KOSOVO ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL DELAY OF STATUS PROPOSAL RAISED TENSION; SAYS FURTHER DELAYS WILL PLAY INTO HANDS OF EXTREMISTS ON ALL SIDES

13 December 2006
SC/8900

KOSOVO ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL DELAY OF STATUS PROPOSAL RAISED TENSION; SAYS FURTHER DELAYS WILL PLAY INTO HANDS OF EXTREMISTS ON ALL SIDES

13 December 2006
Security Council
SC/8900
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5588th Meeting (PM)

Kosovo envoy tells Security Council delay of status proposal raised tension;

Says further delays will play into hands of extremists on all sides

Serbia Representative Warns Against ‘Precipitous Solution’;

Albania Says Slippage beyond January 2007 Might Put Orderly Settlement at Risk

Anxiety had risen following the decision to delay a proposal on Kosovo’s status until after the Serbian elections in January 2007, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Joachim Rücker, said today, stressing that any further delays to settling the question of Kosovo would raise tension and play into the hands of extremists on all sides, making a solution more difficult.

Briefing the Security Council, Mr. Rücker said that status dominated the agenda of everyone concerned with Kosovo.  After more than seven years of international administration and local capacity-building, the timelines attached to the process were now the key focus of attention.  Further delay would entail significant political and economic costs for Kosovo, for its neighbours, for the region as a whole and for the international community, whereas resolving Kosovo’s status would benefit the entire Balkan region, including Belgrade, he stressed.

Agreeing with the latest report of the Secretary-General, which was before the Council, he said that sustaining momentum in the status process would be a key factor in heading off a feeling of uncertainty, which was a potential source of instability on the way forward.  Once the status decision was made, the Interim Administration Mission would have to provide for a smooth handover to future local and international institutions established under the status settlement.

Important work on standards remained a top priority of both the Kosovo Government and UNMIK, he said, seeking to correct the impression among the international interlocutors that, with all the focus on status, the implementation of standards had been forgotten or pushed aside.  That was not at all the case.  Standards remained at the core of the daily work on the ground in Kosovo, with particular concentration on the 13 priority areas set out by the Contact Group earlier this year, most of which had been fulfilled by the institutions of Kosovo.

Following Mr Rücker’s briefing, the President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, Sanda Rašković-Ivić, said the situation must be viewed realistically, and stressed that any precipitous solution would cost the region, the province itself and the international community dearly and open up a Pandora’s box.  The Albanian side’s strategy boiled down to not engaging in the status negotiations.  They were idly waiting to be given yet another Albanian State in the Balkans within Serbia’s internationally recognized borders.  Such an outcome was unacceptable.  A solution had to be a compromise between Serbs and Albanians -- a durable solution on their coexistence in a modern, democratic and decentralized State.

The representative of the Russian Federation said it was unacceptable to have a timetable determined for political events “by the street”.  Any strict timeline must be rejected.  Also, any attempt to destabilize the situation would require a review by the Council, and that could spell an immediate halt to the status process.  Achieving the standards would influence the rate and outcome of the negotiations on the future status.  He welcomed the wise decision to interrupt the status talks until the election campaign in Serbia was completed, adding that concrete proposals by Belgrade should be examined, as there was no alternative but to negotiate a compromise, however difficult that might be.  The positions of both sides must be brought together and not be based on “tying anybody’s hands”.

Albania’s representative said that further slippage after the January 2007 deadline might seriously put at risk an orderly settlement and exhaust the many bonds that had so far kept the process “a promising one for a good cause”.  Wide acceptance by the Council and key Member States on the need to deliver results sooner rather than later was welcome, as further delay would prolong instability, uncertainty and institutional paralysis and serve nobody’s interest.  The most pragmatic and just solution was independence, with a supporting continuation of a civil and security presence by the international community.  Independence would guarantee social and economic stability and security for Kosova and the region.

Also speaking were the representatives of France, Argentina, United States, Japan, Ghana, Greece, United Republic of Tanzania, Slovakia, Congo, Peru, China, United Kingdom, Denmark, Qatar (in his national capacity), Finland (on behalf of the European Union) and Ukraine.

The meeting began at 3:11 p.m. and adjourned 5:40 p.m.

Background

The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2006/906), which covers developments in Kosovo from 15 August to 31 October.

According to that report, the political situation in Kosovo was characterized by an intensified focus on the future status process, which continued to be the dominating factor in Kosovo political life, as further rounds of direct talks between Belgrade and Pristina on decentralization, cultural and religious heritage and community were convened on 7 and 8 September.  Overall, the parties’ positions remain far apart.  High expectations, coupled with speculations about a possible delay in the process, are likely to be a source of instability if momentum slows.  Fringe groups and extremists stand ready to exploit uncertainty and frustration.

Security incidents involving Kosovo Serbs continued, but the overall number of potentially ethnically motivated crimes had considerably decreased, the report states.  UNMIK has made strenuous efforts to encourage members of the negotiating team and the Provisional Institutions to reach to majority and minority communities, but still, there has been virtually no Kosovo Serb participation in Kosovo’s political institutions at the central level.

The report adds that the Mission and the Provisional Institutions have moved forward in transferring aspects of security to greater local control.  The establishment of the Kosovo Ministry of Justice is proceeding well.  UNMIK and the donor agencies are focusing on four priority areas:  clarification of the role of the Ministry vis-à-vis the Kosovo Police Service; capacity for managing migration and repatriation; improved capability for emergency preparedness; and civil registration and documentation.

Sustained progress on standards has been an encouraging feature throughout the year, with the 13 priorities identified achieving substantial progress.  An annex to the report describes the priorities, as well as progress achieved and challenges ahead.  The report further describes progress and challenges in the decentralization process, addressing cultural and religious heritage, minority returns to Kosovo, the economy, regional cooperation, and future international arrangements and transition.

