Issuance of World Court Opinion on Kosovo Should Open New Phase, ‘Allow Belgrade and Pristina to Engage in a Constructive Dialogue’, Security Council Told
Issuance of World Court Opinion on Kosovo Should Open New Phase, ‘Allow Belgrade and Pristina to Engage in a Constructive Dialogue’, Security Council Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6367th Meeting (PM)
Issuance of World Court Opinion on Kosovo Should Open New Phase, ‘Allow Belgrade
and Pristina to Engage in a Constructive Dialogue’, Security Council Told
UN Mission Head Says Judgement Confirms Applicability of Resolution 1244;
Serbia Says Country Will Never Recognize Unilateral Declaration of Independence
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo told the Security Council this afternoon that the issuance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the declaration of independence of that territory could end the deadlock in progress on outstanding issues which had held sway during the wait for the Court’s action.
“The issuance of the [Court’s] opinion should now open a new phase and allow Belgrade and Pristina to engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to the resolution of these issues,” Lamberto Zannier, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said as he introduced his quarterly report on Kosovo to the Council, nearly two weeks after the International Court of Justice had found that the 2008 declaration of independence did not violate international law.
He said that, after issuance of the advisory opinion, the Secretary-General and the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had agreed to coordinate dialogue against the background of the European perspective for the region. “The UN preliminary legal assessment is that the opinion does not affect the status of UNMIK, or our status-neutral policy. Indeed, the judgment confirms the applicability of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999),” he said.
For its part, he said, UNMIK continued to implement its mandate in a status-neutral manner, assisting Kosovo’s communities, interacting with the institutions in Pristina and other key stakeholders in Kosovo, with the Government in Belgrade and other regional and international actors. He said the Mission was committed to remain engaged with all sides in order to encourage dialogue, help defuse tensions and maintain peace and stability on the ground, in close coordination with the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR).
He said that since the last Council session on the topic, Kosovo had been relatively stable, although the potential for instability remained, as seen by the incidents in the north discussed in the Council in July. Insufficient progress towards reconciliation and resolution of remaining issues between the communities, coupled with slow economic development and high unemployment increased the risk of social unrest.
Vuk Jeremić, Foreign Minister of Serbia, said that his country’s consistent position was that it would never recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, implicitly or explicitly. That position would not change with the findings of the International Court of Justice. His country would continue to use all diplomatic means to reject the unilateral move, as required by its Constitution.
He said that the International Court of Justice had reaffirmed that Kosovo remained subject to the interim administration of the United Nations and that resolution 1244 (1999) and UNMIK’s Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo remained in force and continued to apply. Moreover, the Court had also failed to approve the province’s avowed right of secession from Serbia, or any purported right to self-determination for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians.
Rather, he said, the Court had narrowly examined the language of the unilateral declaration. Such a strictly technical approach enabled a conclusion that the unilateral declaration did not violate international law. That had left room for a “dangerous misinterpretation” of the Court’s view as having legalized the ethnic Albanians’ attempt at unilateral secession.
He said that discussion in the General Assembly and peaceful dialogue between the parties must lead to genuine dialogue that produced a mutually acceptable solution to all outstanding issues. The consequence of a failure to agree on Kosovo would be internationally destabilizing: the establishment of “a universally applicable precedent that provided a ready-made model for unilateral secession”.
Skender Hyseni of Kosovo said that the Court’s advisory opinion was explicit and left no room for doubt that it was in favour of Kosovo on all points. He called on States that had delayed recognizing Kosovo to now move forward with recognition. He added that it was clear that Kosovo’s independence had not set any precedent; it had always been a special case, and the time had come to replace resolution 1244 (1999) with a new one reflecting the new realities of Kosovo, and what he called the Court’s clear ruling in Kosovo’s favour.
He said he was proud of his country’s progress since its declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, in the inclusion of minorities and other areas, and eagerly looked forward to achieving Kosovo’s ultimate objective of becoming a United Nations member. He noted that Kosovo’s status had been recognized by 69 nations and Kosovo had entered into diplomatic and consular relations with some 30 countries. He called on Serbia to work as a neighbouring country, calling it the only path to pursue. “Let us live up to our responsibilities,” he said.
In the discussion that followed those statements, Council members expressed continued support for UNMIK, as well as the need to reduce inter-community tensions. Austria, France, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States — who have formally recognised Kosovo’s independence — welcomed the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion and expressed hope that it would lead to greater progress in resolving outstanding issues, as a springboard to “move beyond the debates of the past”, as the representative of the United States put it.
