Peace, Stability in Kosovo, Wider Region, Guiding Principle of United Nations Interim Administration Mission’s Work, Special Representative Says

15 October 2009
SC/9768

Peace, Stability in Kosovo, Wider Region, Guiding Principle of United Nations Interim Administration Mission’s Work, Special Representative Says

15 October 2009
Security Council
SC/9768
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6202nd Meeting (PM)

Peace, Stability in Kosovo, Wider Region, Guiding Principle of United Nations

Interim Administration Mission’s Work, Special Representative Says

 

Briefing Security Council, UNMIK Chief Reports ‘Generally Stable’

Conditions, Level of Returns of Displaced Persons Still Below Expectations

The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continued to play a vital facilitation role, despite the political realities in that province, Lamberto Zannier, the Head of the Mission and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told the Security Council today.

“Our guiding principle is to ensure Kosovo’s lasting security and stability, and the security and stability of the region,” Mr. Zannier said as he introduced the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNMIK’s work.

He said that the reporting period -- 1 June to 15 September 2009 -- had been one of consolidation and readjustment for UNMIK, and the Mission had concentrated on addressing the concerns of minority communities, in order to foster confidence and promote dialogue.  The Mission was also addressing external relations with non-recognizing States, including the facilitation of Kosovo’s participation in regional and international processes.

Mr. Zannier reported that conditions had remained generally stable during the period, in part due to the coordinated efforts of UNMIK, the European Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had preserved what he called a “fragile stability”.

He also reported that the returns of displaced persons remained far below the level hoped for, and said he was working with other United Nations units to play a more active role.  Politics in Kosovo was currently dominated by the decentralization process and the municipal elections scheduled for 15 November, he noted.  Advocating Kosovo Serb participation in those processes, he said that, putting status considerations aside, greater participation in Kosovo’s local structures could benefit all of Kosovo’s communities and foster the development of multi-ethnic local institutions.

Vuk Jeremić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said his country’s position had not changed: Serbia would never recognize the unilateral declaration of independence by the ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina.  He affirmed that the Kosovo case was a significant test for the world community and that a choice had to be made between unilateralism and consensus.

In addition, he maintained that the United Nations remained the indispensable actor in Kosovo under resolution 1244 (1999), and its ability to work effectively must remain unconstrained.  He added that Serbia had proactively worked with all legitimate actors on the ground in Kosovo, while ensuring that constitutional “red lines” were not crossed.

Skender Hyseni, of Kosovo, said that, since June, two more nations had recognized Kosovo as an independent state and Kosovo had formally signed articles of agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  He said efforts had intensified to fight crime and corruption and that the well-being of minority communities and return of internally displaced persons was a standing priority of his government.

He also stressed that the improvement of conditions in the Serb majority areas was an issue Kosovo authorities were paying close attention to.  While progress was obvious, there was interference from Serbia in those efforts and members of the Kosovo Serb community had been discouraged from integrating with the rest of the population.  He said he looked forward to working closely with all Members of the United Nations to promote shared goals of international peace and safety.

In the discussion that followed, most Council members welcomed the reconfiguration of UNMIK, its cooperation with EULEX, recent improvement of the security situation in Kosovo, and the re-employment of ethnic Serb police officers.  Most also called for the improvement of conditions conducive to the return of more displaced persons and urged the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the upcoming elections.

The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said that resolution 1244 (1299) was still legally binding and he opposed the reduction of UNMIK’s role, saying that it must have the primary position among international entities in Kosovo.  He supported a proper legal process to determine the future of Kosovo, including the International Court of Justice proceedings on Kosovo’s declaration of independence, but he objected strenuously to the participation of Pristina authorities in United Nations forums that were intended exclusively for officials of Member States.

The Vice Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria also made a statement.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, Uganda, Mexico, Costa Rica, France, Libya, Japan, Burkina Faso, China, Croatia, United States and Viet Nam.

Mr. Hyseni and Minister Jeremić spoke a second time in reply to each other’s statements.

The meeting began at 3:47 p.m. and ended at 6:03 p.m.

Background

For its consideration today, the Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2009/497), submitted pursuant to resolution 1244 (1999) and covering the activities of that Mission and developments related thereto between 1 June and 15 September 2009.

