IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE DESCRIBES MARCH VIOLENCE IN KOSOVO AS ‘MOST SERIOUS SETBACK’ IN LAST FIVE YEARS
IN BRIEFING TO SECURITY COUNCIL, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE DESCRIBES MARCH VIOLENCE IN KOSOVO AS ‘MOST SERIOUS SETBACK’ IN LAST FIVE YEARS
4967th Meeting (AM)
in briefing to Security Council, special representative describes march
violence in kosovo as ‘most serious setback’ in last five years
Pledging to Do Everything Possible to Bring
Perpetrators to Justice, He Says 270 Arrests Made So Far
Harri Holkeri, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), today described the wave of violence that had swept the province in mid-March as the most serious setback to the Mission’s efforts in the last five years and had shaken UNMIK “to its foundations”.
Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the province for the first time since October, he said the violence had challenged the sustainability of the international community’s efforts to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo where all citizens could live in peace and security. “The violence has forced us at UNMIK to take a long hard look at ourselves”, he said, adding that the Mission was questioning whether its response had been adequate, and whether it had done enough to prevent the violence. The UNMIK had since been reviewing its operational procedures in responding to crises, for which a review board had been appointed.
Pledging to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice, he said some 270 arrests had been made so far. The priority now was to target investigations on the principal organizers, as well as on homicides and arson. Local prosecutors were handling more than 130 cases directly related to the riots, and some 50 cases of a more serious nature had been entrusted to international prosecutors. To facilitate that activity, UNMIK had requested 100 additional police investigators, six international prosecutors and three international judges.
In another shocking event, he said that on 17 April, three United States correctional officers had been killed and 11 others -- 10 Americans and an Austrian -– wounded after a Jordanian Special Police Unit officer had opened fire without provocation. The Jordanian police officer had been killed when the American officers had returned fire, and his four companions, also Jordanian Special Police Unit officers, were under investigation for their role in the crime.
Turning to another issue, he said that the rights of all Kosovo’s communities could be ensured above all by the vigorous implementation of the Standards for Kosovo, which remained a top priority for UNMIK. The Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan set out in detail the actions designed to meet the Standards, who was responsible for undertaking them, and when they were planned to take place. The commitment to the Plan’s implementation by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the people of Kosovo was crucial to its success. The coming elections would be a test of that commitment.
Vuk Draskovic, Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro, said a cornerstone of the “standards before status” policy must be to address the consequences of ethnic cleansing aimed at Serbs and to provide for their full security, right to life and other human, civil and ethnic rights. The international community should not think today in terms of final status since the rights of Kosovar Serbs were being tragically violated, and such human suffering could not constitute the basis for any final status.
Serbia and Montenegro favoured the decentralization of power in Kosovo by the establishment of local self-rule in Serb-populated municipalities, towns, villages and so-called Serbian enclaves, he said. That kind of autonomy paved the way for a multi-ethnic and multicultural Kosovo, leading to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians and to their common European future.
However, Albania’s representative noted that the international community had pushed for a long time towards the creation of a multi-ethnic society as the only solid basis for a democratic culture in Kosovo. That process could not be held back by the proposal of old ideas of division and cantonization under the legal cover of a democratic process for the decentralization of power. The international community should offer Kosovo freedom, not isolation; coexistence, not division along ethnic lines; and the opportunity to become, as fast as possible, part of the European family.
As for standards, he said that goal would lay the groundwork for the full discussion of Kosovo’s final status. There was a need to transfer more social and economic powers from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in the province. Furthermore, it was high time a solution was found to the problem of parallel structures so that they could no longer challenge UNMIK’s vision for the province’s future.
Council President Munir Akram (Pakistan), speaking in his national capacity, said that instead of transforming standards before status into dogma, the Council should promote a “status with standards” approach, which would hold the Kosovars accountable for implementing the standards programme, working out the extremism and intolerance, and creating cooperative relations with their neighbours. That approach would simultaneously see progress in clarifying the status issue, while seeking to uphold the rights and interests of all Kosovars, including the minorities.
The representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that no one should be allowed to achieve political goals through violence. The attempt to force non-Albanian communities out and to undermine the social basis for their lives, including by destroying Serbian orthodox monuments, had been a “conscious policy of ethnic cleansing”. Paramilitary bands left over from the organizational structure of the Kosovo Liberation Army should be dissolved; the size of international forces in Kosovo should be increased; and their anti-terrorist component should be strengthened.
Romania’s representative called for the establishment of a stricter regime for small arms and light weapons, as well as intensified operations to collect illegal weapons. It was crucial to eradicate the mentality of violence as a means to achieve political goals. That should proceed on every level and in every field, not least starting with a change of attitude on the part of political and local leaders who had failed to act responsibly during the recent crisis. To the same end, the local media should be supported to acquire more professional and democratic reporting standards.
Chile’s representative, also stressing that no political gain must result from the March violence, said the Kosovar leaders must bring the perpetrators to justice, and seize illegal weapons. They must begin to rebuild damaged sites or provide some form of compensation, and facilitate the return of those who had been displaced again. Further, they must comply fully with commitments made to restore multi-ethnicity and ensure Kosovo’s reconstruction.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the following Council members: United Kingdom, Brazil, Philippines, Algeria, France, Angola, United States, Benin, China, Spain and Germany.
The representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Iceland and Ukraine also spoke.
Today’s meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and adjourned at 1:21 p.m.
When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro), it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2004/348), covering that Mission’s activities from 1 January to 31 March.