The Secretary-General states that he remains disappointed that the negotiations on future status have resulted in only uneven progress and limited agreement on some specific elements.  He calls upon all sides to refrain from any unilateral actions and statements.  It is important to keep the momentum in the political process, as everyone needs clarity with regard to the future status of Kosovo.  The sustained support of the Council and key Member States to that end is essential.

While welcoming the commitment shown by Kosovo’s Government to the implementation of the standards, the Secretary-General says that progress will be achieved by demonstrating through actions, not words, that everyone has a future in Kosovo.  He urges the leaders of all communities not to yield to the temptation of divisive words and actions, but to embrace the opportunity to promote reconciliations and dialogue.  “It takes more courage and strength to do so, and the main burden rests with the leader of the majority population.”  He called on the members of the negotiating team to remain united and appealed to them to continue their efforts in order to keep the communities informed about the future status process and to prepare the population for the eventual settlement.

The Secretary-General notes with dismay that violent attacks continue to be made by a few in an attempt to affect political change and calls upon the people of Kosovo to help their institutions defeat such violence.  “Political developments and timelines will not be dictated by the streets, and violence will not be tolerated,” he states.  He is also disappointed that Kosovo leaders continue to remain outside the political process, which is a disservice to their community.  He once again calls on Belgrade authorities to remove all impediments to Kosovo Serb participation in Kosovo institutions, and on the Kosovo Serb leaders to engage with the Provisional Institutions.

Statements

JOACHIM RÜCKER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that status continued to dominate the agenda of everyone concerned with Kosovo and, after more than seven years of international administration and local capacity-building, after Kai Eide’s finding that the status quo was untenable, the timelines attached to the process were a particular focus of attention.  Anxiety had clearly risen, following the decision to delay the proposal on status until after the Serbian elections on 21 January.  Keeping momentum in the status process thereafter would be a key factor in heading off a feeling of uncertainty -- which was a potential source of instability -- on the way ahead.

At the same time, he said, important wok on standards remained a top priority of both the Kosovo Government and UNMIK.  Sometimes, there was an impression among the international interlocutors that, with all the focus on the status process, the implementation of standards had been forgotten or pushed aside.  That was not at all the case.  Standards remained at the core of the daily work on the ground in Kosovo, with particular concentration on the 13 priority areas set out by the Contact Group earlier this year, most of which had been fulfilled by the institutions of Kosovo.

The Government, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, had continued to demonstrate effective leadership on standards implementation, strengthening central and local government institutions, and transitioning governance-building and reform to the longer-term platform of European integration through the European Partnership for Kosovo, he said.  The Assembly passed, and he had promulgated, key legislation prioritized by the Contact Group, including a law firmly establishing the equal official status of the Albanian and Serbian languages throughout Kosovo, and laws on religious freedom and cultural heritage containing provisions of particular importance to the Serbian Orthodox Church.

He said that the Kosovo Government had also taken steps to ensure freedom of movement by agreeing to take over responsibility from UNMIK to operate the bus and train system.  One noteworthy area of progress had been the effort to address the consequences of the March 2004 violence, not only related to investigations, indictments and convictions, but also in terms of creating the conditions for returns.  The Kosovo Protection Corps would this week complete a six-month project in the village of Svinjare near Mitrovica to repair damage to homes and improve local infrastructure.  That had been one of the largest and most high-profile projects undertaken by the provisional institutions, and its successful completion demonstrated those institutions’ ability and willingness to serve all the people of Kosovo.

Despite the project’s success, he said, the Kosovo Serb internally displaced persons had still not returned to Svinjare.  He appealed to Belgrade to encourage them to do so.  Providing other examples of projects completed or under way to encourage returns, he said that good efforts would have limited impact if more was not done, particularly by Belgrade, to encourage returns when conditions were created.  Continuing calls by Belgrade for Kosovo Serbs to boycott Kosovo institutions had undermined the work done to reach out to minority communities and end their often self-imposed isolation.  The Serbian Government had still not withdrawn its directive to Kosovo Serbs to withdraw from the payroll of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, despite numerous calls to do so by the international community.  He appealed to the representative of the Serbian Government to withdraw that direction.

He said that one of the most frequently cited complaints of Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs was inadequate security to allow greater participation in Kosovo’s political and social life.  However, police statistics actually showed a sharp drop in potentially ethnically-motivated incidents.  While there had been serious incidents that had attracted wide public attention, the overall improvement in the situation merited great recognition.

UNMIK had also been working intensively to address another important concern, namely the supply of electricity.  The energy provider in Kosovo had inherited an infrastructure in a state of disrepair and it did not have enough funds for repair and investment, unless consumers paid for the electricity they used.  There had been some success in improving the payment culture recently, but some consumers, including nearly all Kosovo Serbs, still did not pay and had significant debts.  Overall, however, much had been achieved during the year on standards, but not everything.  Continuous efforts were needed, as indicated by the challenges noted in the technical assessment of standards implementation.  Progress on many of the standards also depended on clarity on status.

Everyone knew that progress in key areas like returns was limited by the lingering uncertainty over Kosovo’s future, he continued.  Momentum in the status process should be maintained and a timely status settlement achieved.  The constructive engagement and the unity of the Kosovo Negotiating Team, including the opposition leaders, had substantially contributed to the progress made in the process so far.  It was crucial that all stakeholders in Kosovo remain committed to the process and continue to support the work of the Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

He said that the Contact Group had unambiguously stated that, once the status process had begun, it could not be blocked.  Resolving Kosovo’s status would benefit the entire Balkan region, including Belgrade.  On the other hand, further delay would entail significant political and economic costs for Kosovo, for its neighbours, for the region as a whole and for the international community.

Delay was more than just a loss of time, he stressed.  Delay would raise tension and play into the hands of extremists on all sides.  Delay would not make a solution easier; it would make it much more difficult.  No one could have an interest in such an outcome.  Once the status decision was made, UNMIK would need to provide for an orderly and smooth handover to future local and international institutions established under the status settlement.  Early and prudent planning was indispensable in order to achieve that, and transition planning had now become a key priority.