According to the report, the changing circumstances on the ground since Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the deployment of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) have led to the gradual adjustment of the profile and size of UNMIK, which, as of 1 July, reached the authorized strength of 510 personnel.

Other actors, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and EULEX, play increasingly important roles that complement those of UNMIK, within the framework of Council resolution 1244 (1999).  The overarching objective of UNMIK is to promote security and stability in Kosovo and in the Balkans, through its engagement with all communities in Kosovo, as well as with Pristina and Belgrade, in cooperation with international actors.

The UNMIK Office for Community Support and Facilitation is tasked with monitoring, reporting and facilitation functions, as well as with residual external representation and economic coordination functions, according to the report.  EULEX has continued to operate under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations, and now stands at 1,651 international and 998 local employees.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Lamberto Zannier, has operated against a political background in which decision-making by the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade is influence by concerns over how the International Court of Justice might interpret their actions in its consideration of the General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence.  The report adds that both Belgrade and Pristina continue to maintain and present opposing views on the status of Kosovo.

The report says that while Kosovo authorities opted for limited contacts with the Special Representative, formal and informal cooperation exists with UNMIK staff.  EULEX continued to take the lead in technical discussions with Serbian authorities in the rule of law area.  Although the Belgrade authorities adopted a pragmatic approach, Pristina authorities do not want to engage unless they can deal with their Belgrade counterparts as equals, which remains unacceptable to Belgrade.

The three Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in the north continued to function and interact almost exclusively through UNMIK, the report continues.  EULEX is perceived as supporting the interest of the Pristina authorities.  UNMIK’s main function in the north is to engage with all communities in order to facilitate dialogue and ensure links with Pristina through its regional office.  As Kosovo authorities announced that municipal elections would be held on 15 November, organizing elections in the north will be difficult.  UNMIK, for the first time since its deployment, is not expected to certify the results of those elections.

The report states that the overall security situation in Kosovo remained relatively calm, but fragile in the north, with incidents in a northern Mitrovica suburb where Kosovo Albanian former residents have started rebuilding their houses.  On 2 September, two explosions of unknown origin occurred in northern Mitrovica.  Six inter-ethnic assaults on Kosovo Rama by Kosovo Albanians were reported.  On 11 June, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced a decision to begin transitioning the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) to a so-called “deterrent presence,” in recognition of a positive evolution over a sustained period of time.

Of the 325 Kosovo Serb police officers who had stopped reporting to their duty stations after Kosovo declared independence, 317 returned to work by the 30 June deadline set by Kosovo authorities.   On 26 August, some 60 Vetëvendosje self-determination activists vandalized 26 EULEX vehicles in Pristina to protest the signing of a protocol by EULEX with the Serbian Ministry of the Interior.  On 2 September, the Kosovo Judicial Council resumed its functions with the appointment of new members after a hiatus of more than six months.

In his observations, the Secretary-General writes that he is pleased that the cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX continued to be strengthened within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations.  The Organization continues to support the growing role of the European Union in Kosovo and welcomes all efforts to increase its strategic and political coordination at all levels.  According to the Secretary-General, it is crucial that the United Nations and the European Union continue working on the basis of a common strategy in order to address ongoing challenges in the region, and in particular to manage the situation in northern Kosovo.

Annex I to the report contains the report of the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union/High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the activities of EULEX in Kosovo.

Briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General

LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, introduced the Secretary-General’s report.  He said that the reporting period had been one of consolidation and readjustment for UNMIK, reflecting the evolving realities on the ground.  “UNMIK has now become a more compact and more politically focused mission within the remit of its mandate.”

He said that political realities had substantially affected the implementation of UNMIK’s administrative role, and the Mission had concentrated on the crucial tasks of addressing the concerns of minority communities -- in order to foster confidence and promote dialogue -- and addressing external relations with non-recognizing States.  That had included facilitation of Kosovo’s participation in regional and international processes in order to foster economic development and other cooperation.  “Our guiding principle is to ensure Kosovo’s lasting security and stability, and the security and stability of the region,” he said.