Sharing Serbia’s assessment of the Court’s advisory opinion, the representative of the Russian Federation reaffirmed his Government’s unchanged position of non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, affirming that it would continue to champion Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. He also reaffirmed the continued applicability of resolution 1244 (1999), which remained the fully binding international legal basis of Kosovo’s status. Along with the representative of China, he underlined that negotiations towards a mutually acceptable solution were the only route to a sustainable resolution.
Some representatives, such as that of Mexico, said their countries were still studying the Court’s opinion, but underlined the need for all outstanding issues to be resolved through dialogue.
Also speaking were the representatives of Uganda, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon and Gabon.
The meeting was opened at 3:12 p.m. and was closed at 5:27 p.m.
The Security Council met today to consider the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document S/2010/401), which covers the Mission’s activities from 16 March to 15 July 2010. It also notes the 22 July advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which concluded that the adoption of the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo did not violate any applicable rule of international law. Following its delivery, the Secretary-General forwarded the opinion to the General Assembly, which requested the Court’s advice and will determine how to proceed further, and urged all sides to avoid any steps that could be seen as provocative.
Regional cooperation, which is vital for much needed economic development, has suffered setbacks owning to status-related considerations, the report states. However, while there are no procedures for the participation of Kosovo authorities in regional or international forums, UNMIK facilitation has, in most cases, allowed for reconciling the seemingly incompatible demands of the two sides.
According to the report, although Kosovo authorities appear to believe that the Mission’s facilitation role is not in the interest of their declared sovereign status, UNMIK has seen “considerable” success in facilitating Kosovo’s participation in regional and international encounters. As long as resolution 1244 (1999) is in force, UNMIK will continue its facilitation role where necessary to foster regional dialogue and cooperation. During the reporting period, UNMIK facilitated Kosovo’s participation in three Central European Free Trade Agreement meetings and six Energy Community meetings, among others.
Also with UNMIK facilitation, the report states, Belgrade and Pristina continue to cooperate on missing persons’ issues, as well as on religious and cultural heritage issues. The problem of missing persons remains a major challenge to reconciliation, with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimating that, as of 27 April, 1,862 individuals were still missing across Kosovo.
According to the report, the situation in Kosovo has remained “relatively stable”, though the potential for volatility, especially in northern Kosovo, cannot be underestimated. The Secretary-General expresses concern at recent violence in northern Mitrovica and urges restraint by all sides, stressing that sensitive issues related to that area can only be addressed through continued consultation among all relevant actors.
Two episodes, in particular, increased tensions during the reporting period, the report states. On 2 July, Kosovo authorities inaugurated a civil service centre in Bosniak Mahala, an ethnically mixed area in Mitrovica. UNMIK had not been consulted on the opening, which was seen by Kosovo Serbs as an effort to establish an institutional presence in the north. Some 1,500 Kosovo Serbs protested the event, and an unidentified explosive devise injured 12 people and killed a Kosovo Bosniak paediatrician. On 5 July, Petar Miletić, a member of the Assembly of Kosovo belonging to the Serb community, was shot in front of his house in northern Mitrovica.
Such challenges arose because of the absence of significant progress in reconciliation between communities, coupled with economic difficulties, according to the Secretary-General, who also expresses deep concern over harassment of Kosovo Serb returnees in the village of Zallq/Žac and the hate speech that marred Vidovdan celebrations. Noting the importance of rebuilding Serbian Orthodox sites damaged in 2004, he appeals to potential donors and the Kosovo authorities to raise funds to enable the work of the Reconstruction Implementation Commission.
“It is my assessment that this period has not seen sufficient progress in addressing outstanding challenges related to Kosovo, in advancing regional cooperation or in finding solutions to issues of common concern,” the Secretary-General states in the report. The period following the issuance of the Court’s advisory opinion will provide further opportunities in that regard, which could best be explored through a coherent and inclusive approach by international actors engaged in Kosovo.
Included in an annex is the report of the High Representative of the European Unionfor Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the activities of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, said that since the last Council session on the topic, Kosovo had been relatively stable, although the potential for instability, especially in northern Kosovo, remained, as seen by the incidents in July. Insufficient progress towards reconciliation and resolution of remaining issues between the communities, coupled with slow economic development and high unemployment, increased the risk of social unrest.