He emphasized that as much as possible must be done -- without prejudice to the status process –– before the formal transition period began with the passage of a resolution by the Security Council.  The transfer of responsibilities from UNMIK to the future local and international authorities was a highly complex task.  Some of the elements required were:  the need for a new constitutional arrangement; adoption of a new constitution, followed by elections; review of the entire body of legislation; takeover by future authorities of all executive functions thus far under the helm of UNMIK; and the creation of new ministries for that purpose.  Those tasks, as well as the implementation of the status settlement, would place substantial strain on the local authorities.  International support was required in that endeavour.

The United Nations had accomplished much in Kosovo.  “We now owe it to Kosovo, and to you, to make sure that this final phase of UN administration is wrapped up in an orderly and responsible manner,” he concluded.

SANDA RAŠKOVIĆ-IVIĆ, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, said Serbia was fully prepared to assume its share of responsibility in the process of successfully resolving the question of Kosovo and Metohija.  Only by systematic, responsible and gradual management of the negotiations on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija could a long-term sustainable solution be reached.  Such a solution could not be achieved in haste.  Confidence and dialogue were sine qua non preconditions for any coexistence.  “There is a saying -- avoid a short cut, it can be the wrong way,” she said.

Informing the Council of the “cruel reality” in Kosovo and Metohija, she noted that from 15 August to 1 December 2006, 75 ethnically-motivated attacks had been committed in which 23 persons of Serb nationality had been injured.  The extremists had also targeted members of other communities.  In the same period, 17 transmitter stations of the Serbian mobile operator Telekom Srbija had been put out of operation, in what was virtually a criminal act being conducted in front of UNMIK’s eyes.  There were also drastic and selective electricity cuts.  Even with UNMIK’s assistance, the Albanian side had not agreed, on at least a declaratory level, to the need to rebuild the houses of Serbs in Badovac village.  They were expelled in the March 2004 riots.

Regarding the return of expelled and internally displaced persons, she noted that, from 1999 to the present, some 250,000 internally displaced persons had not been in a position to return to Kosovo and Metohija.  Major demographic and migratory shifts had taken place in Kosovo and Metohija.  The population in the capital Pristina had tripled and was currently estimated at some 600,000.  There were some 100 Serbs in Pristina compared to the 40,000 before 1999.  Serbian shrines were looted and desecrated on a daily basis.  Illegal construction close to cultural sites within the proposed protected zones was rampant.  Those activities were a deliberate attempt to prevent the preservation of cultural and environmental integrity of those sites.  There had also been attempts by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government at revising history and deleting all traces of Serb existence in Kosovo and Metohija.

UNMIK’s role was, unfortunately, a cause of concern, she added.  While not defined in its mandate, UNMIK often assumed the role of “condominium” by seeking to create a State for Albanians.  UNMIK, almost as a rule, had taken a sympathetic attitude and ignored Albanian extremism.  Organized crime, human trafficking and corruption were rampant in Kosovo and Metohija.  Drug and arms trade and smuggling provided a lifeline for the criminal and terrorist business in the international community’s very presence.  Mafia-style Albanian clans were currently flourishing.

Stressing the need to look at the situation in Kosovo and Metohija in a realistic and objective way, she noted that any precipitous solution would cost the region, the province itself and the international community dearly.  The Albanian side’s strategy boiled down to not engaging in the status negotiations.  The Kosovo Albanians were idly waiting to be given yet another Albanian State in the Balkans within Serbia’s internationally recognized borders.  Such an outcome was not acceptable.  A solution needed to be a compromise, based on agreement by the two negotiating parties -- Serbian and Albanian.  Belgrade, the Government of Serbia and the Serbs from Kosovo in particular sought to reach an agreement guaranteeing a durable solution on their co-existence in a modern, democratic and decentralized State.

The Serbian side saw the solution to the Kosovo problem through the implementation of principles and specific solutions contained in the Platform of the Serbian negotiating team on the future status of Kosovo and Metohija, she said.  The international community should demonstrate by its deeds its commitment to a stable and safe region, which could only be achieved by taking steps towards introducing the rule of law, punishing criminals and terrorists, and creating security and other conditions for a normal life.

“We firmly believe that there is a way out of this situation”, she said.  A sustainable solution could be based only on giving up extreme demands and embracing a rational approach and compromise.  In practice, it meant substantial autonomy for Kosovo, the kind of autonomy that no European or other State had granted the region so far.  It was there, she added, that despite obvious difficulties, there was manoeuvring space for agreement and compromise.  Talks so far had not borne fruit, largely due to a lack of engagement and an insufficient number of meetings.  In that regard, she proposed that the Vienna talks be immediately resumed in order to find modalities for the broadest autonomy of Kosovo Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, with the European Union’s participation.  “The talks should be intensive and enable us to get results soon,” she said.  The threat of violence could not be accepted as a rational argument.

Just a month ago, Serbia had voiced its position on Kosovo and Metohija in a most legitimate and powerful fashion, she added.  More than half of the registered voters had opted in favour of the new constitution of Serbia.  By adopting the constitution in a referendum, an absolute majority of Serbia’s citizens had reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of democratic States and to the inviolability of Serbia’s borders.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE ( France) noted with satisfaction the adoption of several laws aimed at the protection of minorities.  That had been necessary to ensure that Kosovo was a multi-ethnic community, and that positive evolution should be built upon.  All standards should be implemented in a tangible and practical way, particularly with regard to property rights and the rule of law, and especially with respect to the legal sector.  He had also noted the drop in ethnically-based crimes.  Nevertheless, such acts remained unacceptable and must be treated through the appropriate legal channels.  The Secretary-General had stressed in his report the efforts made to establish contacts with the minority communities and, thus, he had been disappointed that the Serbian leaders remained on the sidelines of the political process, to the detriment of their community.