He reported that conditions had remained generally stable during the period, in part due to the coordinated efforts of UNMIK, EULEX, KFOR and OSCE, which had preserved what he called a “fragile stability”.  In August, when the situation had threatened to get out of hand over the reconstruction of ethnic Albanian houses in the Mitrovica suburb, UNMIK had helped the parties.

He also reported that returns of displaced persons remained far below the level hoped for, despite a modest increase, and he was working with other United Nations units to play a more active role.  He said politics in Kosovo was currently dominated by decentralization and the municipal elections scheduled for 15 November.  Since the report was drafted, Kosovo authorities had decided that four new municipalities with Kosovo Serb majorities were to be established following the election, the first organized since the declaration of independence in February 2008.

Advocating Serb participation in those processes, he said that putting status considerations aside, greater participation in Kosovo’s local structures could benefit all of Kosovo’s communities and foster the development of multi-ethnic local institutions.  In that regard, he welcomed the return of Kosovo Serbs to their posts with the Kosovo police, though he voiced disappointment at lagging cooperation in other areas between Pristina and Belgrade, as outlined in the report.  He urged pragmatism and compromise in those areas.

He said UNMIK’s facilitation had enabled Kosovo’s participation in important international and regional forums.  In other areas, however, he explained that UNMIK’s role was hindered because Pristina and Belgrade continue to try to bolster their respective legal positions before the International Court of Justice.  Belgrade expected a robust UNMIK role and the Pristina authorities believed that UNMIK’s job was done, though cooperation continued at the working levels with representatives of the Kosovo institutions.  While official contact with him had been avoided by Pristina authorities, he was pleased to have been invited by President Fatmir Sejdiu for a meeting before his departure for New York.  He voiced hope that such contact would continue.

In conclusion, he said that UNMIK’s goal to improve the lives of all the people of Kosovo, in a stable and peaceful region, might be ambitious, but he was convinced that, together with Pristina and Belgrade, international partnership and the support of the Council, UNMIK could meet that goal.

Statements

VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said his country’s position had not changed: Serbia would never recognize the unilateral declaration of independence by the ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina.  The Kosovo case was a significant test for the world community.  A choice had to be made between unilateralism and consensus.  The General Assembly had tasked the International Court of Justice with determining if that declaration conformed to international law.

There was little doubt that the Court’s conclusions would have overarching consequences for international legal order.  He appealed to all Member States to respect the fact that the Court was actively considering the issue and to ensure that the Court’s procedures would not be prejudged, including through further recognitions of the Kosovo declaration of independence.

He said the United Nations remained an indispensable actor in Kosovo.  UNMIK’s external representation function remained especially important.  The ability of the United Nations to work effectively with EULEX must remain unconstrained.  Disagreements on status must not impede the determination to act together on improving the lives of all residents in the province.  Serbia had proactively worked with all legitimate actors on the ground in Kosovo, while ensuring that its constitutional “red lines” were not crossed.

Commitments made in the Security Council should be honoured and implemented in full -- from resolution 1244 (1999) to the Secretary-General’s six-point plan.  Beginning with the issue of the police, he said virtually all Kosovo Serb police officers had returned to their posts as a direct consequence of Serbia’s engagement.  The Serbian Ministry of the Interior had singed a protocol on police cooperation with EULEX that was entirely status neutral and fully conformed to resolution 1244 (1999).

He said, however, that no progress had been made on determining the territorial jurisdiction of the court in Mitrovica, the appointments of judges and prosecutors designed to reflect the ethnic communities and the applicability of UNMIK law.  On a number of other fronts, cooperation had deepened and on the delicate matter of customs, some results had also been achieved on such issues as smuggling.  He also said KFOR’s status-neutral presence in the province was still required in order to protect Kosovo Serb enclaves and holy sites from threats, incursions and attacks.

Turning to the issue of transportation and infrastructure, he said the Serbian Government had worked hard to resolve pressing electrical energy issues and the disconnection policies that discriminated against the Kosovo Serb community had been rectified.  The critically important issue of facilitating the entry and transport of Serbian officials into the province remained unresolved, however, which hindered Serbia’s ability to work closely with the Kosovo Serb community throughout the province.