According to the report, the defining event during the reporting period was the widespread violence that occurred in March, which represents a serious setback to the stabilization and normalization of Kosovo. As a consequence of the onslaught led by Kosovo Albanian extremists against Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities, 19 persons died and 954 persons were injured. In addition, 65 international police officers, 58 Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officers and 61 personnel of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) suffered injuries. Approximately 730 houses belonging to minorities were damaged or destroyed, as were 36 Orthodox churches, monasteries and other religious and cultural sites.
The initial response by the leadership of the Provisional Institutions was ambivalent, the report states. However, after international condemnation of the violence, condemnations by Kosovo Albanian politicians became harsher. On 2 April, Kosovo Albanian officials and leaders, as well as representatives of the Turkish, Bosniac, Egyptian, Ashkali and Roma communities, signed an open letter condemning the violence and stating that politicians and the people of all ethnicities would work together to build a better Kosovo. The Government also committed itself to establishing a fund to repair all damage done to buildings and religious sites. The authorities in Belgrade had played a constructive role in collective efforts to stem the violence and prevent extremist reaction.
Following the launch on 10 December 2003 of the “Standards for Kosovo” document (see Press Release SC/7951 of 12 December 2003), five UNMIK/Provisional Institutions working groups began work on the Standards Implementation Plan, which was launched on 31 March. Following the violent events in March, the Implementation Plan was revised by, among other things, including six priority actions on returns. Until the violent events of mid-March, there had been limited but encouraging prospects for returns in 2004. However, the violence in March has completely reversed the returns process. In less than 48 hours, 4,100 minority community members were newly displaced, more than the total of 3,664 that had returned throughout 2003.
The violence also has had an extremely negative impact on the freedom of movement of members of the minority communities. Many are now unwilling to travel without KFOR escorts. Minority communities are now more isolated than at any time in the past three years. Restrictions on movement also adversely affect their economic situations. The KFOR is temporarily providing fixed checkpoints for minority communities. UNMIK humanitarian bus service has resumed only three of its regular routes.
Inter-ethnic relations at the local level have been severely damaged as a result of the violence. Kosovo Serbs who have cooperated with UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions are increasingly seen as traitors to their community. Kosovo Serbs are demanding a review of the future role of the municipal community offices. Within some mixed municipalities, there is an emerging trend for Kosovo Serb municipal employees to look for relocation, while in others minorities have not resumed their duties for security reasons.
Following the violence, UNMIK police put in place temporary measures to ensure capacity to counter any further outbreaks of disorder. It has shifted resources to establish the full facts of what occurred and arrest and prosecute those responsible for organizing or instigating the March violence. In order to investigate the events impartially, vigorously and effectively, UNMIK has made a request for 100 additional international specialist police investigators and six additional international prosecutors.
It appears that during the violence the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) performed professionally, although the possibility remains that some members may have active links with extremist organizations. During the reporting period, the KPC moved forward in meeting standards in areas such as downsizing, logistics and humanitarian construction projects. In line with the KPC mandate, personnel strength stands at 3,052, including only 132 minority members. The possible involvement of some KPC members in criminal activity continued to affect the organization’s image.
The recent violence has damaged the economy in terms of weakened investor interest and confidence. Combined with the high level of unemployment and in spite of continuing growth projected at around 4 per cent in 2004, the short- and medium-term economic outlook remains a major concern. The privatization process continues. The Regulation on Public Procurement, promulgated in February, will play a role in strengthening the competitiveness of domestic enterprises. Owing to a lack of preparation by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, several critical budgetary discussions and processes were delayed. On 1 April, the PristinaAirport was handed over from the military (KFOR) to civilian (UNMIK) control.
Regarding the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, the report states that two of the four working groups on direct dialogue met in early March. Neither of the working groups has held their planned second meetings, and significant delays in the dialogue are expected in the wake of the March events. While the Government of Serbia has stated that the dialogue should resume, it also pointed to the need to restore confidence and to implement a political process to provide guarantees to the Kosovo Serb community. The Prime Minister of Kosovo has stated that recent events do not mean the end of direct dialogue with Belgrade, but that an “internal inter-ethnic dialogue” needs to be conducted first.
The report observes that the ethnically motivated violence of March was a serious setback for the efforts to build a democratic, multi-ethnic and stable Kosovo, calling into question the timetable for a successful implementation of the standards and threatening to destabilize the region. The security situation in Kosovo remains a cause for serious concern. The humanitarian consequences of the crisis also need to be addressed in the shortest possible time.
There can be no peaceful and prosperous future for Kosovo without respect for the diversity of its people, the Secretary-General writes in his report, and violence will not be rewarded. He called on Kosovo political leaders to take effective steps to ensure that those who perpetrated the violence are brought to justice, and to sanction civil servants and politicians who failed to act responsibly during the crisis.
The violence has clearly demonstrated that Kosovo has a long way to go in fulfilling the standards endorsed by the Council on 12 December 2003. In the wake of the violence, there is more than ever a need for the leadership and society of Kosovo to achieve the standards as a basis for a stable and well-governed entity. The Council should ensure that UNMIK has the necessary resources to vigorously pursue investigations and the prosecution of those responsible for the violence.
HARRI HOLKERI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that the brutal wave of violence in mid-March had been the most serious setback to UNMIK’s efforts of the last five years and “shook the Mission to its foundations”. The violence challenged the sustainability of the international community’s efforts to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo where all citizens could live in peace and security.
He said that UNMIK would do all it could to bring to justice all those who provoked or engaged in the violence. Some 270 arrests had been made so far. The priority now was to target investigations on the principal organizers, as well as on homicides and arson. Local prosecutors were handling more than 130 cases directly related to the riots. Some 50 cases of a more serious nature had been entrusted to international prosecutors. Those cases would be resolved and the perpetrators would be punished.