He called on the authorities in Belgrade to lift all impediments preventing participation in the Kosovo institutions.  He fully supported the process led by Mr. Ahtisaari, the Special Envoy.  He also noted the announcement that recommendations on status would be submitted after the parliamentary elections in Serbia.  The Security Council should then take decisions based on those recommendations, particularly in order to adapt the international presence in Kosovo.  It was important not to delay resolution of an issue that weighed on regional stability, or to prevent implementation of the reforms that all wished to see.  The guidelines established by the Contact Group and endorsed by the Council should also be respected, he urged.

MARÍA JOSEFINA MARTÍNEZ GRAMUGLIA ( Argentina) wanted to highlight the willingness of the Provisional Institutions to give priority to the programme that, without doubt, contributed to strengthening the Kosovo institutions.  Standards implementation was also a sine qua non for realizing the European prospective on Kosovo and must continue to be the core of the efforts during the future status process for Kosovo and even after it concluded.  It was disappointing, however, that the standards programme’s impact upon Kosovo Serb communities was limited, primarily due to their own reluctance to cooperate with the Pristina authorities.

She urged Kosovo Serbs to engage with the Provisional Institutions and to participate at the country level of the political process in Kosovo.  The leaders of the Serb National Council must put an end to their boycott of the contacts with the Provisional Institutions, while Belgrade authorities must remove, without delay all impediments to such participation.  The leaders of the Provisional Institutions must persist with standards implementation, if they were to succeed in creating the basis of a truly multi-ethnic and democratic society where all communities lived together in dignity and security.  All communities needed to exercise moderation in the current critical moment for Kosovo’s future.

While there were different expectations on the part of the key actors regarding its results, it was necessary to keep the momentum in the political process, as more uncertainty could result in greater instability, she added.  The primary aim of the process should be to assure all who lived in Kosovo that they would have a safe, decent and peaceful life.  To achieve that, it was of the utmost importance that any solution be the outcome of negotiation between the parties, not an international imposition.  A negotiated solution should be an international priority, as well.  The settlement of Kosovo’s status should contribute to the regional stability, with a realistic agreement that was viable and fully compatible with resolution 1244 (1999).  She called on the leaders of both parties to demonstrate vision and political will to achieve a negotiated solution that would allow Kosovo to enter a new phase of its history.

ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF ( United States) expressed his continued support for UNMIK’s role in developing meaningful self-government in Kosovo.  He had been encouraged by the progress made in implementing the Contact Group’s standards priorities.  Kosovo should make every effort to complete all priorities and the overall work on the standards, paying particular attention to respect for individual property rights.  He strongly condemned the explosion of the railway line, and noted with concern the establishment of illegal checkpoints in western Kosovo.  He called on all sides to respect the rule of law and to refrain from all acts of violence.  Belgrade must do its part to improve the situation by supporting the Kosovo Serbs’ participation in local institutions, returning all records, and working with the international community to ensure stability, particularly in the north.

Noting that six and one half years had passed since the international community’s intervention had brought an end to the fighting in Kosovo, he said that all people of Kosovo deserved clarity about their future.  The mere speculation of delay in the status process had led to a feeling of uncertainty and could represent a source of instability if momentum abated.  It was important, therefore, to keep the momentum of the political process and achieve status settlement soon.  The United States supported the decision to present the report on status -- without delay -- following the 21 January elections in Serbia.  The report should be received with open minds, understanding the importance of an integrated settlement.  As the status process neared its concluding stages, both sides should be realistic about the probable outcome:  there would be no return to the pre-1999 situation; there would be no partition of Kosovo and no union of Kosovo with any other, or part of another, country.

Additionally, he said, the settlement must solidify Kosovo’s multi-ethnicity and must also offer real protection for the political and cultural rights of all communities.  At the same time, the settlement must be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.  It was also important for UNMIK, as well as the Pristina and Belgrade authorities, to work closely with the representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and bilateral missions on the transition planning needed for the period following the conclusion of the status process.

TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) noted that, while a form for Kosovo’s final status dominated the political situation in Kosovo, the implementation of the Kosovo standards was the challenge, which Kosovo’s leaders must address on a day-to-day basis.  He welcomed the steady progress on the implementation of the 13 priority areas and appreciated the creation of structures and work plans by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government to implement the European Partnership Action Plan, in which the standards were now integrally incorporated.  Serious work should go into all standards implementation efforts.

Regarding “functioning democratic institutions”, it was a serious problem that no progress had been reported on the issue of participation of Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo’s political institutions, he said.  He expressed deep concern with regard to the three northern municipalities’ ongoing boycott of contacts with the Provisional Institutions and urged those municipalities to assume their contacts without delay.  To solve the problem, Serbia’s Government should respond positively to the international calls for action on the issue.  A stable society would not be achieved through the stabilization of governance alone, but also required economic recovery.  The Provisional Institutions needed to redouble efforts to build the necessary economic system and institutions and also needed to address the issue of youth unemployment.

Mistrust among ethnic groups was an underlying factor that was hindering freedom of movement, he continued.  Both the Serbian and Albanian leaders needed to take the necessary measures for confidence-building among the people.  Japan had been fully supportive of Special Envoy Ahtisaari and expressed understanding for his decision to present his comprehensive proposal immediately after the upcoming Serbian elections.  He welcomed the careful preparations now under way for the transition to an international civilian presence after UNMIK’s withdrawal.  The transition needed to take place without delay, upon the determination of the final status.  While the situation in Kosovo would reach a critical juncture at the beginning of next year, he strongly urged all parties to act with prudence to ensure that the final status would contribute to peace and security in the region.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the contents of Mr. Rücker’s briefing would have been better had he not gone beyond his mandate.  Despite some progress, the gains could not be described as significant, particularly in terms of protecting minorities, decentralization and the return of non-Albanian refugees, among many other unresolved matters.  The key problem was still the same:  the growing gap between the existence of relevant instruments and documents and the actual situation in the province.  It must be said that pledges to guarantee the security of non-Albanians in Kosovo had still not taken on a concrete form.  Recalling the conclusions of the Secretary-General in his latest report, he said that, in order to ensure confidence-building and stability, it must be ensured that priority in implementing the standards be given to concrete, and not symbolic, measures.