Unfortunately, the precarious state of Serbian patrimony remained a deeply troubling part of the reality on the ground in Kosovo, he said.  In August, a whole-scale pillaging of the largest hermitage complex, dating back to the thirteenth century, in the mountains above Prizren had taken place.  The authorities claimed they had no leads, and no arrests had been made.  Ethnic Albanian authorities were still refusing to reconsider the outrageous decision to pave over the remains of the twice-destroyed Serbian church in Djakovica.  The issue was being raised for the third time before the Council.  He asked: “Is it possible that the international community is powerless to get this awful deed reversed?”

He underlined the great importance of the status-neutral approach for moving forward on a multitude of concrete matters.  Regretfully, Kosovo ethnic Albanian authorities had not demonstrated enthusiasm to embrace the status-neutral framework for dealing with unresolved practical issues.  That reticence did not do anyone any good.  During the Council’s last meeting on the subject, he had proposed a focus on the central humanitarian issue of internally displaced persons.  The report underlined the upsetting consequences of a failure to engage on that issue in good faith.  Serb internally displaced persons had been informed in writing by various local authorities that they could not come back home.  That must not be allowed to stand.  While Pristina insisted that ethnic Albanians settle in new areas, their local authorities actively prevented Kosovo Serb internally displaced persons from going back to their homes in the south.

Pristina had called some local elections to be held on 15 November, he said.  The legitimacy of the entire electoral process had been lost by the failure to hold them within the status-neutral framework of resolution 1244 (1999).  The Special Representative had not called them, OSCE could not monitor them and the United Nations would not certify them.  Under such circumstances, Serbia could not support them.  An opportunity had been missed to de-politicize that vitally important issue.  Had a choice been made to work in concert instead of at cross-purposes, perhaps the way could have been paved for the Kosovo Serb community to actively participate in the process.

He said that in the twenty-first century, national success could not come about in isolation.  That was why Serbia would continue to engage in the best possible faith with the international community in addressing all outstanding challenges in the Western Balkans.  And while Serbia remained fundamentally committed to defending its territorial integrity in a peaceful manner, it was also committed to fulfilling its European destination.  Serbia’s central strategic priority continued to be European Union membership.

“Today we have an obligation to foster engagement grounded in mutual respect.  This will not be easy -- for the wounds have not yet healed,” he said.  Continuing, he stressed, however, that if all parties took up the challenge of reconciliation and found the courage to act together, then it would be said of the current generation “that when the need was great and when the odds seemed against us, we did the right thing and brought a lasting peace to our lands, so that our children could live out their dreams”.

SKENDER HYSENI, of Kosovo, said that, since June, significant progress had been made in Kosovo in the area of state institution-building on the basis of the new constitution.  Two more nations had recognized Kosovo as an independent state: Jordan and the Dominican Republic.  On 29 June, Kosovo had formally signed articles of agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  Efforts had intensified to fight crime and corruption.  That put additional responsibilities on the government and the need to further strengthen the rule of law.  The government of Kosovo had continued to address and resolve many issues of economic justice and issues of justice. 

He said the well-being of minority communities and return of internally displaced persons was a standing priority of his government.  Improvement of conditions in the Serb majority areas was an issue the government was paying close attention to and progress was obvious.  There was however obstructive interference from Serbia in the efforts to improve the living conditions, as Belgrade had continued to support power structures in the north.  Members of the Serb community had been discouraged from integrating with the rest of the population.  They were under permanent pressure from Belgrade to boycott local institutions, but had failed to offer any assistance or solutions to the problems of the Serbs in Kosovo.

There was however evident improvement with EULEX deployment, he continued.  EULEX had achieved full operational capability and the government of Kosovo was committed to cooperate closely with EULEX to combat crime, corruption and illicit cross-border activities.  The overall security situation was calm and stable.  The election campaign had been launched today for municipal elections.

He said that new elections were due on 15 November, the first election after independence.  It would be another democratic, free and fair poll.  Participation of Kosovo Serbs would be the most effective way for them to take part in the democratic process and they had been encouraged to participate.  Regrettably, the Government of Serbia had been doing the opposite, and had called for a boycott.