For its part, he said, UNMIK continued to implement its mandate in a status-neutral manner, assisting Kosovo’s communities, interacting with the institutions in Pristina and other key stakeholders in Kosovo, the Government in Belgrade and other regional and international actors.
He noted that the much awaited advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice had been issued on 22 July. As the advisory opinion’s imminence had hindered progress to resolve differences, “the issuance of the [Court’s] opinion, therefore, should now open a new phase and allow Belgrade and Pristina to engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to the resolution of these issues”, he said, adding that reactions so far had been measured.
He said that the Secretary-General and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had agreed to coordinate dialogue against the background of the European perspective for the region. “The UN preliminary legal assessment is that the opinion does not affect the status of UNMIK, or our status-neutral policy. Indeed, the judgment confirms the applicability of Council resolution 1244 (1999),” he said.
On internal politics, he said that the new Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities established after the Pristina-sponsored 2009 elections were consolidating their structures, and time would tell how effective they were in addressing the needs of the population. Additional municipal elections had been organized in the reporting period by both Pristina and Belgrade authorities at three locations and voting had proceeded without incident. On the day of the elections in northern Mitrovica, however, a large crowd of Kosovo Albanians had faced off across the river Ibar with a significant crowd of Kosovo Serbs.
A confrontation in those demonstrations had been averted by the prompt reaction of Kosovo police, EULEX and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), but that incident and others demonstrated how quickly a critical situation could develop in and around northern Kosovo. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call to all parties to exercise restraint and to adopt a constructive, cooperative and consultative approach to dialogue for the resolution of issues in northern Kosovo. Unfortunately, discussion on the re-establishment of multi-ethnic courts and fully fledged customs controls in northern Kosovo had quickly become mired in sovereignty issues and political considerations.
He said that dialogue appeared to be bearing fruit in the building of houses for returnees in a northern Mitrovica suburb, however, and UNMIK had been facilitating meetings between the two communities on electricity, water and other issues. There also had been progress in the long-delayed relocation of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian displaced persons in camps in northern Mitrovica, with families scheduled to move into 50 houses funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in August.
However, he said, overall progress on returns was still too slow and also required greater reconciliation. It was hoped that welcoming messages from Kosovo authorities would help quell lingering hostility among members of the receiving community in Zallq/Žać in the north-west, which had recently witnessed attacks against returnees. Those attacks had been condemned by the Kosovo authorities and all stakeholders. He cited an incident of anti-Albanian hate speech, as well.
Following up on other unresolved issues, he said that the disconnection of telecommunications service providers had not been resolved, but the Kosovo telecommunications authority’s decision not to effect further disconnection during the current period had helped decrease tensions. In regard to mutual legal assistance requests from non-recognizing States, UNMIK continued to provide document certification relating to civil status, pension and education, and continued to facilitate the provision of international legal assistance when requested.
He outlined UNMIK facilitation for regional cooperation as well, and its provision of good offices in order to learn the fate of the 1,862 individuals whom were estimated to be missing from the conflict. Little progress had been made in the latter, he said, stressing that finding and identifying the missing was a crucial part of the reconciliation process. Work was completed on two of the Serbian Orthodox religious sites damaged or destroyed during the 2004 violence, and cooperation through the Reconstruction Commission between Belgrade and Pristina had continued. He appealed to all interested parties to support the Commission, for which the funding would run out soon.
Finally, he said that UNMIK and the United Nations Kosovo team had completed the draft United Nations Strategic Framework to meet the goals of peace consolidation, through a focus on human rights, fostering good governance, encouraging returns and addressing various aspects of the situation in the north. He said UNMIK was strongly committed to ensuring continued peace and stability in Kosovo and in the region, and would remain engaged with all sides in order to encourage dialogue, help defuse tensions and maintain peace and stability on the ground, in close coordination with EULEX and KFOR.
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said his Government highly appreciated the United Nations firm commitment to maintaining the external representation function of UNMIK. It also valued the Mission’s role in enabling Pristina’s dealings with INTERPOL and the Reconstruction and Implementation Commission, as well as its continued engagement with the Council of Europe regarding various human rights monitoring mechanisms as they applied to Kosovo under Council resolution 1244 (1999). The report highlighted that the overall numbers of internally displaced person returns remained “disappointingly low” and expressed deep concern at continued harassment of Kosovo Serbs who chose to return to their south Kosovo homes in areas such as Žać. The precarious state of holy sites belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church continued to be part of the reality in south Kosovo.