He said, for example, that more attention should be given to property rights, such as the protection of orthodox churches, during the prioritization process.  Any mistakes could lead to a single-ethnic society in Kosovo.  A precondition to progress was enhancing security and combating organized crime.  Without that, freedom of movement and return of refugees and internally displaced persons were impossible.  He was concerned that, despite a drop in the overall number of ethnically-based crimes, acts of violence against Kosovo Serbs persisted.  Freedom of movement under the threat of massive unrest was another subject of serious concern.  He condemned the recent mass unrest, including the acts of violence committed against the UNMIK office in Pristina.

The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo and the international presence were keeping the situation under control, he said.  Those situations must not be allowed to be repeated in the future.  It was unacceptable to have a timetable determined for political events “by the street”.  Any attempt to destabilize the situation meant that the Security Council would have to review the situation, and that could mean an immediate halt in the status process.  The Kosovo Albanian leadership had the main responsibility for not allowing extremist acts on the territory of the province, which could only complicate the settlement process.  Leadership in the province should step up efforts to ensure genuine progress in implementing the standards, particularly those dealing with ensuring a multi-ethnic society.  The Serbian side should also play its part in that regard.

He noted the Secretary-General’s disappointment at the participation in the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, but that demonstrated the little confidence minorities had in those Institutions.  The majority community should establish a climate to encourage minorities to cooperate with the provisional authorities and participate in all areas of life in Kosovo.  Achieving the standards would influence the rate and outcome of the negotiations on the future status of the process.  He welcomed the wise decision to interrupt the status talks until the election campaign in Serbia was completed.  Of extreme importance was to ensure consistent efforts by Belgrade and Pristina to find an acceptable, effective and negotiated outcome to the status, on the basis of the fundamental principles set out in Council resolution 1244 (1999) and by the Contact Group.

The Secretary-General had rightly pointed out the need for both parties to show more flexibility in the status talks, to find points of agreement and long-lasting and sustainable decisions, he noted.  Those should be aimed at a comprehensive status proposal, which the Secretary-General’s Special Representative would submit to the parties.  Any strict timeline must be rejected, and the positions of both the Serbs and Albanians must be brought together and not be based on “tying anybody’s hands”.  Concrete proposals by Belgrade should be examined; he saw no alternative but to negotiate a compromise, however difficult it might be to achieve that.  Any condemnation of Belgrade’s lack of a constructive approach on Kosovo’s status was unfounded.  At the same time, he aligned himself with the Secretary-General’s appeal to refrain from any unilateral acts by either side.  Only a negotiated, and not a unilateral or imposed, decision on Kosovo could be supported by the Security Council and would avoid an international crisis on settlement.

NANA EFFAH-APENTENG ( Ghana) said he attached equal weight to the two conflict claims and believed that all possibilities for a negotiated settlement must be explored.  There could be no lasting peace and stability in Kosovo unless the final status process resulted in an outcome that guaranteed respect for the rights of all ethnic groups.  The current strategy contained the right elements, with its emphasis on the creation of functioning democratic institutions that could effectively entrench the rule of law, ensure the freedom of movement in a safe and secure environment, facilitate the return of displaced persons, not to mention the creation of a vibrant economy.  Although the progress made so far did not measure up to expectation, with respect to the 13 priorities for standards implementations, it was not for want of trying.  In the absence of a strong political will to engage their Albanian counterparts, the Kosovo Serbians had impeded progress.

In that connection, the continuing refusal of the Serbian minority to participate in the Provisional Institutions, coupled with the institutional mechanisms being put in place to ensure accountability and respect for the rights of all minorities, was a major challenge.  He urged all Kosovo Serbs and the Belgrade authorities not to dismiss the positive overtures as cynical manipulation of the final status process, without subjecting them to a practical test.  The only way to do that was to be involved in the process of institution-building that was shaping the future of their homeland.

At the same time, the pattern of hostility among Albanian youth towards the Serbs was particularly disturbing, as it did not augur well for harmonious existence between the two communities in the future.  He urged that conscious effort be made to instil in the youth of the various ethnic groups the values of tolerance and unity.  The critical question today was whether, at the current stage, Kosovo had the internal strength and resilience to withstand the pressures of the conflicting claims on its future status.  Closely related to that was whether the Belgrade authorities and the Kosovo Serbs could be brought around to accepting an independent and sovereign Kosovo with the levers of power firmly in the hands of an Albanian majority.  Ghana did not have easy answers to those questions.

ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS ( Greece) welcomed the progress made in implementing the standards, including the recent adoption of such legislation as the laws on freedom of religion, the use of languages and cultural heritage.  Progress made in the functioning of the ministries of justice and internal affairs were also positive steps.  However, there seemed to have been no substantial progress on decentralization, beyond the first three pilot projects, and he called on the parties involved to take that process forward.  He also fully condemned the recent violence.  He noted the decrease in the number of attacks against religious sites; such incidents had no place whatsoever in a modern and democratic society.

He stressed, once more, the need for the involvement of the Kosovo Serbs in the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.  Their participation was key in serving their own best interests, and he, therefore, urged Belgrade to encourage them in that direction.  On Kosovo’s future status, he reiterated his country’s position that the best possible and most sustainable outcome was the achievement of a mutually acceptable solution.  He, thus, welcomed the realization by the international community of the need for certain flexibility on the time frame.  That would allow for a more genuine status process and give the Provisional Institutions, among others, the necessary time to press on with their efforts to implement the standards, he said.

TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) welcomed the progress made by the Provisional Institutions on their sustained effort to implement the 13 priority points for standards implementation presented by the Contact Group.  Substantial progress had been made, in that regard.  While he hailed progress in their implementation of standards, he regretted that the issue of Kosovo’s future status remained in abeyance.  Undoubtedly, that had taken more prominence and visibility in Kosovo’s political life.  Commending the Special Envoy for his efforts in convening further rounds of direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade, he said he was concerned that the positions of the two sides still remained far apart.

