEN (Argentina) said local communities were the foundation of democracy. The upcoming municipal election in Kosovo would be an opportunity for Kosovars to understand the value of becoming fully involved in democratic life. He hoped UNMIK would take all the necessary steps to ensure that the elections reflected the will of all the people. Tolerance was possible, and warranted optimism for the success of the electoral process.

He noted that as the date of the election drew closer new security challenges would arise. The kidnapping of the leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo was an act that must be categorically condemned. The current tension in Mitrovica was a matter of concern as well. Actions by extremists there must also be condemned. An impartial and independent multi-ethnic judiciary would safeguard against a culture of impunity taking root in Kosovo.

M. ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said the first stage of UNMIK's activities to restore normalcy in Kosovo had been implemented successfully, despite the presence of some thorny issues. All Kosovars had to participate in the upcoming municipal elections. There also had to be a peaceful lead-up to the elections. In that respect, the presence of the United Nations remained crucial.

CURTIS A. WARD (Jamaica) pointed out that despite UNMIK’s efforts, violence continued and Serbs continued to be at risk. The takeover of the smelter by KFOR had been done in accordance with resolution 1244, but the resulting protests were of concern. The inclusion of the Serb National Council in the peace process was commendable, but the recent problems being faced in Kosovo might counter the ongoing efforts of the Mission. Full participation in the upcoming elections was crucial to the peace process, as had been widely acknowledged. Therefore, efforts to ensure security must be encouraged.

The full participation of all ethnic groups was also necessary for a sustainable peace-building effort, he continued. Serbs should participate in the entire electoral process, and UNMIK must continue to create the environment to enable their participation. On another issue, he said that KFOR reports indicated that the population in Kosovo continued to turn over their arms; however, those reports did not contain information on violations, nor on the origins of those weapons.

VOLODYMYR YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) stated that the non-participation of all minorities in the upcoming municipal elections would undermine their inter-ethnic and democratic nature and hamper United Nations efforts to establish a tolerant and democratic society in Kosovo. Therefore, UNMIK should promote other ways to ensure adequate representation of the interests of all national minorities in local municipal assemblies. In that light, how would the vote in municipalities where Serbs and Turks were in the majority be conducted?

Expressing concern about the growing ethnic violence in Kosovo, he said that any progress in ensuring that Kosovo became a self-governing entity within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should be sought through ensuring adequate security conditions and basic human rights for all ethnic groups. Moreover, the international community should condemn politically motivated crimes, which were committed prior to the elections. Any act of violence against UNMIK and KFOR personnel was also unacceptable, and the security of those persons should remain a top priority.

He said he supported the intention of UNMIK to preserve and maintain the facilities of the Trepca mine complex in the interest of the people of Kosovo. However, it was unnecessary for the United Nations to take over the complex by force. It was also strange that the environmental problem became so acute after only one year of UNMIK’s presence in the province, and on the eve of the September elections in Yugoslavia. It was important that all former workers be reassigned their jobs as soon as the complex was reopened. Furthermore, some clarification should be given on reports that the director of the smelter had recently been denied entry to Kosovo. The disputed ownership of the complex could only be decided before a competent court. In that light, how did UNMIK intend to solve the problem of unemployed workers in the event of a change of ownership of the smelter?

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) also expressed satisfaction that preparations for holding municipal elections were proceeding well, and that the office of the Special Representative had been communicating with the authorities in Belgrade. He urged the Belgrade authorities to encourage the minority communities in Kosovo to participate in the elections. The series of initiatives introduced by the Mission and geared towards the protection of minority communities, as well as the introduction of a number of measures to address politically motivated violence in Kosovo, were also positive steps. However, the deteriorating security situation in Mitrovica continued to be a matter of concern.

On the issue of the takeover of the mine, he asked how that development would affect the unemployment rate in the locality, and how it would impact on the ongoing preparations for the municipal elections.

ISSOUF OUMAR MAIGA (Mali) said tangible progress had been achieved by the interim United Nations administration in managing the conflict in Kosovo. However, he was disappointed that certain negative aspects of the situation in the province had not vanished. Attacks, threats of violence and assassinations still continued. The creation of a society where the population could live in peace without fear and insecurity was still a high priority.

He called on UNMIK to police the upcoming elections appropriately, so that the process could take place smoothly. The efforts of the international community could only be successful when a solution was found to the question of prisoners and people who had disappeared, security guarantees for minorities were reinforced and jobs found for them.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) reaffirmed his Government's strong support for the ongoing efforts of Mr. Kouchner, UNMIK and KFOR, and noted with satisfaction the close and constructive cooperation between those two main pillars of international support in Kosovo. While welcoming the successful conclusion of the registration process on 19 July in preparation for the upcoming municipal elections, he regretted the continued boycott of the process by the Kosovar Serbs as it served to isolate their community in the effort to establish democracy in the territory.

The continuing acts of violence by irresponsible elements in Kosovo must be condemned, he said. He called on leaders and people at every level to constructively play their part to fight extremism and promote ethnic civility and coexistence. The issue of missing persons and the continued detention of Kosovar Albanians in jail in Serbia were also matters of serious concern to the international community. In that regard, he called for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia authorities to cooperate with UNMIK in resolving the problem in a humane and responsible manner.

Response to Council Comments

Responding to the comments and questions of Council members, Mr. ANNABI said the regulation signed by Mr. Kouchner on the privileges, status and immunities of KFOR and UNMIK in Kosovo was to enable personnel to carry out their normal functions. Moreover, the regulation was particularly adopted to protect them as needed in the local courts. It also ensured and clarified that OSCE and European Union personnel had similar privileges and immunities, and clarified liabilities and procedures for waiver in Kosovo. It did not threaten the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, he stressed.

He stated that the closure of the smelter was a temporary measure. Mr. Kouchner had earlier indicated the intention to reopen it as soon as it came in conformity with environmental and health regulations. On the issue of the weapons recovered by KFOR, additional information would be sought and brought to the Council’s attention as soon as it was received. Regarding the appointment of an envoy for missing persons, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner was making those arrangements, which were expected to be completed shortly.

Addressing the conduct of elections in areas where there was a Serbian and Turk minority, he noted that UNMIK had made efforts to ensure participation by all in the process. Registration was completed and it was not technically possible to reopen that process. It had allowed the Special Representative to appoint members of the minorities to ensure adequate representation, and Mr. Kouchner was prepared to take the necessary measures to ensure such representation in the municipal elections.

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For information media. Not an official record.