To facilitate that activity, UNMIK had requested 100 additional police investigators, six international prosecutors and three international judges, he said. So far, 14 police investigators had arrived in Kosovo and 20 more were expected soon. He requested a more definite commitment, however, from Member States to enable the investigations to move forward. Arrests of key suspects in the March violence triggered some protest demonstrations, but those had been isolated and local politicians had been quick to urge veteran and student associations not to participate.
He said that investigations were progressing well into the murder of two police officers on 23 March. The Mission suffered yet another shock when, on 17 April, three United States correctional officers were killed and 11 others –- 10 American and one Austrian officer –- were injured, when a Jordanian Special Police Unit officer opened fire without provocation. The Jordanian police officer was killed when the American officers returned fire. His four companions, also Jordanian Special Police Unit officers, were being investigated for their role in the crime.
“The violence has forced us at UNMIK to take a long hard look at ourselves”, he said. The Mission was questioning whether its response had been adequate, and whether it had done enough to prevent it. The speed with which violence spread over Kosovo had overwhelmed the capacity of KFOR and UNMIK security forces to respond. The UNMIK had no means to augment its security forces; KFOR was not reinforced until after the violence ended. The Mission had since been reviewing operational procedures and coordination in responding to crisis, for which he had appointed a review board. He would act on its recommendations.
In reaction to the March unrest, the Prime Minister and other key political leaders called for a halt to the violence, but those were tardy in specifically condemning the attacks on minorities and minority sites, he said. Some politicians had used the violence to renew calls for independence. Some senior governmental officials and the local news media had jumped to conclusions about the cause of the 16 March drowning of the young Albanian boys, thereby contributing to the trouble. Some had gone so far as to justify the violence as a legitimate reaction against Serb parallel structures and United Nations “misgovernment”. The unprofessional and provocative reporting of the events by much of the local media had inflamed the situation.
He said that the impact of the violent attacks on members of the Kosovo Serb, Roma and Ashkali communities had been dramatic. Some 4,100 persons had been displaced in just two days. The violence had obviously had a very adverse effect on the overall returns process. The viability of returns in 2004 depended on a variety of factors, including the building of trust and enhancement of security. Much depended on the effectiveness and visibility of the initiative led by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to rebuild what had been destroyed, as well as on its ability to outreach to the minority communities, build confidence and reconcile the parties.
Achieving progress on returns, including the newly displaced, would require a substantial increase in the quality and quantity of protection provided by KFOR and the police. In the immediate future, KFOR should play a much more substantial role in providing a secure environment regarding returns and minority communities than had been envisioned at the start of the year. The Government’s initiative to reconstruct damaged houses was to be commended, but reconstruction must not be allowed to become a half-hearted, superficial effort.
Meanwhile, he added, the current security environment in Kosovo was not conducive to the forcible return of members of minority communities to their homes in Kosovo. He was urging countries, where persons from minority communities in Kosovo had been granted temporary protection, to extend such protection until such time as their return in conditions of safety and dignity could be guaranteed, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244.
The rights of all communities in Kosovo could be ensured above all by the vigorous implementation of the Standards for Kosovo, which remained a top priority for UNMIK, he said. The Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan set out in detail the actions designed to meet the Standards; who was responsible for undertaking them; and when they were planned to take place. The commitment to the Plan’s implementation by the Provisional Institutions and the people of Kosovo was crucial to its success. The coming elections would be a test of that commitment. It was imperative that all the political parties maintain their full support for the standards process and that the next government, whatever its composition, work hard to ensure maximum progress.
The Implementation Plan was comprehensive, detailing many policies, he said. Progress would require hard work from all of Kosovo’s institutions, at both the central and municipal levels, as well as partnership between UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions. However, though the introduction of new and tough actions was essential to reflect the new reality in Kosovo, the Provisional Institutions had displayed an insufficient level of commitment so far. The deadline for the production of the Plan’s revised policies in the areas of Returns and Communities, as well as Freedom of Movement following the violence, had already been missed. The Provisional Institutions needed to do more.
He said the Serb community had chosen not to participate in the Standards process. Other non-Albanian communities were participating because they understood that the process was all about improving conditions for their own, as well as all communities in Kosovo. The door remained open for the Serb community to participate.
Regarding dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, he recalled that just days before the eruption of violence in March, UNMIK had successfully launched two Direct Dialogue Working Groups –- on energy and missing persons. Unfortunately, the outbreak of unrest had forced the postponement of the process. In the weeks since the violence, leaders in Belgrade and Pristina had said that in the current political climate, dialogue was on hold.
Strengthening local government was an important component of the Standards and key to ensuring peaceful coexistence among all communities, he said. Work on that had begun, and its success required the full and constructive engagement of all communities, as well as the Provisional Institutions. But the key to effective and enduring reform of local government was that any concept should be developed, discussed and agreed by the parties within Kosovo itself. The guiding principle was that devolution of powers to communities and local government reform must be acceptable to all communities.
VUK DRASKOVIC, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, said he had come to Headquarters to call on the Council to ensure a greater and more resolute respect for the United Nations Charter and strict compliance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). Kosovo was an open wound for Serbs, Albanians and the entire international community. In the wake of the mass violence against Serbs and the barbaric destruction of their centuries-old churches and cultural sites, on 17 and 18 March, the Council had adopted a presidential statement that had not adequately responded to the tragedy suffered by the Serbian people in the province.