While the ability of KFOR to maintain peace was acknowledged by all, the report also mentioned the North Atlantic Council’s 18 March decision to confer responsibility for static security at the Gazimestan memorial to local police, despite strong opposition from his Government and the Kosovo Serb community. Its more recent decision to unfix its presence around four Serbian holy sites, including the Gračanica monastery, against the Serbian Government’s will, was deeply troubling. He expressed hope that the implementation timetable of that potentially destabilizing development would be revised.
Recalling that the Council had met in an emergency session on 6 July (see Press Release SC/9972) to address the tragedy that had taken place in north Mitrovica after a Kosovo government office was opened without the consent of local communities, UNMIK or EULEX, he welcomed paragraph 50 of the Secretary-General’s report, underlining the necessity of peaceful engagement. “The Republic of Serbia will continue to strongly oppose any unilateralism,” he said, adding that his Government would remain committed to the inclusive approach suggested in the report to address outstanding challenges related to Kosovo. “We expect all other stakeholders to do the same.”
On 17 February 2008, the ethnic Albanian authorities of Serbia’s “breakaway province of Kosovo and Metohija unilaterally declared independence”, he said, against the Council’s will and contravening his country’s Constitution. Two years later, an agreement on the effects of the declaration had not been reached. His Government had responded in a non-confrontational manner and would continue to use all diplomatic resources to oppose that attempt to forcibly change its borders in peacetime. “No peaceful and proud nation facing such a threat — be it African, European, Asian or American; be it small or large, rich or poor — would act differently,” he said. Under no circumstances would Serbia recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. A substantial majority of United Nations Member States continued to respect Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The International Court of Justice had reaffirmed that Kosovo remained subject to the interim administration of the United Nations and that resolution 1244 (1999) and UNMIK’s Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo remained in force and continued to apply, he said. Moreover, the Court had neither endorsed the view that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was a unique case, nor Pristina’s claim that Kosovo was a State. It had also failed to approve the province’s avowed right of secession from Serbia, or any purported right to self-determination for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians. Rather, the Court had narrowly examined the language of the unilateral declaration. Such a strictly technical approach enabled a conclusion that the unilateral declaration did not violate international law. That had unfortunately left room for a “dangerous misinterpretation” of the Court’s view as having legalized the ethnic Albanians’ attempt at unilateral secession.
“This could produce extensive and deeply problematic consequences for the international community,” he said, noting that it could become the decisive step in legitimizing unilateralism on the global stage. Safeguards written into the 1945 Charter against the arbitrary use of force would be downgraded in practice and collective efforts to strengthen a rules-based, multilateral approach to maintaining peace and security would be significantly undermined. Additionally, it could easily provide ethnic minorities across the globe with an opportunity to write their own declarations of independence. “We all share a duty to prevent the inherent dangers of such scenario from becoming a reality,” he stressed.
Stressing that his Government was committed to working with Pristina and the global community to find a mutually acceptable solution to all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue, he urged engaging as soon as possible. His Government did not wish to seek confrontation with anyone; however, it would not give in and simply “walk away”. Such behaviour was not about stubbornness; Serbia had no choice but to persevere in a peaceful manner. Attempts to impose unilateral solutions had never contributed to Balkan stability and that of the rest of Europe. It was thus inconceivable that the unilateral declaration of independence could become a basis for the normalization of relations between Serbs and Albanians. As the Secretary-General had said, the General Assembly would now determine how to proceed. To that end, Serbia had submitted a draft resolution and the debate would focus on the challenges and implications of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in light of the International Court of Justice’s findings.
Time and again, Serbia had shown its capacity to engage with its partners in overcoming lingering prejudices and disagreement, he said. Its sustained efforts had made the Western Balkans more stable, with key bilateral relationships showing signs of improvement. Serbia remained deeply committed to European Union membership and adamant in maintaining that it be defined by the shared destiny of all European nations, as well as by the values that all should embrace. The most basic amongst those was the renunciation of unilateralism as a means of resolving conflicts in Europe. Many creative solutions had been found for bridging seemingly unbridgeable divides on the “old continent”; all had been built on the basis of the consensus principle. The challenge before the Council could not be resolved differently. With that, he called for working together in good faith to ensure that Kosovo was removed from the list of the world’s problems.