He said that strengthening relations with neighbours had continued to be a priority.  Participation in regional trade and cooperation was critical for strengthening relations in the Balkans.   Belgrade, however, had continued to block Kosovo’s participation in regional and other international bodies.  It was also blocking Kosovo exports to Serbia.  Establishment of an environment of cooperation in the region was critical, as all nations of the Western Balkans shared the hope for European Union membership.  His government would work around the clock to deliver on all requirements for such membership.   He looked forward to working closely with all Members of the United Nations and the Security Council to promote shared goals of international peace and safety.

JOHANNES KYRLE, Vice Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, welcomed the successful completion of UNMIK’s reconfiguration, as well as the Mission’s ongoing facilitation of cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade.  He was pleased as well with the cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations on Kosovo, and pledged the European Union’s continued commitment to playing a leading role and EULEX’s assistance in the consolidation of the rule of law throughout Kosovo.

He said he was encouraged by EULEX’s achievements so far in that area, but a lot remained to be done, particularly in combating organized crime.  He expressed particular concern over recent attacks on the staff and property of EULEX, and called on everyone to refrain from such irresponsible actions.  He said Austria was currently providing 23 experts in the fields of police and judiciary to the mission and would continue to contribute to KFOR with more than 600 troops.

He commended progress achieved by Kosovo in recent months, including its recognition by more States, although ethnic tensions continued.  He expressed particular concern over the continued existence of parallel structures in Kosovo Serb municipalities, as well as the holding of separate elections.  He voiced hope that all ethnic groups would participate actively in the upcoming municipal elections.  Affirming that Kosovo was a key factor in the long-term stabilization of the Western Balkans, he said Austria had consistently supported a future for all peoples of that region within the European Union.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) voiced confidence that UNMIK, as reconfigured, would continue to carry out the tasks entrusted to it, and he welcomed the increase in the number of countries that had recognized Kosovo and that Kosovo was taking the necessary steps to solidify its democratic institutions as a sovereign and independent state.  He fully supported those steps and offered his country’s assistance.

He urged the participation of all citizens in the upcoming elections and the support of Serbia for the integration of Kosovo Serb communities into Kosovo’s institutions.  He also commended the work done so far on decentralization, and urged the Kosovo authorities to finish those efforts with the necessary resources.  Voicing hope that those authorities would take further steps to advance the current efforts on the reconstruction of cultural property and returns, he also pledged cooperation with Kosovo in its efforts to integrate into the international community.  Indeed, security and stability in the Balkans was a key priority for Turkey.  At the same time, he expressed his country’s determination to carry forward its friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Serbia.

PHILIP PARHAM ( United Kingdom) said the Secretary-General’s report illustrated that Kosovo was making progress in the areas of rule of law, security and community reconciliation.  In addition, the fact that 317 Kosovo Serb police officers had been reintegrated in the Kosovo police force was very encouraging.  Sixty-two Member States had now recognized Kosovo as an independent state, and Kosovo had become a member of international financial institutions.  Kosovo was now a permanent fact on the international scene.  Now that its reconfiguration was completed, UNMIK needed to focus on those areas where it could play a useful role.  He welcomed the Mission’s willingness to support Kosovo’s engagement with external organizations, where necessary, and in promoting return of internally displaced persons.  He called on the government of Kosovo to engage pragmatically with UNMIK.

He said one of the key challenges was to ensure the success of the local elections, which could only be achieved through participation by all communities.  Kosovo Serbs should recognize they needed a locally elected leadership.  The government must reach out to all communities to ensure that all Kosovars were able to participate in the democratic process.  He disagreed with Serbia that conditions for elections did not exist, but he welcomed assurances that Belgrade did not seek to punish those Kosovo Serbs that took part.  The proposed “EU house” in the north should enable the citizens of north Kosovo to recognize the benefits the European Union could bring them.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDU ( Uganda) welcomed the completion of UNMIK’s reconfiguration and called on the Mission to focus on security and stability through facilitating cooperation between the communities and between the authorities of Pristina and Belgrade.  He was encouraged by the level of cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX regarding exchange of information and coordination of activities.  Such cooperation in all sectors should continue to be strengthened.   He noted that EULEX had reached full operational capacity and operated within the status-neutral framework of resolution 1244 (1999).