He said that from 10 June 1999, when the United Nations and international civilian and military forces had taken over the control and administration of Kosovo, until 17 March this year more than 200,000 Serbs had been expelled; and 40,000 Serbian houses had been burned down or destroyed along with 115 churches and monasteries and hundreds of Christian cemeteries. During that period, about 2,500 Serbs, including dozens of children, had been murdered or kidnapped. International administrators and the Provisional Institutions had not reacted resolutely enough, and so, on 17 March, tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians, driven by local media and radicals, had started killing Serbs and destroying monuments of the centuries-old Serbian and Christian tradition in Kosovo.
While it was undeniable that the regime of Slobodan Milosevic had been responsible for many crimes against Kosovar Albanians, he said, it had been equally brutal to Serbs, he said. Many Serbs had resisted and opposed that regime. The cornerstone of Standards before Status must be to address the consequences of ethnic cleansing aimed at Serbs and to provide for their full security, right to life and other human, civil and ethnic rights. At the same time, the perpetrators of murders, kidnappings and vandalism against religious and cultural sites should be tracked down, apprehended and brought to justice. The international community must help the Serbs and other non-Albanians in the same way it had helped the ethnic Albanian population in 1999.
He said the Government of Serbia and Montenegro favoured the decentralization of power in Kosovo by establishing the highest level of local self-rule in Serb-populated municipalities, towns, villages and so-called Serbian enclaves. That kind of autonomy paved the way for a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Kosovo, leading to reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians and to their common European future. The international community should not think today in terms of final status since the rights of Serbs were being tragically violated in Kosovo, and such human suffering could not constitute the basis for any final status. Serbia and Montenegro called for the start of a sincere dialogue at all levels between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, directly or through the good offices of the international community.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that while there was no doubt that the inter-ethnic violence of March had damaged the standing of Kosovo, it should make the international community more determined to implement the standards review policy endorsed by the Council in December. While Standards before Status was the accepted policy, the Kosovars needed greater clarity or reassurance about their possible final destination. On the other hand, not achieving the standards would jeopardize the future.
Underscoring the need to build tolerance and reassure the Serbs, he said the Provisional Institutions must show greater commitment to protecting the rights of minorities. Belgrade and Kosovar Serbs also had a role to play in that process and must get engaged. Unilateral statements on final status by any side were not only unacceptable, but could also be destabilizing.
Welcoming the intention to devolve power to local authorities, he said they must be more efficient. The aim of devolution should be more effective government, not the partition or canonization of Kosovo. The lessons of 17 to 20 March must be learned. The UNMIK must carefully assess whether it had the right structures and whether the resources it had deployed were appropriate. In order to reduce Kosovo’s dependency, the international community must act in a more coherent, effective, responsible and responsive manner.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that intents to force a premature solution to the status question through violence and intimidation must be promptly thwarted. Brazil continued to lend its full support to the process of peace and reconciliation and the “standards before status” policy. Immediate and steady progress was needed to speed up a long-term political solution that would reflect the needs of all populations living in the province.
He said he agreed with the Secretary-General that the Implementation Plan needed to be recalibrated and prioritized by giving additional emphasis to security and matters relating to the following areas: the rule of law; minority rights and protection; returns; the devolution of functions from the central level to local bodies; and economic development. Undoubtedly, episodes of ethnic violence should raise an alert. While international attention had been devoted to new conflicts, some of the old ones had recurred, he stressed.
Establishment of a “crisis management review body” by the Special Representative to assess the Mission’s response to the crisis had been welcome, he said. Its conclusions should be brought to the Council’s attention. An unwavering commitment by all parties was key to advancing the process of standards and moving on to the next steps of the peace process. That commitment was particularly important to efforts by the Provisional Institutions and the political leaders, as well as by other governments in the region.
LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said Kosovo had for some years been a “de facto United Nations protectorate”. Inter-ethnic tensions had appeared to have subsided and the parties on the ground had appeared to have accepted United Nations authority. Hopes about Kosovo’s future, however, had been dashed two months ago into another abyss of death and destruction. The Special Representative today had presented a graphic tale of violence, with the ethnic Serb population that time at the receiving end.
He said that the recent violence had made the task ahead more difficult for the international community, but that should not prevent the advance of the process. He welcomed action taken by UNMIK and KFOR to reassert control immediately after the violent outbreak. He further welcomed immediate redress for those involved in the riots and the start of prosecutory activities. Also welcome had been the review under way by UNMIK of its response readiness. He continued to advocate the resumption of constructive dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and he called on UNMIK to explore all avenues of possible resolution.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that clashes and acts of violence last March undoubtedly had revealed the precarious nature of the situation and the persistent climate of mistrust and suspicion present in Kosovo society. That violence had derailed the peace process and had seriously hampered efforts by the international community to build a democratic, tolerant and multi-ethnic Kosovo. Those events had struck a heavy blow to returns, as well as to freedom of movement, which were two key elements of the standards before status policy. It was comforting to note, however, that the security situation was gradually improving, but more must be done to prevent a recurrence of the violence.
He said that recent, strong signals of reconciliation had been evident, but UNMIK still had much responsibility to shoulder. In that regard, he welcomed the Mission’s determination to ensure that those responsible for the violence were brought to justice, but additional efforts were required. Understanding among all Kosovars must be a priority objective to enable them to rise above past resentments. The international community must remain committed to the principle of establishing a multi-ethnic Kosovo and underscore the need to fully implement resolution 1244 and the “standards before status” policy. Successful application of the latter would make it possible to consider the fundamental question of the final status.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France), endorsing the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said that Kosovar Albanian officials, as representatives of the largest community, had a clear obligation to protect the rights of all communities. Their belated condemnation of the March violence had given rise to questions about their commitment. The burden of proof rested with them.
