Briefing Security Council, Secretary-General’s Envoy in Kosovo Urges Pristina, Belgrade to Make Use of United Nations, European Efforts to Bridge Differences

12 November 2010
SC/10083

Briefing Security Council, Secretary-General’s Envoy in Kosovo Urges Pristina, Belgrade to Make Use of United Nations, European Efforts to Bridge Differences

12 November 2010
Security Council
SC/10083
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6422nd Meeting (PM)

Briefing Security Council, Secretary-General’s Envoy in Kosovo Urges Pristina,

Belgrade to Make Use of United Nations, European Efforts to Bridge Differences

To Growing Unease of Kosovo Authorities with UN Mission in Terms of Regional

Cooperation, Administration of Northern Mitrovica, He Dissuades ‘Path of Isolation’

The authorities and communities of Kosovo and Serbia must take advantage of United Nations and European facilitation to overcome differences through dialogue, the head of the Organization’s interim administration there, known as UNMIK, told the Security Council this afternoon, as members held that such talks would be a factor for peace, security and stability in the wider Balkan region as well.

“UNMIK will continue to provide its assistance and to propose practical ways to overcome political obstacles, but we believe that such solutions can be sought most effectively through dialogue between the parties,” said Lamberto Zannier, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Kosovo.

Today’s briefing, Mr. Zannier recalled, followed the 9 September consensus resolution by the General Assembly, co-sponsored by Serbia and European Union member States, which welcomed the readiness of the European Union to facilitate dialogue between the parties and acknowledged the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which found Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence not illegal under international law.

Unfortunately, he said, since the issuance of the World Court’s opinion, the Kosovo authorities had developed a growing “unease” in their cooperation with UNMIK on facilitation of regional cooperation and the administration of northern Mitrovica.  The Kosovo institutions lost valuable opportunities to benefit from regional cooperation and to reduce tensions in the north.  UNMIK had steadfastly discouraged the authorities from choosing that “path of isolation”, as regional cooperation was the key to the development needed to ensure lasting peace in the region and better lives for its people and solutions to outstanding problems.

He expressed particular concern over what he called an intense media campaign blaming UNMIK staff members for a lack of progress in northern Mitrovica, endangering their safety.  He said that tensions in northern Kosovo and the scapegoating of UNMIK were reminders of the pressing need for the dialogue called for by the General Assembly, which was also the key to other problematic issues, such as missing persons and returns. 

He was encouraged that recent political changes in Pristina had not created an obstacle to the preparations for such dialogue and that the preparatory phase was under way in Brussels.  UNMIK was working with the European Union to support and contribute to the process. 

Following Mr. Zannier’s briefing, Vuk Jeremić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the United Nations policy of status neutrality remained the only acceptable framework within which all could work together to improve the lives of ordinary people in Kosovo, irrespective of their ethnicity, and he expressed deep concern over resistance to that role by the province’s ethnic-Albanian authorities, as well as what he called efforts to unilaterally alter the reality on the ground, especially in north Kosovo.

He said, in addition, that the planned elections were not being held in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), and could therefore not garner international guarantees of fairness.  “Under such circumstances, it is plainly impossible for the Government of Serbia to invite any of our citizens to participate in them,” he said.  In accordance with the General Assembly resolution, he affirmed that dialogue towards a mutually acceptable solution was the only road to peace in the region and that Serbia would be a true partner in forging it. 

Vlora Ćitaku from Kosovo said that developments in Kosovo reflected significant progress in building democratic institutions.  She pledged that upcoming elections would be free and fair and reflect the will of all citizens.  Maintaining that her Government was committed to inclusion of all minorities, she said that the international community should call on Kosovar Serbs to participate and convince Serbia not to obstruct such participation.

She said that the General Assembly resolution provided a platform for starting a technical dialogue with Serbia on missing persons, cooperation against crime and corruption, mutual recognition of documents and phone networks and ever other issues of mutual interest.  “But let me be clear,” she added, “we will not talk, ever again, about Kosovo’s right to exist as a free nation after everything that has happened in the past.  The independence of Kosovo is not and will not be an issue of discussion.”

Following those statements, representatives of Council members affirmed the need for dialogue, including technical dialogue, to resolve outstanding issues, as well as a need to reduce tensions between the communities, with most expressing firm support to UNMIK in that context. 