SKENDER HYSENI of Kosovo spoke on developments in his “country” during the reporting period, saying that the time had come to replace resolution 1244 (1999) with a new one reflecting the new realities of Kosovo, and the International Court of Justice’s clear ruling in Kosovo’s favour. That request was in line with Kosovo’s ultimate objective of becoming a United Nations member, one it eagerly looked forward to achieving as soon as possible. He was proud of his country’s progress since its declaration of independence on 17 February 2008.
Describing achievements, he said Kosovo had established a democratic and multi-ethnic State, at peace with all its neighbours and on its path to integration with the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Kosovo’s status had been recognized by 69 nations and Kosovo had entered into diplomatic and consular relations with some 30 countries. In 2009, it had been granted membership to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The constitution was based on recommendations of the Secretary-General’s former Special Envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, and today, State institutions were fully functional. The constitution also provided far-reaching protections for ethnic minorities.
Moreover, the Government had worked around the clock to implement the ideals in the constitution and the Ahtisaari Settlement Plan, he explained. Existing and newly created Serb-majority principalities had been accorded a larger degree of local governance, while local municipal elections had been organized in all Serb-majority principalities. He noted the heavy turnout at polling stations of Kosovo Serb communities. Members of Kosovo’s ethnic minorities, including the Serb community, regularly participated in the work of parliament, Government and all institutions. The international community had underscored the illegitimacy of parallel municipal structures and self-declared municipal office holders.
Indeed, Kosovo’s institutions sought to improve lives, he said, and Serbia had been exploiting them. Obviously, Belgrade had failed to offer assistance or solutions to the Serb community in Kosovo. Upon a request by Serbia, the General Assembly had tasked the Court to render an advisory opinion on Kosovo’s independence. At that time, he had said it was regrettable that such a request had been made. He had said so, not because he had doubts about the rightfulness of Kosovo’s independence, but because he was concerned that proceedings would delay processes relating to Kosovo and Serbia, and ultimately, to the start of normalization and reconciliation between the two countries.
Welcoming the Court’s advisory opinion, he said that it had found that Kosovo’s declaration of independence, adopted on 17 February 2008, had not violated international law. The advisory opinion was explicit and clear and left no room for doubt: it ruled in favour of Kosovo. He called on States that had delayed recognizing Kosovo to now move forward with recognition. It was clear that Kosovo’s independence had not set any precedent; it had always been a special case, namely sui generis. The future of Kosovo and Serbia lay within the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). For that to happen, there must be good neighbourly relations. “This is what we seek,” he said, and Serbia must live up to its responsibility. The time had come to start a new chapter — cooperation on a State-to-State basis. Cooperation on issues of mutual concern was vital to their common European future. With that, he reaffirmed Kosovo’s willingness to cooperate with Serbia on an equal footing and only on a State-to-State basis. “This is the only path to pursue,” he said. “Let us live up to our responsibilities.”
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) commended UNMIK for its continuing work and called on the parties to exercise restraint so as not to increase tension between the communities. He called the Mission’s role critical, calling for the strengthening of its cooperation with EULEX and KFOR. He called on UNMIK to continue its work with local actors, the United Nations country team and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
He encouraged the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to work together for regional stability. In regard to the advisory opinion, he said that his country had long been convinced that it was necessary to resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue. That position remained the same.
BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA (Nigeria) also urged all parties to prevent a relapse into violence and welcomed all efforts to encourage reconciliation, commending UNMIK’s continued work in that area. He shared the Secretary-General’s concern over the slow progress in resolving outstanding issues. All actors, he said, must help build confidence among the communities and assist efforts to find missing persons and help reconstruct Serbian Orthodox religious sites. Perpetrators of violence against minorities must also be brought to justice, and those minorities assured of security.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the political and security situation in Kosovo was continuing to improve, while the building of the rule of law, in line with European standards, continued with the backing of EULEX. The global community would continue to play a role in backing such momentum. EULEX was making an essential contribution to Kosovo’s stability and he was gratified that its Head had spoken to the Council last month. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice confirmed that the Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not run counter to international law or resolution 1244 (1999). Indeed, it had brought an end to the legal debate on the subject, allowing now for a focus on other outstanding issues. There was a need to work together.