He said special attention must be paid to the progress achieved in several areas, including those of multi-ethnicity, refugee returns and ethics in media reporting. The media had played a very negative role in the March violence, and their lack of professionalism and biased reporting had been highlighted. Conditions must be created so that they could observe basic ethical media rules.
Regarding decentralization, he said it could facilitate peaceful coexistence among Kosovo’s various communities. Belgrade had just made some relevant proposals in that regard, and France welcomed its contributions. All were aware that progress must be made in the protection of all communities. There was a need for full transparency and cooperation so that Council members could take decisions on the Kosovo question with full knowledge of all the facts.
JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said it would take time and painstaking effort to repair the damage caused by the March violence. The deterioration in the security environment and the overall political situation had prompted the Council to take a very clear stand, stressing the need to revise key sections of the Standards documents. In the end, the Standards for Kosovo policy would only make sense when the rights of all communities were protected. To meet that end, it would be essential to establish the rule of law.
He expressed hope that those measures would promote the participation of the Serb minority at all levels of the Provisional Institutions. Angola underlined the primary role of the Kosovo leadership and the Provisional Institutions to ensure that acts of violence and threats were not repeated and that each citizen of Kosovo could live in peace, security and dignity
JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that the violence in March had been a setback to Kosovo’s own aspirations to develop into a society that could become part of Europe. That must not be repeated. The history of the Balkans over the years had demonstrated the effects of ethnic hatred and violence. The international community had laid out a brighter path for Kosovo, which faced a key decision point about whether to seize that path and make it its own. Dialogue required the participation of all of the parties. Implementation of the United Nations’ standards plan would benefit all Kosovars.
He said that the leaders could best respond to the tragic events in March by forging a new commitment to implementing the standards, which required a growing partnership between UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the Kosovo Serbs, as well as all other minorities. Security for all residents of Kosovo must be assured. The United States would do its part, through KFOR and its commitment to keep more police on duty, but Kosovo must be held accountable for its own insecurity.
Other problems must also be addressed, such as the high unemployment rate. The privatization process must be revitalized, and efforts must be renewed to combat the corruption that had sapped international and local confidence and driven off needed investment. The meetings in Pristina had been helpful towards assessing progress made and identifying further necessary steps. Establishing a security advisory group in Pristina, where the parties could discuss critical security concerns, and the one established in Belgrade, had also been useful.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said that the recent unfortunate events had negatively affected the pace and direction of reconstruction and normalization. As an example of the devastation, in less than 48 hours, hundreds of thousands of minorities had been displaced, once again. Thousands of them had already returned in 2003. Also as a result of the March events, effort should be redoubled in such areas as ensuring minority rights and human rights, equal rights to security, freedom of movement, and a return to sustainable conditions for all of the inhabitants of Kosovo. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the local leaders faced major challenges. First and foremost among them was to end the violence and adopt measures to ensure the rule of law and ensure that there was no violent recurrence.
They must also bring to justice the perpetrators and seize illegal weapons, he said. The leaders must also begin to rebuild damaged sites or provide some form of compensation, and facilitate the return of those who had been displaced, again. Further, they must ensure that there was no political gain for any sector as a result of the violence, and they must also fully comply with the commitments made to restore multi-ethnicity and ensure Kosovo’s reconstruction. In light of those challenges, he reaffirmed the “standards before status” policy.
JOEL ADECHI (Benin) said the Secretary-General’s report showed once again the exceptional seriousness of the March violence, which had been an organized, targeted and widespread campaign. Benin believed in the need to help the Kosovars to resume dialogue, internally as well as between Pristina and Belgrade. However irreconcilable the positions of the Kosovar Albanians and Serbs might seem, they must be encouraged to make all efforts.
He said UNMIK should rely on initiatives such as the memorandum of agreement to eliminate all extremists. Benin also welcomed the urgent steps taken so far, including the creation of an emergency fund to repair damaged cultural sites, compensation of victims for the destruction of their property, the return of refugees and displaced persons, and the fight against impunity.
ZHANG YISHAN (China), noting that the Council had repeatedly considered the Kosovo question in recent months, said that the March violence had had a disturbingly negative impact on local political, social and economic development. The present task was to implement the measures and recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report.
He said that, first, the investigations into the March violence must be accelerated and those responsible brought to justice; the facilities and properties destroyed must be rebuilt and their owners compensated; and the security needs of minorities must be met. The relevant parties, especially the Provisional Institutions, must make greater efforts to enhance the rule of law and promote minority rights.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said that the detailed report before the Council had only confirmed the presence of unbridled inter-ethnic violence, which had been a serious setback in the normalization process and compliance with standards for the province. He appealed that those responsible for those events be brought to justice. It was time now to determine precisely what had happened, to make a serious political assessment of the events, and to calculate the consequences. That would enable the international community to take appropriate measures to restore the situation and ensure compliance with “1244”.
Reviewing the facts, he had drawn some conclusions. First, the inter-ethnic violence of March had not been isolated, but rather an organized campaign with specific objectives against the ethnic minorities, with particular focus on the Serbian minority. The violence had not been directed solely against individuals and their heritage, but also against UNMIK and KFOR, which had been entrusted with maintaining order. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had an initial ambivalent response and had been reluctant to clearly condemn the violence. In some cases, they attempted to use the violence for their own political objectives. Only when pressured did those individuals change their attitudes.