Although it appeared that the security situation in Kosovo was calm, he was concerned at incidences of violence in northern Mitrovica.  He called on both parties to exercise restraint and tolerance.  He saluted UNMIK efforts to encourage both sides to find sustainable and peaceful solutions.  He also commended UNMIK for its work on returns of internally displaced persons.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) welcomed the reconfiguration of UNMIK and its coordination with EULEX, and called on the parties to meet their obligations under resolution 1244 (1999), cooperating with UNMIK in its mandate.  He recalled that the parties were obliged to create conditions conducive to the voluntary return of displaced persons, and he expressed concern that those conditions were still lacking.  Harassment and lack of economic opportunities were among the problem in that area.

He urged UNMIK to continue to work with humanitarian agencies in improving conditions for the return of displaced persons.  He joined the call on local authorities to improve the conditions in internally displaced persons camps as well.  He also encouraged UNMIK and EULEX to continue their efforts in strengthening the crucial areas of justice and respect for human rights. Reiterating his position that peaceful solutions must be found for disputes in regard to international law, he said his delegation therefore awaited the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice with great interest.

JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) welcomed the successful reconfiguration of UNMIK, its cooperation with EULEX, the improvement of the security situation and the reintegration of Serbian police officers.  He voiced hope for the successful implementation of reconstruction projects and the improvement of conditions conducive to the return of the greatest amount of internally displaced persons possible.

He said it was essential to ensure that the upcoming elections were transparent and inclusive, which would lead to the consolidation of the government institutions and stronger respect for human rights.  He called on the authorities in Kosovo to respect minority rights and looked forward to the integration of Kosovo in its region in a way that strengthened the stability of the area.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said that, since its declaration of independence one and a half years ago, Kosovo had contributed to stability with respect for all minorities.  That outcome had been the result of all who had worked in Kosovo within the UNMIK framework.  It had also been the result of EULEX, as well as of the Kosovars and Serbs who had chosen the path of reason, peace and calm.  Overall, one could say that the Kosovo government had acted in a responsible way and had moved towards a rule of law for the good of all.  The European Union was now providing essential support through EULEX, which assisted in setting up institutions of state and rule of law.  As the role of Serbia in that context was essential, he welcomed the cooperation in that regard in the field of police work.

Although he was aware of what independence of Kosovo meant for Serbia, he called on Kosovo to focus all efforts on the European Union perspective and to continue its pragmatic approach.  We regret the presence, on both sides, of a sterile political and judicial guerrilla conflict that does not match the will both public opinions have towards overcoming the crisis and turning towards the future.  The people were sometimes ahead of their governments.  He noted however, the shared concern of the authorities of Kosovo and Serbia to maintain security in the region and concerned both parties to resume a direct dialogue.

ABDURRAHMAN MOHAMED SHALGHAM ( Libya) said that the changed situation on the ground since Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the deployment of the EULEX mission had allowed for the reconfiguration of UNMIK.  It was now extremely important that the Mission continue its efforts towards the protection of minorities.  That would allow for voluntary returns of internally displaced persons and protection of human rights.  Although there was calm on the ground, he remained concerned at the situation in the municipalities in the north, which worked separately and in parallel with Kosovo Albanian systems.

He condemned all attacks against the Mission and underscored the need to show respect for security and the rights of United Nations staff wherever they were situated.  Condemning incendiary statements, he invited the parties to adopt a strategy based on common interests and to move towards reconciliation between different ethnic groups.  All parties should abstain from acts that could bring increased instability in the region.  He hoped that dialogue and cooperation would continue so that there would be coexistence between all communities without violence.

YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that the United Nations role in Kosovo was very much appreciated, as well as the coordinated work by EULEX and KFOR, in helping to encourage a peaceful multi-ethnic society in Kosovo.  He said that the rule of law was crucial to Kosovo and called any attacks on EULEX regrettable.