Kosovo and Serbia must now engage in political dialogue to overcome problems, first for the good of the Serb community of Kosovo. In today’s new phase, the European Union had stated its readiness to engage in such dialogue, he said, noting Serbia’s and Kosovo’s desire to become Union members. That would require establishing normal relations. He had heard a common desire for that from both delegates today. Dialogue would provide conditions for a shared future. Serbia and Kosovo could count on France’s support in travelling that path.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was pleased to note that UNMIK, operating within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), was successfully continuing its role of maintaining peace, security and respect for human rights in Kosovo. While the report indicated that the security situation had remained relatively calm, the end of the reporting period had been marked by two incidents that increased tensions. He condemned the events that had occurred on 2 July and also expressed regret at the death of a member of the Assembly of Kosovo representing the Serb community. He reiterated the call for an investigation into those incidents and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
Efforts to improve inter-community dialogue and confidence building among the parties were of particular importance for returns. He welcomed UNMIK’s efforts to defuse tensions and draw attention to common needs. On the rule of law, he welcomed UNMIK and EULEX operating within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations. He supported the practice of existing cooperation among UNMIK, EULEX, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and NATO. While Bosnia and Herzegovina had taken no position on the question of Kosovo’s independence, it had taken note of the Court’s advisory opinion, in which it concluded that the declaration of independence had not violated international law. He also stressed the importance of the European Union sponsored high-level meeting on the Western Balkans, held on 2 June.
BRIGITTE TAWK (Lebanon) welcomed the decrease in security incidents in Kosovo, but stressed that the continued tensions made it necessary for security forces to remain vigilant, for perpetrators of violence to be prosecuted and minority rights to be protected. She supported UNMIK’s current role, as well as its cooperation with EULEX and KFOR in the status-neutral manner called for in resolution 1244 (1999).
She called for constructive dialogue in the region and for the communities to reach out to each other in a spirit of rapprochement to make further progress on unresolved issues. Economic and developmental progress was also needed for that purpose, she stressed. Noting the issuance of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, she expressed her expectation that it would usher in a new stage in the region that would be more promising for the resolution of outstanding issues and long-term stability.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) also welcomed the decrease in violent incidents and called on security authorities to ensure further progress in that area and the protection of minorities. Welcoming other progress described in the Secretary-General’s report, he said that full completion of the decentralization process would ultimately contribute to reconciliation. Closure needed to be achieved on the missing persons issue, and he hoped for an acceleration in resolving differences on other issues.
It was important for the international community to remain engaged in Kosovo through the provision of technical expertise and other support. Turkey, he said, had been one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo as an independent State and thus welcomed the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. He called on both sides to use the opinion as a window of opportunity to make further progress. He welcomed the developing relations between Serbia and Kosovo and Europe. A coherent and comprehensive approach between all international actors was crucial in that regard. At the same time, the parties should avoid any steps that were provocative and discouraged dialogue.
LI BAODONG (China) condemned terrorist acts in northern Mitrovica. He called on all parties concerned to work together to ensure stability in Kosovo and ensure the rights of ethnic minorities in the region. China had noted the Court’s advisory opinion, and maintained that sovereignty and territorial integrity were fundamental principles of international law. China respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and supported its efforts in that regard. The best way to resolve the Kosovo issue was for the two sides to engage in dialogue, within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999), and to seek a mutually acceptable solution.
Indeed, the advisory opinion was not an obstacle to efforts to resolve the issue through negotiations, he said, expressing hope that parties would push for Kosovo and Serbia to seek a mutually acceptable solution. Resolution 1244 (1999) was the legal foundation for the settlement of the Kosovo issue, he said, expressing appreciation for UNMIK’s role in maintaining stability in Kosovo. He expressed hope that the parties would continue to respect UNMIK mandates and to cooperate with UNMIK to find a proper settlement to the Kosovo issue.
PHILIP JOHN PARHAM (United Kingdom) said his Government’s support for Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was as strong as ever. Welcoming the Court’s advisory opinion, he said it confirmed that the unilateral declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. The United Kingdom’s understanding of the opinion differed from that of Serbia. Kosovo’s declaration did not create a precedent or provide a template for secession elsewhere. The debate of Kosovo’s status now must end. Kosovo was increasingly recognized as a State and the process was irreversible. It was a viable, independent State with a clear future in the European Union. The Court’s advisory opinion would encourage States that had not done so to recognize Kosovo.
It was critically important to enter a new phase of reconciliation and cooperation, he said. There must be constructive dialogue between the two States, which the European Union had offered to facilitate. The process of dialogue would be a factor for peace, security and stability in the region. There could be no return to discussions about Kosovo’s status. That could trigger wider regional instability. Kosovo, as an independent State, was a positive course for stability in the Western Balkans. He very much regretted that Serbia had not allowed time for consultations with the European Union before taking its draft resolution to the Assembly. Kosovo must be committed to driving through the necessary reforms. Both EULEX and KFOR would remain important for stability. Serbia and Kosovo must cooperate with both missions. The futures of Kosovo and Serbia lay as independent States within the European Union.