As a result, he said, not only had UNMIK had to modify its Implementation Plan, but the violence had reversed the situation for minorities and hampered returns. The crisis had also seriously affected freedom of movement, frozen the direct dialogue between the parties, and seriously undermined the functioning of democratic institutions. In addition, the attitude of the municipalities and the media had shown how far away they were from complying with the standards. Only the KPC had showed, with some exceptions, some level of professionalism.
He said the objective of establishing a state of law had been seriously damaged by the violence, which had even affected economic development. Measures must be considered that would keep such unfortunate events from recurring and derailing the situation. The message to the Kosovo authorities must be loud and clear –- there would be no discussion on status until there was full compliance with the standards.
ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the alarming situation provoked by extremists in March had seriously harmed efforts to establish a democratic, multi-ethnic and stable society. The planned and targeted attempt to force out representatives of the non-Albanian communities, and to undermine the social basis for their lives, including by destroying Serbian orthodox monuments, had been a “conscious policy of ethnic cleansing”. His country had repeatedly warned against the danger of such developments, but the alarming trends had not received a sufficient response.
He said that the Council, in its presidential statement of 30 April, had condemned the March events and clearly set forth the fact that no one should be allowed to reap any benefits or achieve political goals that way. In connection with that complex and tense situation, a series of steps should be carried out to ensure normalization of the situation and return it to the track of restoring a multi-ethnic society. The conditions surrounding the events should be studied and the guilty parties should be punished, as should those who directly or indirectly promoted the events or did nothing to stop them.
Also, he said, the paramilitary bands left over from the organizational structure of the Kosovo Liberation Army should be dissolved, and stringent measures should be taken against those who demonstrated in March their outright extremist motivations. Urgent steps must also be taken to restore law and order, seize illegal weapons, and fight organized crime. The Provisional Institutions should immediately issue a verbal promise to restore the multi-ethnic society. Decentralization was another immediate concern. He awaited recommendations from the Secretary-General with regard to a balanced transfer of executive powers to the local bodies and communities.
Meanwhile, he said the size of the forces in Kosovo should be increased and their anti-terrorist component should be strengthened, by giving KFOR additional possible means to combat massive violent outbreaks. The attacks on personnel of the Mission and KFOR should be condemned most sternly. He would welcome the return to dialogue by Belgrade and Pristina, aimed at taking corrective measures to thwart the violence of extremists and punish the perpetrators.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, noted that some 270 Kosovars had been arrested for possible involvement in the March violence, and some of those cases would soon be going to trial. Tenders were being prepared for reconstruction contracts to begin repairing the damage to houses, and ministers from the Provisional Institutions had visited Serb communities to personally assess the damage and show their sympathy for the affected members of those communities. While all those were worthy developments, they fell short of what had been hoped for. The international community wanted clearer statements and actions by leaders of the Provisional Institutions that would demonstrate to extremists that they had no place in Kosovo.
He said political leaders should encourage their constituents to actively help police investigate the violence and testify against the extremists who had led it. Political parties and structures should dismiss those who had actively or passively supported the violence. Political leaders must break new ground. Beyond the obligation to marginalize extremists, follow through on commitments to rebuild communities destroyed by the March violence, and renew the dialogue of working groups with Belgrade, political leaders in Kosovo must find new ways to reconcile the ethnic communities. They must also demonstrate a greater willingness to compromise.
Ethnic Serbs and other minorities must demonstrate that they too were approaching Kosovo’s problems in good faith, he emphasized. One important step would be their full participation in the working groups that would be implementing the Standards for Kosovo. Clearly much of Kosovo’s future progress would also depend on the economy. Germany looked forward to progress soon to be made in the field of privatization and, through its bilateral assistance and the European Union, would promote economic development in Kosovo. But economic development required above all political stability. To secure their economic future, all communities in Kosovo must demonstrate to potential investors that the March uprisings would not recur and that the ethnic communities could live together in peace.
MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said the progress made in Kosovo prior to March had been seriously overshadowed by the organized, widespread ad targeted attacks against the Serbs and other communities. Simply identifying the problem was not enough. Concrete measures must be put in place to ensure a real and effective implementation of measures set out in the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan and –- as an ultimate goal –- for the development in Kosovo of a secure, democratic, tolerant and multi-ethnic society.
While reaffirming Romania’s attachment to the Standards before Status policy, he said the plan must be further recalibrated and prioritized with more emphasis on security, returns, minority rights, rule of law and justice and devolution of functions from the central level to local bodies, so that every inhabitant of Kosovo, or every person wishing to return there could have an equal opportunity for a normal, free and secure life. The Provisional Institutions and all communities, with the assistance of the international presence, should work together in a responsible and coherent manner to achieve that goal and to prevent the recurrence of similar violence.
An important step forward would be the establishment of a stricter regime for small arms and light weapons, as well as intensified operations to collect illegal weapons, he said. It was crucial to eradicate the mentality of violence as a means to achieve political goals. That should proceed on every level and in every field, not least starting with a change of attitude on the part of political and local leaders who had failed to act responsibly during the recent crisis. To the same end, the local media should be supported to acquire more professional and democratic reporting standards.
As a country from the region, he said, Romania was particularly concerned with the long-term implications of any action related to Kosovo’s future, he said. That was why it insisted that Standards before Status should be taken very seriously and reiterated that the implementation of that policy should be reflected throughout Kosovo as a token of the Kosovars’ will to live in peace and to promote stability. All States had a stake in the implementation of standards, no matter what status would be arrived at. In the same vein, the longer it took to work on those standards the more difficult it would be to catch up again, irrespective of the eventual determination of Kosovo’s final status.