He voiced hope for broad participation in peaceful elections and the decentralization process, and he welcomed the international integration of Kosovo, including its accession to the World Bank.  He reported that his country had conducted consultations with Pristina and would decide on further assistance to Kosovo following those talks, according to its interest in successful multi-ethnic reconciliation there and peace and stability in the region.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he remained convinced that resolution 1244 (1299) was still legally binding and he fully supported the continuation of the fulfilment of UNMIK’s mandate and its primary position among international entities there.  No one could reject that mandate.  He condemned defiance to the international presence.  In that context, he voiced concern over attempts to minimize the role of UNMIK, saying that the authorities in Pristina had an unconstructive attitude in that regard.  He opposed in particular any attempt to further reduce the deployment of the Mission, which he called essential for the return of internally displaced persons and other vital goals.

He said the situation of the return of property in the north of the province also had explosive potential.  He supported a proper legal process to determine the future of Kosovo, and said that the next step in that effort would be the International Court of Justice proceeding, in which his country intended to participate.  Finally, he objected to the participation of Pristina authorities in United Nations forums that were intended exclusively for officials of Member States.  In particular, he stressed that their participation in such forums at the beginning of the sixty-fourth General Assembly was unacceptable and he assumed it would never happen again.

BONAVENTURE KOUDOUGOU ( Burkina Faso) said the overall situation in Kosovo had remained stable despite a number of inter-ethnic problems in the north.  He welcomed the full cooperation by Kosovo police forces with EULEX and KFOR.  He urged all actors to step up efforts to ensure that the process of municipal elections would take place under calm and democratic circumstances.  He encouraged Pristina authorities to further investigate desecration of churches and cemeteries as part of creating favourable conditions for the returns of Serb internally displaced persons.  Restoration of historical and religious heritage sites would have a positive effect on the region.

He commended UNMIK for its assistance in communications between Pristina and Belgrade.  The Mission should have the backing of the international community to be a mediator between Pristina and Belgrade.  He welcomed the fact that EULEX was now fully operational.  Its assistance was palpable in the field of customs and law enforcement, among others.  Burkina Faso reaffirmed its recognition of the “ Republic of Kosovo” and invited the parties to engage in dialogue in order to find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) commended UNMIK for its efforts to maintain peace and stability in Kosovo and the Balkan region, noting that the political situation in Kosovo remained generally stable, but that the north had remained fragile, with some incidents taking place there.  He was encouraged that, under mediation of UNMIK, disagreements between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs had been settled.  He hoped all parties would continue to exercise restraint and refrain from incitement.

He said Serbia and Kosovo had serious differences on the status and future of Kosovo, but Kosovars and Serbs needed to enhance their mutual trust.  Work on the returns of displaced persons should be stepped up, as well as on the reintegration of the Serbian community in Kosovo.  He respected the territorial integrity of Serbia and hoped a settlement to the Kosovo issue could be reached.  He stressed that the reconfiguration of UNMIK was only of a technical nature and should not involve the question of Kosovo or change the neutral position of the United Nations.

Moreover, UNMIK should continue to observe the mandate provided by resolution 1244 (1999).  He hoped UNMIK would strengthen communications between Pristina and Belgrade and continue to play a crucial role for the proper settlement of the Kosovo question.  He appreciated the readiness of the European Union to play a role in maintaining stability in the region, and hoped that EULEX would continue its role within the status-neutral framework of resolution 1244 (1999) in cooperation with UNMIK.

NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) welcomed Kosovo’s continued progress in creating a stable and democratic society, while he also voiced concern over recent violent incidents in the North.  He commended UNMIK on its useful role, particularly in such areas as external relations and international legal assistance.  He also welcomed EULEX’s role, to which Croatia contributed, as well as the cooperation between that mission and UNMIK.

He looked forward to the successful conduct of the upcoming elections, in which his country would be integrally involved.  Saying that exercise would be a further test of Kosovo’s institutions, he encouraged the active participation of Kosovo Serbs.  Pointing out that the return of internally displaced persons and the reintegration of minority communities continued to pose challenges, he advocated that tolerance and protection of human rights, dialogue and cooperation be applied to all such problems.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) welcomed UNMIK’s operations in its new phase and supported EULEX’s primary position in the rule of law, as well as the demonstrations of pragmatism by Pristina and Belgrade.  She stressed that Pristina should be allowed to carry out a more independent role in the international community, however.  She was encouraged by the organizing of the coming elections and she called for the participation of Kosovo Serbs, voicing also disappointment at contrary messages coming from Serb leaders.