Members differed, however, over whether Kosovo’s status should be discussed in the dialogue called for by the General Assembly.  Those countries that had recognized Kosovo’s independence — Austria, France, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States — maintained that it was time to “turn the page”, as the representative of the United States put it.

The Russian Federation’s representative, on the other hand, reaffirmed the position that “attempts to paint Kosovo as a sovereign State” were unacceptable, supporting Serbia’s position that a mutually acceptable solution must be negotiated and saying that the Security Council should maintain a primary role in settling the question.

Others remained nuanced on the status question, with China’s representative stressing that the opinion of the World Court did not stand in the way of finding a mutually acceptable solution within the context of resolution 1244 (1999), encouraging all parties to continue their cooperation with UNMIK in that context.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Lebanon, Uganda, Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Gabon.

The meeting was opened at 3:09 p.m. and adjourned at 4:56 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this afternoon, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2010/562), which covers the activities of the Mission, known as UNMIK, and related developments, from 16 July to 18 October 2010.

In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes the readiness of the European Union to facilitate dialogue between Kosovo authorities in Pristina and the Serbian capital, Belgrade, voicing hope that this will help to consolidate peace, stability and reconciliation in Kosovo and its region in a European context.

He notes that, on 9 September, the General Assembly adopted a resolution jointly sponsored by Serbia and 27 European Union member States that acknowledged the content of the non-binding advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in July.  The opinion holds that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 did not violate general international law or Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which set up UNMIK, or the constitutional framework adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on behalf of the Mission.  The Assembly’s September resolution also notes that the European Union is ready to assist in a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. 

In the report, the Secretary-General calls on both sides to rapidly begin that process, adding that the United Nations stands ready to support it.  He also notes that the situation in northern Kosovo remained unstable during the reporting period, with tensions having risen in the aftermath of the Court’s advisory opinion.  He urges the sides to exercise restraint and adopt a measured, constructive approach in order to avoid further escalations there.

In that regard, he says that the support of the members of the Security Council for UNMIK and their unequivocal messages to the sides to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to the escalation of tensions will remain crucial.

He notes that the status of UNMIK remains unaffected by the advisory opinion, retaining its goal of the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo through engagement with all communities, the leadership in Pristina and Belgrade and regional and international actors. 

During the reporting period, he says, UNMIK continued its close cooperation with other international actors on the ground, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR).

However, relations between UNMIK and the Kosovo authorities remained “at arm’s length”, he says, although the Special Representative held a number of meetings with some of them, including then President Fatmir Sejdiu as well as the Assembly Speaker and the Deputy Prime Minister. 

The Secretary-General expresses concern over recent statements by the Pristina authorities and media commentators in Kosovo opposing UNMIK’s presence in the north — potentially placing United Nations staff in danger.  UNMIK, he says, would be prepared to hand over its functions in northern Kosovo to a legitimate structure that is acceptable to all communities, in accordance with the United Nations policy of status neutrality.  “Until then, I strongly urge all sides to continue their cooperation with UNMIK in delivering its mandate,” he says.

There was little progress in reconciliation between the communities in all areas of Kosovo and there had been no significant increase in the low number of returns, he says.  Remarking that the Reconstruction Implementation Commission for the Serbian Orthodox heritage sites in Kosovo had been an effective forum for cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina, he says it is desirable to extend this “umbrella for cooperation” in other technical areas, as appropriate.  For that purpose, the international community should support the Commission with technical expertise and additional funding.

Annexed to the report is the Report of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the Secretary-General on the activities of the European Union Rule of Law Mission Kosovo, which said that EULEX focused during the period on management-level capacity and methodology in the Kosovo police, justice and customs sectors. 

The focus in EULEX’s executive activity during the reporting period was on tackling organized crime and corruption, with the number of verdicts issued by EULEX judges or by EULEX-led court panels increasing significantly.  EULEX also set up a task force to coordinate actions planned to fight criminality in the north, that report says.

Briefing by Special Representative

LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative for the Secretary-General for Kosovo and head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), introduced the Secretary-General’s report (see Background).  He said that the one major development since its publication was the 2 November support of the Assembly of Kosovo for a no-confidence motion against the Government and the issuance of a decree for early general elections to be held on 12 December.  Those developments had followed the resignation of President Fatmir Sejdiu and the collapse of the Government coalition on 18 October.