Troubled by the risk that further delay could potentially raise instability in the country, he called on the leaders of both sides to negotiate in good faith.  He appealed to the Serbian side to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in Kosovo political institutions and to the Kosovo leaders to reach out to the Serbs and other minorities.  He also urged them to refrain from any public pronouncements and unilateral decisions that might be construed by the other as being hostile and provocative.  Continued violence that sought to effect political change could only be unhelpful.  It was in the interest of all people of Kosovo that the leaders used the opportunity between now and March to promote reconciliation and dialogue.

PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia) said he joined the Secretary-General’s call on the majority population in Kosovo to demonstrate political responsibility and firm commitment to non-violence in achieving political change.  UNMIK’s role, as well as that of other international bodies in Kosovo, was still vital and instrumental for peace, and for the status process outcome and its implementation.  An international presence would have to be sustained after the final status determination process concluded.  He agreed that the implementation of the standards must remain an important priority.  He noted with satisfaction the trends and the commitment of the Government led by Agim Çeku for efforts in that direction.  Ensuring that those efforts were maintained was crucial, with a special focus on the 13 priorities.

The standards implementation was equally essential for assuring Kosovo’s multi-ethnicity, as well as for its European perspective.  As the European Union would play a more visible role, the more standards it could reach today, the further along it could be in the integration process.  Kosovo was also a home for Serbs.  He agreed that progress would be achieved by actions -- and not words -- that indicated everyone had a future in Kosovo.  It was ultimately the authority of the Kosovo Albanian authorities to demonstrate that they were ready to expect the high responsibility for the future well-being of ethnic minorities, which should feel that they were an integral and welcome part of society.

He said the issue of participation of Kosovo Serbs in the Provisional Institutions should be disconnected from the status process.  He called again on Belgrade and Pristina to encourage Kosovo Serbs to exercise their rights in full through their participation, thereby contributing to the status negotiation process.  Slovakia supported the process led by Mr. Ahtisaari and believed in the need to find a balanced settlement.

BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said he sought a process in which Albanians and Serbs lived together in a multi-ethnic society.  What was at stake in Kosovo was the stability of the whole region.  He had associated himself with the aim of completing status talks by the end of 2006, but today Kosovo was at a crossroads.  He had awaited with great interest the submission of a settlement proposal.  In light of the situation described in the Secretary-General’s report, it was important not to further delay the process, as any further stall would risk a resurgence in violence by armed groups, whose only objective was to exploit frustrations.

He said that, at a time when the situation was close to the finish line, the Council must forcefully condemn any unilateral threat or use of violence that could undermine the political process.  It should also deplore the fact that the Serbian leaders had chosen to remain on the sidelines or been absent from the political institutions in Kosovo.  Whatever the outcome of the future status, Serbians and Kosovo Albanians must find common solutions to their joint problems.  The Secretary-General’s report had noted the limited progress in negotiations, owing to the irreconcilable positions of the two parties.  He hoped Mr. Ahtisaari would be able to submit proposals consistent with the international community’s expectations.

Mr. OROZCO ( Peru) said the Secretary-General’s report referred to the importance of the status process.  Progress had been made in that regard, despite difficulties.  He was happy to see what had been achieved in applying the standards, particularly regarding the 13 priorities.  Progress on the standards strengthened Kosovo’s institutions and would help its future development.  There had been significant progress in the economic sphere, including in the production of electricity.  The international investors’ conference in October had been an important step in bringing in foreign investment.  A political agreement on Kosovo’s final status would only be viable with long-term socio-economic stability.  In that regard, he asked the economic players in Kosovo to promote their productive sectors on a regional basis.

He agreed that there were difficult barriers to overcome in Kosovo.  With future status dominating the political scene, the parties continued to have opposing views.  Violence persisted and the Serbs’ lack of participation in Kosovo’s institutions was also a source of concern.  While the number of minorities returning to Kosovo remained constant, the number was still unsatisfactory.  The definition of future status should not exclude any segment of society.  Without consensus, there would no sustainable solution.  Peru supported the political process for a negotiated settlement and supported Mr. Ahtisaari in looking for a status that would bring stability to the entire region.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that the question of Kosovo had reached a crucial stage.  With the joint efforts of UNMIK and the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, some progress had been made towards implementing the standards, but challenges remained in the area of security, returns and entrenchment of ethnic harmony.  Judging from the present reality, only when momentum from the standards’ implementation was achieved, along with a breakthrough in creating a truly harmonious society, could there be hope for Kosovo’s future.  He hoped that the difficulties would be overcome and that the standards could be implemented.

Noting that the future status process had been under way for nearly a year, he said that the Serb Government and Kosovo authorities had made contacts at various levels, and while some progress had been made, different positions also existed.  It was a matter of major importance that work press ahead on the status question in the right direction.  He was concerned about the recent violence, and he urged both sides to exercise restraint and to seek to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution in the status talks.  The question was rather sensitive and complicated; whether it could be properly settled was of concern to all.

In resolving the question, it was essential to listen to all parties, especially those in the region, he said.  It should be kept in mind that any settlement of the question of Kosovo would affect all in the region.  A lasting solution should be sought, therefore, which avoided any further turmoil or destabilization in the region.  At the same time, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected.  The Security Council and the international community as a whole should be impartial on Kosovo’s future status and encourage both sides to seek a mutually acceptable plan.

KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) condemned the violence unreservedly and stressed the need for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, regardless of ethnicity.  All sides should respect the rule of law and the Contact Group’s guiding principles.  If violence continued once status was settled, there would be consequences for Euro-Atlantic integration.  She welcomed the progress achieved on the standards’ implementation.  The Kosovo authorities deserved support in making further progress.  Standards did not end with status settlement, but were a part of the integral framework for European integration.  On the issue of participation, she said it was disappointing that Council members were again calling on Belgrade to allow Kosovo Serbs to take part in the negotiations on their own future.  Belgrade was protecting its own hard line, and the Council had said that was not acceptable.  It was disappointing that they continued to defy the Council, in that regard.