REGINA DUNLOP (Brazil) said recent incidents in Mitrovica showed that stability in Kosovo was fragile and it was the responsibility of both parties to ensure that tolerance was encouraged and further violence stopped. UNMIK had a special role to play in assisting the parties to overcome their differences. She reiterated her call to both Pristina and Belgrade to strengthen their cooperation with the Mission for that reason and to accelerate progress in resolving outstanding issues. Cooperation in reconstruction of Serbian Orthodox sites and other areas could help spur confidence between the parties.
She said that her country was still examining the International Court of Justice opinion but noted that the opinion did not contest the fact that resolution 1244 (1999) was still in force and still the legal framework for international involvement. She reiterated her call on the parties to resume dialogue on outstanding issues as soon as possible.
CHRISTIAN EBNER (Austria) expressed support for UNMIK’s continued efforts to facilitate dialogue between all parties and welcomed the fact that the security situation had been largely calm during the period. Security forces — including the Kosovo Police, EULEX and KFOR — had been working effectively to prevent clashes in volatile situations. He fully supported the important work of KFOR and EULEX and would continue to keep it commitment to both missions. He also welcomed the European Union’s accelerated efforts to enhance is visibility and presence in the north and hoped that cooperation with both sides would lead to further progress, including the establishment of mixed panels in the Mitrovica district court and full customs services. He also wanted to highlight the valuable contributions made by the OSCE mission in protecting human rights. He highlighted other areas in which progress was also critical, stressing that economic development, good governance, rule of law and other areas should remain a focus of the Council.
He said that the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion provided an opportunity for a “positive turning point” between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as regards their European aspirations. “This opportunity should not be missed,” he said. He hoped it would enable Kosovo and Serbia to ultimately overcome their core disagreements regarding basic legal and territorial questions. First and foremost, however, the opinion permitted the authorities of each side to adopt a pragmatic approach and start a process of dialogue to resolve practical problems. He appealed to both Serbia and Kosovo to work with the European Union and allow dialogue to resolve matters of common concern.
SHIGEKI SUMI (Japan) appreciated the work of EULEX, KFOR and OSCE on the ground for Kosovo’s stability. Regarding the Court’s advisory opinion, Japan had supported the newly formed country’s efforts to develop as a vibrant, multiethnic State and expressed hope it would continue its nation-building with the international community’s support. Japan encouraged both sides to constructively address challenges that affected lives in all communities. Japan shared the belief that reconstruction of Serbian Orthodox sites could restore trust and believed that UNMIK would play a constructive role.
He went on to say that Japan supported new efforts to facilitate dialogue. His Government also welcomed the increased return and settlement of internally displaced persons, but shared concern at incidents targeting minorities. Japan, as proponent of human security, supported returns and multi-ethnic coexistence. A human-centred approach was relevant in the northern provinces, with a view to reducing the vulnerabilities of the populations in those areas. Indeed, Japan supported cooperation towards a new stage of stability and security in the Western Balkans.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) said her Government had hoped the International Court of Justice’s delivery of its advisory opinion would be a springboard to “move beyond the debates of the past”. The opinion showed that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was in line with international law. The United States believed it would encourage countries that had not done so to recognize Kosovo. Indeed, Kosovo was a special case; it did not represent a precedent. The advisory opinion recognized that Kosovo’s declaration had to be considered in the factual context that had led to its adoption, and that the final-status process had been unable to yield a mutually agreeable outcome. Kosovo was a multi-ethnic democracy. She called on Kosovo and Serbia to work together to move their States forward on their paths towards European integration.
Describing progress, she said Kosovo was consolidating its institutions, including through decentralizing power. Recent elections in Parteš showed progress in ensuring the participation of various communities. Kosovo also had signed a standby agreement with IMF and passed four major financial reforms into law in one month to meet its conditions. Security incidents had decreased and Kosovo’s police had shown a growing capacity to protect all communities. It was increasingly filling crucial roles once performed by the international community. There also had been progress related to returnees. However, the absence of reconciliation risked further unrest. Efforts to promote stability had been hindered by threats of violence and she condemned the intimidation of Serbs who were working in Kosovo’s institutions. She expressed hope that Kosovo and Serbia would use the Court’s advisory opinion to work together to solve technical issues.
EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) welcomed the positive signs of progress in Kosovo as well as the related achievements of UNMIK, particularly in encouraging dialogue between communities. More energetic action must be taken, however, to resolve the matter of missing persons, to bring an end to inter-community tensions and to encourage increased returns. He called on UNMIK and the parties to increase their efforts in those areas.
In regard to the International Court of Justice’s opinion, he restated his country’s appeal concerning respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, its support for the provisions of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and its rejection of unilateral action. He, therefore, underlined the importance of a negotiated settlement and called for all outstanding issues to be resolved through dialogue.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said that resolution 1244 (1999) was the legal framework for progress in Kosovo and UNMIK’s role was crucial, as outlined in that resolution. He commended UNMIK, therefore, and called on it to continue to support for reconciliation between communities and other progress. Recent security incidents contributed to inter-community hatred and must be condemned. The parties must bring to justice all perpetrators of violence and must give priority to the protection of human rights. He remained concerned over the low number of voluntary returns and lack of progress on missing persons.
He encouraged UNMIK to strengthen its cooperation with other international organizations in helping to create an atmosphere for both returns and integration of the population through economic progress, as well as strengthening of the administration of justice. Mexico was currently studying the implications of the advisory opinion, but at the same time noted the narrowness of that opinion. He said that in any case it was crucial that the parties engage in dialogue to reach a mutually acceptable outcome.
Council President VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), speaking in his national capacity, sharing Serbia’s assessment, reaffirmed his Government’s unchanged position of non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. The Russian Federation continued to champion Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It was necessary to comply with resolution 1244 (1999), which remained fully applicable and binding upon all as the international legal basis of Kosovo’s status. His Government fully backed the activities of UNMIK, the leading international civilian presence in the province. No one could impede its powers, including in achieving the international community’s mandate of democratic standards in the province. Noting the Mission’s irreplaceable role in dialogue, notably in the north, he said the Russian Federation continued to have serious concerns, particularly over the July events in Mitrovica, which spoke to a need to preserve the Council’s leading role in a Kosovo settlement.
He was unsatisfied with the situation for returnees and internally displaced persons, citing elevated community intolerance as among the reasons for the disappointingly low numbers of returns. Regarding the defilement of Serbian holy sites, he said the Russian Federation had decided, for the 2010-2011 period, to allocate $2 million to finance restoration work. On the Court’s advisory opinion, he said it had considered only Kosovo’s declaration; it had not considered Kosovo’s right to unilaterally secede from Serbia. Nor did it address the consequences of such behaviour — whether Kosovo was a State. It was important that the parties undertake dialogue, with a view to a full settlement of the issues. The only right solution for Pristina was dialogue with Serbia.
Taking the floor a second time, Mr. JEREMIĆ (Serbia) recalled that a few Council members had said the advisory opinion stated that the declaration of independence was in accordance with international law. That was not the case. The Court had stated that the unilateral declaration of independence had not violated international law, which was very different from being in accordance with international law. Some had remarked that Kosovo was a unique, sui generis case. However, the Court had not found any support for the idea that Kosovo was such a case. Serbia deeply respected the Court.
Indeed, the Court had found that the unilateral declaration of independence had not violated international law and Serbia accepted that. The question was whether “that gets you recognition; whether that gets you statehood or not. That was a question to be addressed,” he said. In the history of the United Nations, statehood of a territory had never been achieved by secession from a parent State that did not give consent. He underlined that Serbia was totally committed to peace, dialogue and resolving all outstanding issues. Serbia believed in the European future of the entire Western Balkans. The country was ready to look to the future and work with the international community to ensure that the issues were peacefully resolved.
Mr. HYSENI of Kosovo recalled that the question put to the Court had been drafted by Serbia. The Court had been clear in its response. Today, the Council had heard repetition of the mantra that Kosovo’s independence was a “universally applicable precedent”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kosovo was a unique, special case. It was a constituent unit of a confederation that did not exist — it had disintegrated. That had not happened because of Kosovo; it had been because of Serbia’s efforts to bring under its rule former constituents. The Court had clearly found that Kosovo’s declaration was in full compliance with international law and resolution 1244 (1999), as well as with the provisional, interim constitutional framework of Kosovo adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative. He agreed that misinterpretations of the Court’s opinion were very dangerous and appealed to Serbia to cease throwing up roadblocks to reconciliation and a European future. It was high time for Serbia to respect the Court and to work with Kosovo.
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