He said that growing unease continued on the part of the Kosovo authorities in their cooperation with UNMIK on facilitation of regional cooperation and the administration of northern Mitrovica.  During the reporting period, they stopped participating in the Regional Cooperation Council, which was facilitated by UNMIK.  In doing so, the Kosovo institutions lost valuable opportunities to benefit from regional cooperation on issues ranging from education to digital media.  UNMIK had steadfastly discouraged the authorities from choosing what he called this “path of isolation”, as regional cooperation was the key to the development needed to ensure lasting peace in the region and better lives for its people and solutions to outstanding problems.

He was confident that, with the requisite good will, those solutions could be found by Pristina and Belgrade through dialogue.  “UNMIK will continue to provide its assistance and to propose practical ways to overcome political obstacles, but we believe that such solutions can be sought most effectively through dialogue between the parties,” he said, adding that the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) was an opportunity for Pristina and Belgrade to put politics aside in pursuit of a fundamental stepping stone towards the European perspective for the region. 

Regarding northern Mitrovica, he said that an inaccurate report blaming UNMIK administration for a lack of progress had been followed by an intense media campaign against the Mission’s Administration in Mitrovica, and, more worryingly, against individual staff members in northern Kosovo.  In response, he had taken immediate steps to ensure their safety.  While the Kosovo authorities had nevertheless continued to channel municipal funds to the Mission’s Administration in Mitrovica for the benefit of the inhabitants of northern Mitrovica, regrettably, some ethnic Albanian authorities in the area had been reluctant to engage with UNMIK recently, making it more difficult to facilitate contacts between the communities.

Indeed, while overall security remained stable, inter-ethnic relations in northern Kosovo appeared to be deteriorating, he said.  Continuing incidents there had highlighted the strong potential for instability and the urgent need to address issues that created friction.  UNMIK’s key challenge in the area was mediating between the communities, as well as serving as a bridge between all citizens and the Pristina authorities.  For that reason, the Mission was coordinating actions with the United Nations Kosovo Team and engaging with the European Union and other international partners in order to develop a shared understanding of policies required to address challenges.

The tensions in northern Kosovo and the scapegoating of UNMIK were reminders of the pressing need for the dialogue called for by the General Assembly, which was also the key to other concerns, namely missing persons and returns.  He was encouraged that recent political events in Pristina had not created an obstacle to the preparations for such dialogue and that the preparatory phase was under way in Brussels.  UNMIK was working with the European Union to support that process. 

Other encouraging news included the closure of the displaced persons camp at Cesmin Lug, which was known for its unhealthy conditions, with its Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian residents moving to better housing, funded by the United States and the European Union, he said.  However, the increased forced returns to Kosovo of Roma and other vulnerable groups, if unmanaged, would further strain Kosovo’s already limited absorption capacity and increase the risk of secondary displacement, further marginalization and instability.  He, therefore, urged the repatriating countries and the Kosovo authorities to ensure that such returns were managed prudently and did not result in a humanitarian crisis.

In closing, he thanked the Council for its support and assured it that UNMIK would continue to perform its mandated functions to the best of its ability.  He hoped that both Belgrade and Pristina would take advantage of its facilitation and good offices, in the interest of consolidating “the peace that the people of Kosovo and so many in the international community have worked so hard, for so long, to keep”.

Statements

VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the United Nations status of neutrality — and that of all organizations that operated under its authority, such as KFOR, EULEX and the OSCE mission to Kosovo (OMIK) — remained the only acceptable framework within which all could work together to improve the lives of ordinary people in Kosovo, irrespective of their ethnicity.  He was deeply concerned by the fact that the province’s ethnic-Albanian authorities “have actively resisted such a role” by the United Nations of late.  He hoped Pristina would come to embrace the more constructive approach offered by UNMIK and supported by the Council.

He said that in his Enthronement Address to the Faithful, Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church had emphasized the importance of reconciliation, even though his words had been overshadowed by the stoning of buses full of pilgrims.  It was deeply regrettable that no international or local officials had condemned those hate crimes. 

The report, he said, had drawn attention to continuing efforts by the authorities in Pristina to unilaterally alter the complex reality on the ground, especially in north Kosovo.  During the reporting period, the authorities in Pristina had resorted to unilateral actions against Serbian targets outside of northern Kosovo as well.  Moreover, the ethnic-Albanian authorities in Pristina had called for early elections in the coming months.  Those elections, however, were not being held in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).  Since the Special Representative had not called them, the OSCE could not observe them, and the United Nations would not certify them.  “Under such circumstances, it is plainly impossible for the Government of Serbia to invite any of our citizens to participate in them,” he said.