Romania attached great importance to the further development of the review mechanism relating to the current state of the Kosovo Standards Implementation Plan, he said. Its functioning would be essential in clarifying the political approach. There could be no better illustration of why full implementation of the standards should dominate the political agenda in Kosovo than the fact that the recent violence had further damaged the already fragile and weak economy. While Romania welcomed the public commitments by Kosovar leaders to implement the standards, in the short term, confidence-building would not be possible without some timely and effective measures in terms of the rule of law and justice, reconstruction and full protection of minority communities.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, strongly condemned the March violence and deplored the loss of life and the destruction of religious and cultural sites. The report had been a sobering assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the March violence. The situation remained tense, and further violence was possible. Despite the painstaking efforts of UNMIK, the situation was no nearer to healing the wounds inflicted on Kosovo for so long. Problems persisted in the key areas of the Mission’s mandate, namely, sustainable returns, community rights, freedom of movement, and the functioning of democratic institutions. Extremists from both sides remained active.
He said that parallel structures persisted, and the economic situation had continued to deteriorate, with marginal support from the international community. Direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade had not yet resumed, despite commitments by both parties to do so. Above all, security remained fragile, despite the presence of thousands of KFOR troops.
He noted that the Implementation Plan was being revised in some key areas to take account the implications of recent events. The plan was flawed, and plans were inappropriate to, among other objectives, prepare Kosovo to move from international limbo to political and legal clarity. It should be determined whether the failure to address the status of Kosovo had fed the frustration and grievances of both sides, hardened the positions, and perpetuated the proclivity towards violence. Continued delay in addressing the question of political status would increase the complexity of the situation and increase the dangers of widening the violence.
Instead of transforming the “standards before status” issue into dogma, the Council should act with more deliberate realism to promote peace and prosperity in Kosovo, he urged. As Mr. Holier had said, the time was coming when the handling of difficult choices would have to be considered. He agreed. The Council should promote a “status with standards” approach, or a two-pronged approach, which would hold the Kosovars accountable to implementing the standards programme, work out the extremism and intolerance, and create cooperative relations with their neighbours.
On other hand, he explained, that approach would simultaneously see progress on clarifying the status issue, while seeking to uphold the rights and interests of all Kosovars, including the minorities. As a first step, the international community must act to stem efforts to entrench the parallel structures and pre-empt discussion and political status. While the plan presented by Belgrade had been advanced unilaterally, the need to begin consideration of the status issue should be acknowledged. The Council and UNMIK, while securing implementation of the standards, should begin to give consideration to proposals on status. A change was essential to create hope for peace and to end the tragic legacy of war and suffering in that region.
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), on behalf of the European Union, said that the report before the Council clearly set out the background to the recent violence and noted the need for concrete actions by the leaders and people of Kosovo to ensure that the violence was not repeated. The Union fully supported the policy of “standards before status”, and it urged the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to demonstrate their responsibility for and commitment to achieving more concrete progress on implementing the standards.
He also stressed the importance of reconciliation between the communities and he urged the parties to resume the direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, in order to address critical issues of common interest. The Union stood ready to support that dialogue. It had also reaffirmed its strong commitment to a secure, democratic, multi-ethnic and prosperous Kosovo. The recent violence had been a setback and had endangered the recent progress. In its aftermath, the immediate priorities must be to ensure security, facilitate the return of displaced persons, reconstruct destroyed property and religious sites, and bring those responsible to justice.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) reiterated that there was no alternative to implementing the Kosovo standards in order to establish a democratic and multi-ethnic society in the province. As had become clear through the violence, there was still a strong necessity to improve the protection of minorities, including Serbs. Guarantees of various minority rights, including freedom of movement, must be one of the most important elements of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. Therefore, the devolution of responsibilities to local authorities should not lead to the division of the provision along ethnic lines.
The violence had demonstrated all too clearly the need for increased security, he said. Japan supported the prompt response by the Special Representative, UNMIK and KFOR to stabilize the situation in the immediate aftermath of the violence. At the same time, on the basis of the assessment of measures taken by UNMIK prior to the outbreak, there was a need to study seriously how to achieve a sustained improvement in the security situation. Japan was alarmed by the fatal 17 April incident involving UNMIK officers and by the question of discipline in relation to some of the international staff in Kosovo. The need for peacekeepers to win the respect of the people in their region of operation should be self-evident. Also, Japan hoped UNMIK would provide further information regarding the trafficking of girls and women and take appropriate measures to address that problem without delay.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) said his country recognized the need for long-term practical commitment to rebuilding the western Balkan region. In that spirit, Iceland had taken over the management of Pristina airport in March 2003, providing both air traffic controllers and fire fighting personnel. In looking to future sustainability, Iceland had emphasized the preparation of local operatives. Some 50 fire fighters and 20 air traffic controllers had received training. The UNMIK had now taken over control of the airport, but the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration would assist it on a contractual basis.
He emphasized the need to continue the economic and social reconstruction of the province, including through a constructive dialogue between the communities. He urged the parties concerned to cooperate fully with UNMIK and KFOR, in order to facilitate the political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future based on resolution 1244.
VALERY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) strongly condemned the outburst of inter-ethnic violence in Kosovo in March. Also inadmissible had been the attacks on international representatives, including those from UNMIK and KFOR. He strongly hoped for the continuation of the democratic process aimed at establishing a multi-ethnic, tolerant and democratic society in a stable Kosovo. The latest report of the Secretary-General had indicated that the root causes of the widespread violence had yet to be analysed or addressed by the international community.