She said the United Kingdom considered itself a friend of Serbia and wanted to help it integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions.  It was disappointing that the hand of friendship extended by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in bringing Serbia into the Partnership for Peace was not matched by a willingness on the part of Serbia to engage in good-neighbourly relations.  It was important to have a Europe that was whole and free.  She welcomed what had been said about the rule of law governing Serbia’s actions.  In that connection, she called on Belgrade to transfer Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadic to The Hague Tribunal.  She also called on Belgrade to stop encouraging separatists in the Republika Srpska and noted that the Dayton Peace Agreement established what Bosnia was.  The Council must, she added, back Special Envoy Ahtisaari.  On the constitution, she respected the right of the Serbian people to express their views.  The Serbian platform and the constitution were, however, “side shows”.  The only show in town was the Ahtisaari status process.

She added that a wish to bring Belgrade along had meant that a long time had been taken to settle Kosovo’s status.  It was becoming clear that Belgrade did not wish to engage with the Council or the Special Envoy in settling the status issue.  Council members had agreed that they would prefer a negotiated solution.  The Contact Group had, however, laid down an alternative route, if that was not possible.  It was not for her to say what the status should be.  That was for Mr. Ahtisaari.  At the same time, however, there was a growing consensus that any settlement was likely to be based on some form of independence for Kosovo with cast-iron guarantees to protect the rights of its minority communities.  Any settlement must enshrine the standards discussed today, which formed the bedrock of any integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

LARS FAABORG-ANDERSEN (Denmark), also expressing satisfaction at some of the progress made towards implementing the standards, said, however, that he was still very concerned about the steps taken by the Kosovo Serb municipalities in northern Kosovo to end contacts with the Provisional Institutions and set up parallel structures.  As the Secretary-General noted in his report, by remaining outside the political process in Kosovo, the Kosovo Serb leaders were doing a disservice to their community.  He, therefore, urged Belgrade to encourage the Kosovo Serb representatives to participate constructively in the Provisional Institutions in Pristina and, not least, in the municipal bodies.

He said he also sought a sustainable solution to Kosovo’s future.  Non-cooperation, isolation and entrenched positions would not lead to a better future.  Flexibility and compromise were prerequisites for a sustainable solution and coordinated and forward-looking actions from all actors were required.  The primary beneficiaries would be all Kosovars, regardless of ethnicity, the population of the Republic of Serbia and indeed all the people of the Western Balkans.  Cooperation and participation was in everyone’s best interest.

Denmark viewed the situation in Kosovo from a regional perspective, he said.  He steadfastly supported UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), and he looked forward to a more peaceful a prosperous future, which the peoples of the region deserved.  That would entail close regional cooperation towards the common integration of those truly European countries into the Euro-Atlantic structures, where they rightfully belonged.  However, the Euro-Atlantic perspectives depended on implementation of standards and a sustainable solution to Kosovo’s future status.

NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said it was time to resolve the crisis in Kosovo.  In that regard, it was encouraging to see the significant efforts that had been expended so far.  The United Nations, along with other partners, had played a central role in those efforts.  State institutions in Kosovo had started to take shape and were managing the territory in an efficient manner.  The territory still needed the international community’s support, however, in strengthening its institutions and ensuring its stability.  Achieving long-term stability required settling the territory’s status.  While the positions of both parties were still largely at odds, it was encouraging to see that dialogue was still ongoing.

He noted that one of the conditions for finding a permanent settlement of Kosovo’s future was the need to ensure the effective participation of Kosovo’s Albanians and Serbs in the Government apparatus and State activities.  All groups should take part in the dialogue on the territory’s future status.  Both parties should refrain from any act that would undermine that participation.  Noting the low levels of refugee returns, he said the international community should support the process.  The real reason for the low number of refugees was the uncertainty regarding Kosovo’s future status, he added.

On behalf of the European Union, KIRSTI LINTONEN ( Finland) said that recent months had been dominated by the status talks, the first preparations for the end of UNMIK’s mandate and for the transition period.  Regarding Kosovo’s future status, Belgrade and Pristina had continued expressing “diametrically opposed” positions.  The talks had enabled the two sides to engage in substantial exchanges, but they had not resulted in any major shifts of position.  The Union encouraged both Belgrade and Pristina to engage constructively in the status process.  However, the process should not be open-ended and neither party should unilaterally block or derail the process, for example, by resorting to violence.

She stressed the crucial importance of further accelerated and effective implementation of the standards, which were equally essential for Kosovo’s “European perspective”.  More efforts were needed to create an administrative environment that would ensure further approximation of the European standards.  She also stressed the need for further efforts in full respect of the rule of law and an independent judicial system.  Combating organized crime and corruption, building macroeconomic stability, and protecting all communities living in Kosovo required the special attention of the Kosovo authorities.  The future status settlement would be a challenge, not only for Serbia and Kosovo, but for the whole international community, and required coordinated and forward-looking action.  However, the status settlement alone would not solve Kosovo’s pressing economic and social problems.  Those challenges must be tackled with renewed vigour.

The western Balkan region, including Kosovo, had been given a European perspective, she said.  The Union had a major interest in a positive, clear outcome of the status process.  Its success would be essential, not only for providing a clear perspective for the people in Kosovo, but also for the overall stability of the region.  In that context, maintaining the European perspective of Serbia was of great importance.  The Union viewed the question of Kosovo’s status as “sui generis”.  The outcome of the status process would not set a precedent for other regions, as its current status was exceptional and based on resolution 1244 (1999).  Like other speakers, she regretted the fact that Kosovo Serbs still did not participate in the work of Kosovo’s central institutions, despite the international community’s repeated calls for them to do so.