He said that the world supported the fact that dialogue was the only road to peace in Kosovo.  The European Union’s facilitation role in its capacity as an honest broker could be decisive in moving towards a more promising future.  Dialogue meant negotiation and an openness to compromise.  “It is about overcoming prejudices, and taming passions,” he said.  “Serbia wants this dialogue to begin as soon as possible — and we expect it to focus on the least controversial issues first.”  Early successes should be leveraged as a way to build momentum for further achievements, when more delicate topics would be approached.  “The journey to creative solutions will require political imagination, a respect for our own democratic institutions, and great skill,” he said.

His country had always maintained that Pristina’s attempt to secede unilaterally was a violation of the basic principles of the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, as well as of Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said.  That principled position remained unchanged.  “We shall not recognize Kosovo’s [unilateral declaration of independence], explicitly or implicitly,” he stated, because there could never be a sustainable solution to an issue of such magnitude without the consent of all stakeholders.  A vast majority of Member States had refrained from recognizing that declaration, and he appealed to them to stay the course throughout the dialogue process.

He said it would be harmful if someone tried to alter realities on the ground while discussion got under way.  Any attempt to change those realities unilaterally or through the use of force would dramatically — perhaps fatally — undermine the dialogue.  That was one of the many reasons why the United Nations reporting function remained indispensable.

In conclusion he said that Serbia would be a true partner in forging a transformative peace, but that win-win solutions were impossible.  “Serbia, for its part, will spare no effort — we will neither tire nor lose our nerve.  Without denying either the good or the ills of the past, we shall confidently continue to pursue our vision of the future,” he said.  It could not do it alone, however, because no side could ever triumph by demanding unilateral concessions, or seeking to maximize narrowly conceived objectives.

VLORA ĆITAKU from Kosovo pledged support to all efforts for building peace and security in the Western Balkans.  Today, she said, all States in the Balkans were governed by democratically elected Governments, but all faced similar transitional challenges.  They were, however, committed to overcome the last benchmarks to become full members of the European Union.

She said that developments in Kosovo reflected significant progress in building strong, democratic institutions and a sound constitutional framework.  The December elections would be free and fair, and would reflect the will of Kosovo citizens.  The Government had called for, and welcomed, international observers.  “The recent political development in Kosovo proved yet again the political maturity of our established democratic system.  Throughout this period, the Constitution, as well as parliamentary rules and procedures, were strictly followed and observed,” she said.

Kosovo was a multi-ethnic society and the Government remained fully committed for greater social, political and economic inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of Kosovo, she said.  All minorities, including Kosovar Serbs, had direct and undisputed benefits by participating in the democratic life of the State.  In view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the international community should reaffirm its commitment to the stability of Kosovo by calling on Kosovar Serbs to participate in the elections and to call on the Serbian Government not to obstruct their participation.

She regretted the five attacks against Kosovar Serbs who had decided to participate in Kosovo’s public and political life, incidents that had not been reported in Serbia.  She was proud, however, to report that Kosovo Serbs and other minorities had submitted more than 20 electoral lists for the upcoming elections and was pleased that members of civil society, as well as several parliamentary parties in Serbia, were asking for a change in its Government’s policy of boycotting everything representing Kosovo, even after the International Court of Justice had concluded that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law.

In that, she said that 71 countries now recognized Kosovo.  Serbia, however, had completely impeded recognition of any documents issued by the Republic.  License plates, customs stamps, passports and other documents were recognized by the entire European Union and other countries, but were not recognized by Serbia.

Reporting positive progress in terms of the return process, she said that by the end of the year, a record number of 1,300 returnees were expected.  More should be done, however, to successfully complete that process, for which support from Serbia was necessary.  “Again, I would like to emphasize that active participation of the Serb minority in the upcoming elections is crucial for them, as it ensures further integration, which translates into more opportunities, stronger representation and increased living standard.”

After the World Court’s opinion, there had been an attempt by Serbia at the General Assembly to call for negotiations on the status of Kosovo, she said.  Considering that Kosovo’s independence and borders could not be subjected to any negotiations, the international community had called on Serbia to change its policy, with the adoption of resolution 64/298.  That text welcomed the opinion of the World Court and the readiness of the European Union to facilitate a dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.  That resolution provided a platform for starting a technical dialogue with Serbia.