Both Kosovo and Serbia, she said, must continue to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.  She welcomed the return to work of most Kosovo Serb police officers.  Condemning the recent vandalism of EULEX vehicles, she said such incidents reinforced the need for assuring security for minorities and displaced persons.  Finally, she stressed that Kosovo had shown its ability to be a worthy international partner, and the United States would continue support its integration into European and international structures.

Council President LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam), speaking in his national capacity, said his country continued to support the critical role of UNMIK in maintaining security and stability in Kosovo and welcomed that Mission’s efforts to engage with all communities in Kosovo and facilitate the cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina.  He commended the strengthened cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations.  Such cooperation should be further enhanced so as to create an enabling atmosphere for dialogue among all Kosovo communities and between Belgrade and Pristina with a view to finding durable solutions to the ongoing challenges in the region.

At the same time, he was concerned about ethnic tensions in the North and the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons, and he urged local authorities in Kosovo to undertake appropriate actions to ease tensions.  He called on the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to continue to work closely with all relevant international stakeholders towards negotiated solutions through peaceful means.  The increased contribution of EULEX should be encouraged as it had already shown positive results.  He urged all sides to reinforce their constructive engagement with UNMIK within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999) in working towards solutions to long-standing impasses and towards peace and security in the Balkans.

Mr. HYSENI, of Kosovo, took the floor for a second time to address a number of “inaccuracies” in the statement made by Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, saying that statement had “nothing in common with reality” and had contained certain characterization such as the “declaration of independence by an ethnic group”.  He assured the Council that the independence of Kosovo had been declared and supported by every single ethnic group in Kosovo but the Serb community.  The Kosovo Liberation Army had been characterized as a terrorist organization, but they were freedom fighters.  Kosovo was firmly committed to investigating and prosecute crimes committed in the territory of Kosovo regardless of the perpetrators.

He said it was “regrettably amazing” that Mr. Jeremić had not spoken about the 15,000 slaughtered ethnic Albanians, the hundreds of mosques destroyed, or the atrocities committed throughout the former Yugoslavia carried out or sponsored by the Government of Serbia.  “Serbian cultural heritage is our cultural heritage and we intend to protect it by all means and at all costs,” he said.  Continuing, he said that Mr. Jeremić had not addressed the issue of missing persons, many of whom still remained in mass graves in Serbia.  He thought authorities were aware of those mass graves.

Likewise, he questioned the number of 200,000 displaced persons, saying that even in the best of circumstances only a total of 200,000 ethnic Serbs had lived in Kosovo.  The current number of Serbs living in Kosovo now stood at about 135,000.  The Council should not be misused for the spread of misleading inaccuracies.

Mr. JEREMIĆ ( Serbia), responding to what he called Mr. Hyseni’s “distortions of reality”, said Kosovo was a very difficult place to live right now.  He also said the upcoming elections had not been called in the way that previous elections were called and neither would they be conducted according to resolution 1244 (1999).  There was no way Serbia could support that, he stressed.

He noted the mention of Kosovo’s cooperation with EULEX and other international organizations, but said he hoped that Mr. Hyseni would express more willingness to cooperate with the United Nations, as Serbia was doing.  Stressing that crime and terrorism were great problems in Kosovo, he said that, indeed, the Kosovo Liberation Army was a terrorist organization, even though he had not brought that up in his presentation.

He said he would never try to diminish the crimes committed under the leadership of Slobodan Milošević, including the burning of the mosques.  However, that Government had been rejected by Serbia and, at the same time, he could blame the current authorities in Kosovo for the burning churches and monasteries in 2004, as well as the fact that no one was being punished for those crimes. 

In conclusion, he said that it was time to try to set aside the differences on the status issue and to work together in a status-neutral way.  In regional and international organizations, however, it was important for Kosovo to participate according to the rules.  UNMIK had an important role to play in that regard.  He reiterated, in closing, his assertion that the Kosovo declaration of independence had been an ethnic action.

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