In fact, he said, instead of speaking today about real multi-ethnicity in the province, it was necessary to return to implementation of the “agenda for coexistence” put forth by then Special Representative Bernard Kushner some five years ago. In addressing the crisis, the international community, with the United Nations at the helm, had to ensure that the process of political recovery was fully in line with the framework established by resolution 1244 (1999) and the “standards before status” policy.
For its part, Ukraine would spare no effort in assisting the settlement of the situation, he said. In response to the United Nations’ request, his country had contributed 10 investigators to the newly created task forces to help bring to justice those responsible for the recent crimes. The region must continue to carry out significant work to meet the standards set by the international community. Acts of intimidation and violence must stop. Also, key requirements related to the status of ethnic minorities and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons should be fulfilled.
AGIM NESHO (Albania) said UNMIK should face the problems created by the March violence with realism, not only by condemning the perpetrators, but also by determining the responsibility of all parties involved. The UNMIK should continue to implement Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the decisions of the international community regardless of nationalistic pressures and interference or destabilizing actions by extremist groups. The determination to achieve the goal of standards would lay the groundwork for the full discussion of the final status of Kosovo.
He said that a realistic evaluation of the situation in Kosovo illustrated the need to transfer more social and economic powers from UNMIK to the Provisional Institutions. It also demonstrated the necessity for a faster privatization process and for the strengthening of the rule of law through the sharing of responsibilities with local authorities. It was high time a solution was found to the problem of parallel structures so that they could no longer challenge the vision of UNMIK for the province’s future.
The perpetrators of the violence had jeopardized the democratic process and future of Kosovo, and they should be brought to justice, he said. The citizens of Kosovo should realize that their free and democratic future would be achieved only when there was a functioning multi-ethnic society; when the rights and freedoms of minorities were protected by law; and when civil society and democratic institutions made the existing reality more effective. Further, the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade should restart as soon as possible. It was important for the institutions in Kosovo to help in the return of displaced people, strengthen the rule of law, create an impartial justice system, and work to establish the conditions for all Kosovars to work together for their common future.
He noted that the Council and the international community had pushed for a long time towards the creation of a multi-ethnic society as the only solid basis for a democratic culture in Kosovo. That process could not be held back by the proposals of old ideas of division and cantonization, under the legal cover of a democratic process for the decentralization of power. What the international community should offer Kosovo was freedom, not isolation; coexistence, not division along ethnic lines; and the opportunity to become, as fast as possible, part of the European family, a place where aspirations and opportunities were shared equally by all.
Responding to the debate, Mr. HOLKERI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, thanked members for their constructive discussion. The proposals and assessments had been most welcome. To the Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro, he said he fully shared his call for dialogue and reconciliation. On a point raised by France’s representative, he said he agreed that Kosovo’s political future should be considered in a transparent manner. That was the start of a “tricky and sensitive” phase, and the United Nations and concerned MemberStates should coordinate efforts closely.
Regarding the quality of the media in Kosovo, he said he fully concurred that that was not up to international standards. The UNMIK was carefully studying the recent report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and was prepared to consider appropriate measures to sanction those media that had inflamed the situation in March. He noted the list of steps outlined by the Russian Federation representative aimed at normalizing the situation. Enhancing security, particularly the security of non-majority communities; working towards multi-ethnicity; returns; and freedom of movement were at the heart of UNMIK’s current efforts. Implementation of standards was the centrepiece of its activities.
Reference had been made by Japan’s speaker to the recent report of Amnesty International regarding trafficking of women and girls, he noted. The UNMIK had taken that report very seriously. Human trafficking was a very serious problem, which was common throughout the Balkans. The UNMIK had an important responsibility to combat that tragic and criminal phenomenon in Kosovo, and its policies allowed for proper assistance to, and rehabilitation of, the victims of trafficking. In addition, the Mission took immediate and strict disciplinary action against any staff member found in an establishment of prostitution. He had directed UNMIK staff to review Amnesty International’s recommendations, as well as its own response to combating human trafficking.
He thanked those countries, particularly Iceland and Ukraine, for providing important support in their areas of expertise, namely, air control and airport management. Ukraine had been one of the few countries that had responded to the request for new investigators.
In closing, he said that the Council’s support had been absolutely essential for the joint efforts for the successful implementation of “1244”. He noted the priority issues raised in the interventions, namely, security, rule of law, the rebuilding of houses and property, protection of communities’ rights, multi-ethnicity, returns, reform of local government, implementation of standards, and revival of Kosovo’s economy. And, he assured members that those were UNMIK’s common priorities, as well.
He had been encouraged by the discussion and what he sensed was a growing recognition that there needed to be “hard thought” by the United Nations and all concerned Member States about how to handle Kosovo’s political future and to move it towards a more stable political settlement. He looked forward to further discussion.
Mr. DRASKOVIC, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, said that, to his Government, the final status of Kosovo meant very high and specific models of local autonomy and self-rule for ethnic Albanians, as well as Serbs and other non-Albanians, reconciliation, forgiveness and repentance in the framework of Serbia and the European Union. The European Balkans was what his Government saw as the region where State borders would exist only on maps, but not in practice. The Balkans must become Europe from within and start thinking in a European way as a condition for acceptance by Europe. The interdependence of States, cultures and religions was the future, while independence based on past projects of ethnic and religious domination must remain in the past.
Regarding privatization, he said that while it was very important, the United Nations and UNMIK must be very careful because there was a need for a restitution law. Following the Second World War, the communists had taken the land, houses and other property of individuals and institutions who opposed them, the main victim being the SerbianChurch. The Church, as well as those individuals, must get their land regardless of whether they were Serbs or Albanians. There must also be a rejection of the legalization of any crime. If something was criminal to start with, passing time could never decriminalize it.
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