The Government of Kosovo was ready to talk about missing persons, cooperation against crime and corruption, mutual recognition of documents and phone networks, and every other issue of mutual interest, she said.  “But let me be clear,” she added, “we will not talk, ever again, about Kosovo’s right to exist as a free nation after everything that has happened in the past.  The independence of Kosovo is not and will not be an issue of discussion.”  Kosovo was preparing an agenda for talks with Serbia, with the facilitation of the European Union.

In conclusion she said:  “Enormous challenges remain for Kosovo and Serb young generations in years ahead, and many issues will have to be resolved through dialogue, but I believe that I am not the only one who acknowledges that after the Vienna process, the Ahtisaari proposal, the [International Court of Justice] opinion and the General Assembly resolution — we are finally ready to move on.”

ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) recalled her country’s position that the opinion of the International Court of Justice had “turned the page” on Kosovo’s status.  It was now time to move ahead, she said, welcoming the recent General Assembly resolution and the related European Union-facilitated dialogue process.  She made clear her position, however, that the dialogue was not about status issues, and called on States that had not done so to formally recognize Kosovo.  She called on the international community to assist the country grow as a democratic State.

Despite progress, she said many challenges remained, and she pledged her country’s assistance in ensuring that the upcoming elections were democratic, free and fair.  She regretted any discouragement of the ethnic Serb population from participating in Kosovo’s Government.  She also called critical Kosovo’s cooperation with EULEX in fighting criminality.  She called on all States to help facilitate Kosovo’s participation in international forums, and for regional cooperation in providing services.  

Welcoming cooperation to protect the Serbian Orthodox Heritage, she condemned acts and threats of violence, including those against ethnic Serbs in the north.  She pledged her country’s support for progress in Kosovo and its integration into the international community, as well as for the aspirations of Serbia to participate in Euro-Atlantic integration.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) said he was pleased that the security situation in Kosovo remained largely calm during the reporting period; however, new developments had increased political tensions in northern Kosovo, and in some instances, triggered acts of violence.  The gradual integration of the north into the rest of Kosovo benefited the communities in that region, but dialogue was vital to success.  Austria called on all sides to exercise restraint, to adopt a constructive and pragmatic approach and to actively engage with the international presence, including in northern Kosovo, in order to avoid further violence and tension.  Kosovo police, EULEX and KFOR had succeeded in tracking violence and ensuring stability, he said, noting that Austria continued to support both missions.

Despite progress, he said many challenges persisted in the region.  Improving governance and the rule of law in Kosovo was essential.  Further, the international community must remain engaged in Kosovo and Kosovo must remain committed to carrying out the reforms.  Austria encouraged all sides that an agreement must be reached on a multi-ethnic courthouse in Mitrovica and on customs agreements in the north.  He lauded the OSCE mission in Kosovo for its monitoring, protection and promotion of human rights and for its continued support of the development of democratic institutions, such as the assistance offered to the Central Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints and Appeals Panel. 

In closing, he called on all ethnic groups in Kosovo to participate in the upcoming elections, and he appealed to both Kosovo and Serbia to exercise pragmatism and self-restraint, in order to make the elections a success.  Finally, he hoped the adoption of the International Court of Justice’s opinion would launch an early dialogue between Serbia and the European Union, and said that Austria stood ready to lend its full support to the endeavour.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he shared the assessments in Serbia’s statement and supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia.  Resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for a settlement.  The position of the Russian Federation was unchanged in that regard.  It, therefore, did not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo.  The issue should be settled through dialogue.  He, therefore, could not condone actions that attempted to change the realities on the ground, especially in northern Kosovo.  Mentioning several examples of such actions, he also expressed concern that Kosovo wanted to open a court in Mitrovica, without the consent of UNMIK. 

He said the rate of returns were unsatisfactory, among other things, because potential returnees did not have confidence in security.  Concerned abut sabotage of communication facilities in the north and of vandalism of Serbian heritage sites and churches, he doubted the wisdom of transferring the responsibility of securing such sites to the Kosovo police by KFOR.  Attempts to discredit UNMIK were unacceptable, as were attempts to paint Kosovo as a sovereign State.  The Security Council should maintain its primary role in settling the question.