VICTOR KRYZHANIVSKYI ( Ukraine), welcoming positive developments in the implementation of standards, stressed the need for that work to be further strengthened as a perquisite for Kosovo’s long-term unity and stability.  Particular efforts were needed to ensure that Kosovo remained multi-ethnic, democratic and respectful of minorities’ rights.  It was also important for the Kosovo Government to reach out to the Serb population and make them partners in the ongoing transformation.  Noting the increasing tension in Kosovo, he said he was disturbed by the fact that ethnically- and politically-motivated crimes had continued during the reporting period, some of which were an obvious attempt to exert pressure on international actors.

He said Ukraine strongly believed in the necessity of achieving a final settlement of the political, economic and security situation in Kosovo through the creation of adequate conditions for the return of the non-Albanian population.  He also cautioned against hasty or unilateral steps, which could destabilize the region.  The current negotiations needed to be prolonged and based on recognized norms and the principles of international law.  He was particularly concerned by references to the “universal nature” or “precedence” of the Kosovo settlement.  Such an approach could pose a threat, in that other countries could use their influence for advancing similar scenarios in other regions with “frozen conflicts”, particularly within the post-Soviet areas.

ADRIAN NERITANI ( Albania) expressed satisfaction with the overall assessment that significant achievements had been made in implementing the standards.  Also, it was notable that the security situation had not been adversely affected by the ongoing future status process.  He shared the view that that situation must not be taken for granted over an unrealistically extended period of time.  At the same time, it was dictated by the evolving situation on the ground.  Keeping up the political momentum required bold and determined action by all parties.  Further slippage after the January 2007 deadline might seriously put at risk an orderly settlement and exhaust the many bonds that had so far kept the process “a promising one for a good cause”.  He was pleased that the need to “deliver results sooner rather than later is commonly understood and widely accepted by the Council and key Member States”.  Their coherence and level of certainty was indispensable to delivering an acceptable result.

Echoing the view of previous speakers, he said it was equally essential that Kosova Serb leaders participate fully in the political process.  Remaining outside the process did a disservice to their community.  The Belgrade authorities should respond to coherent international policy by removing all impediments to Kosova Serbs’ participation in Kosova’s institutions.  It was the right time to solve the issue and not the time to try “raising the bargaining chips in the negotiating table”.  At the same time, he appealed to the Kosova Albanians to redouble their efforts in respect of freedom and rights of minorities, and increase their outreach to all communities.  Both Albanians and Serbs in Kosova should leave aside the past, engage in reconciliation, strengthen their cooperation and look forward to their common future.

Albania would continue to play an active and constructive role in the status process, which should proceed steadily and swiftly, he said.  Further delay or any artificial status quo would prolong instability, uncertainty and institutional paralysis and serve nobody’s interest, inside or beyond the region.  The solution should be clearly defined, politically and legally, without any ambiguity.  The outcome of the status talks should contribute to ending the unpredictability and uncertainty that stemmed from the current lack of status, strengthen Kosova’s stability and security and that of the entire region.  The most realistic, pragmatic and just solution to the matter was independence, with a supporting continuation of a civil and security presence of the international community.  In other words, a promotion and protection of Serbs and all other minorities’ rights, their cultural and religious heritage, within a society in Kosova in which all people lived in dignity and prosperity, and without fear.

He was confident that independence would guarantee social and economic stability and security for Kosova and the whole region, and help to establish a sustainable, multi-ethnic, democratic society there.  It would also pave the way for its European perspective.  The international military and civilian presence in Kosova, even after the determination of status, would be essential.

Ms. RAŠKOVIĆ-IVIĆ, President of the Coordination Centre of Serbia for Kosovo and Metohija, thanked members for their proposals and comments.  She understood them as strong support of the negotiation process.  She had heard several times the argument of the uncertainty of the Kosovo Albanians as a reason for haste.  That was not a good argument.  Regarding the participation of Serbs in the institutions, she noted that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija did not have confidence in their freedom of movement.  There were still many attacks on people who have been moving around.  The issue of participation was a complex one, and not just a problem of confidence or security.  Serbs had the feeling that they were just décor.  Their participation in Kosovo should be meaningful.  From her point of view, Kosovo was, by its substance, a precedent, and not a case of sui generis.  She welcomed the cooperation with the European Union on technical matters.

Mr. RÜCKER said he would not comment on the substance of the status process, but, in his view, it was his mandate to point out the objective costs associated with continued lack of clarity on status.  He hoped that had become clear in his briefing.  It was his mandate to facilitate the transition period, and he wanted to bring that process to an orderly conclusion.

He noted that many delegates had mentioned incidents of violence in Kosovo, and he assured them that he not only condemned the violence, but he saw to it that the perpetrators were being brought to justice.  Regarding the figures mentioned in Ms. Rašković-Ivić’s report, they did not match his own, and he was happy to share his data on the incidents.  However, every incident was one too many.  Regarding her remarks that UNMIK was going beyond its mandate and seeking to establish a State for Albanians in Kosovo, he said that certainly UNMIK was not seeking a State for Albanians in Kosovo, but was seeking a multi-ethnic Kosovo.

On standards implementation, he said he fully agreed with speakers that further progress was required.  However, further progress depended on status.  For example, concerning the economy, how could the economy develop without access to international lending or borrowing, which was not possible without status.  Also, the question of returns, too, depended on status because there was uncertainty and a lot of potential returns were awaiting status.

In terms of protection of cultural heritage and decentralization, everyone knew that Mr. Ahtisaari was negotiating ways to address those issues.  Other progress in standards implementation clearly depended on the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the institutions.  He was grateful that so many speakers had stressed the need for the Serbs to participate.  Only their participation would enable them to properly influence developments in Kosovo, and he again appealed to Belgrade to “make that happen”.  He added that freedom of movement was not impeding that participation.

He said that confidence-building and dialogue was key overall, and he urged the Kosovo Serbs and all other minorities to take the “extended hand” of the Provisional Institutions and its representatives.  He would work hard with the Security Council, and under the direction of the Secretary-General, to come to a good conclusion of the still open question of Kosovo, he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.