IBRAHIM ASSAF ( Lebanon), noting security incidents in the northern part of Kosovo, called on the parties to avoid any unilateral measures that would increase tensions.  He shared others speakers’ concern about the media campaign against UNMIK and called on all parties to refrain from publishing inaccurate information in that regard.  He welcomed regular cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX, according to the principle of neutrality.  Concerned at the fact that a safe return of displaced people could not be guaranteed, he said the link between returns and economic development and respect of human rights should be acknowledged.  He welcomed progress made in protection of religious and cultural heritage sites and in cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade regarding missing persons.

He said the Assembly resolution constituted an important step that could lead to a flexible and constructive dialogue between the two parties.  It was also important, however, that all parties made efforts to re-establish confidence and trust and bring about reconciliation between communities in Kosovo.  He hoped the most recent political incidents, as well as the elections, would not delay dialogue and that democratic, transparent and fair elections would contribute to improving living standards as well as stability in the region.

RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) commended UNMIK for its continued efforts in promoting stability in Kosovo, particularly its facilitation between actors.  Expressing concern over clashes in northern Kosovo, he called on all sides to exercise restraint.  He stressed that UNMIK’s work remained critical.  He encouraged a strengthened cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX within the mandate of resolution 1244 (1999), and encouraged UNMIK to continue its cooperation with local and international actors to address critical social services needs. 

He said it was important for the reconstruction commission to receive the support it needed to complete its work, and he encouraged dialogue between communities in Kosovo, as well as between Pristina and Belgrade in order for all actors to work together in an effort to consolidate peace and improve the lives of people in the region.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said his delegation deplored the publication of an inaccurate report by the Pristina authorities on the UNMIK administration in Mitrovica that fuelled a damaging campaign against the Mission.  Challenges to the Mission’s authority were a clear violation of resolution 1244.  He also expressed concern at the Secretary-General’s assessment that relations between the Mission and Pristina were at “arms length”, and he reiterated his call that both Belgrade and Pristina cooperate with UNMIK and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Zannier in advancing practical arrangements benefiting ordinary citizens.

Further, he said that resolution 1244 remained in force and was the main parameter for the United Nations presence in Kosovo and the basis for negotiations towards settling the dispute.  He called on the parties to resume negotiations on all outstanding issues as soon as possible and cooperate with each other in good faith.  He welcomed the European Union’s willingness to facilitate dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and he hoped both parties would “take full advantage of such opportunity”.  A solution to the dispute in Kosovo was a matter of concern, not only for the parties, but for the whole international community.

OBINNA C. ONOWU (Nigeria) noted the many signs of progress in Kosovo and said the role of UNMIK was particularly effective in the area of the rule of law, coordinating actors and facilitating dialogue among communities.  Its role in fostering cordial relations was also appreciable.  The situation in northern Kosovo, however, remained of concern.  Confidence-building measures among the communities should be implemented, reconciliation promoted, security improved and reintegration projects developed.  Further, the Mission needed more support in the north so that it could engage with parties to promote reconciliation and stability.  That, in turn, would bolster progress in other areas of difficulty.

He said that dialogue was key to resolving the difficult issues.  The international community should remain focused on the situation by promoting peace efforts towards a comprehensive solution that was satisfying to everyone in the territory and the region.  The European Union’s facilitation of dialogue was gratifying as a major step forward.  The parties should seize the possibilities.  Consultation and cooperation among all actors must be part of the process.  The specific circumstances and concerns of all communities must be taken into account.

LI BAODONG (China) said that tensions in the north of Kosovo were a cause of concern and he called for restraint by all parties.  He welcomed cooperation between the parties on missing persons and the issue of heritage sites, and he called for more work to be done to reconcile communities and to assist vulnerable groups.

Expressing respect for the territorial integrity of Serbia, he said that the best approach for resolving the issue of Kosovo was reaching a mutually-acceptable solution within the context of resolution 1244 (1999).  The International Court of Justice’s opinion did not stand in the way of finding such a solution.  He supported UNMIK’s ongoing role in that context and encouraged all parties to continue their cooperation with the Interim Administration.

CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), underlining the importance of UNMIK’s presence in Kosovo and the international community’s support for that Mission, called on the parties to avoid all actions that could affect the Mission’s work or endanger its personnel.  He also stressed the importance of cooperation between UNMIK and EULEX for strengthening the rule of law, judicial institutions and respect for human rights.  He noted with concern the increase of inter-ethnic violence in the northern part of Kosovo since the World Court had issued its advisory opinion.  The Council should reiterate its call to the parties to respect international law and avoid any provocation that could lead to an increase in tensions. 

He stressed the need for constructive dialogue between the parties, benefiting from the support of the European Union, in accordance with the General Assembly resolution.  Increased cooperation between UNMIK, Pristina and Belgrade was necessary in such matters as missing persons and reconstruction of heritage sites.  He urged the United Nations team on the ground to strengthen cooperation in the region, in order to promote reconciliation, particularly among young people.  Noting that repatriated children suffered from poverty and insufficient access to services, he called on the parties to ensure secure voluntary returns, without discrimination.  He urged countries in the region to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in order to end the impunity of those responsible for committing serious crimes in the past.

ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey), noting that the overall security situation in Kosovo was generally calm with the exception of northern Kosovo, urged all parties to refrain from actions that could escalate tensions and called on the Kosovo police, as well as on local institutions, to take all necessary measures to prevent violence against minority communities.  He said inclusive elections would further contribute to the strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law.  As one of the first countries to have recognized Kosovo’s independence, Turkey welcomed the advisory opinion of the World Court as well as the General Assembly resolution sponsored by Serbia and the European Union.  He was confident that dialogue would contribute to sustainable peace and security in the Balkans. 

Preservation of Kosovo sovereignty and territorial integrity was essential for peace in the Euro-Atlantic area, he said.  Kosovo should not remain isolated and should participate in regional organizations.  In parallel, Serbia could do much to contribute to regional peace and stability.  It was imperative that the parties avoid any unilateral steps that would stand in the way of dialogue.

IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) commended the activities of UNMIK, noting that the security situation had remained relatively calm, despite some incidents in northern Kosovo.  Developments, such as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, had “triggered particular tensions in the already sensitive and politically delicate atmosphere”, he said, but Bosnia and Herzegovina extended its full support to the adoption of the ensuing resolution by the General Assembly on 9 September.  That text “would help promote cooperation and achieve progress on the path to the European Union”, he asserted.

“We consider that the efforts made to improve inter-community dialogue and confidence-building among the parties are of particular importance in creating an environment conducive to sustainable return,” he emphasized.  Nonetheless, he noted that the number of voluntary minority returns remained low and encouraged United Nations agencies to continue their work.  He also acknowledged the importance of strengthening the rule of law, expressing the nation’s support for the OSCE mission, EULEX and the latter’s reported strong cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. 

He encouraged the international community to continue to play an important role in supporting the aspirations of the region’s countries towards their integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, respectively.  That would require the full cooperation of the countries of the region.  “Promoting good relations and cooperation with neighbouring countries is among the top priorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s foreign policy,” he concluded.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) reiterated his country’s unwavering support for UNMIK and its work in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1244 (1999).  He commended the European Union for playing a central role in facilitating dialogue between the parties, and he urged all parties to use the opportunity to consolidate peace and development through such dialogue.

He said that progress on religious sites unfortunately contrasted with other realities on the ground, especially in northern Kosovo.  He called on all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could worsen tensions there.  In that light, recent statements opposing UNMIK were of great concern.  Expressing respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, he called for the parties to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences.

GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that the institutions of Kosovo continued to grow and the political climate was allowing everyone to express their opinions.  In that context, he called for all actors to encourage wide participation in the upcoming elections.  In light of the World Court’s opinion, he said a chapter had been closed and dialogue between the two parties must begin, and must relate to subjects that affected the lives of people in the region.  His country welcomed steps towards integration with Europe.  He called on EULEX to strengthen its ability to fight criminality, which exacerbated tensions.  He looked forward to further progress in reconciliation in the region.

TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) welcomed the adoption of the General Assembly resolution by consensus on the World Court’s advisory opinion and appreciated the flexibility shown by all concerned parties for its adoption.  He hoped that a direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade would follow, addressing issues that affected the daily life of all the people in the communities of Kosovo, which would build confidence and contribute to rapprochement between Pristina and Belgrade.  Such a dialogue would “open a new phase”, as the Secretary-General had stated, and Japan expected the European Union to facilitate that dialogue so that the entire region could be stabilized “irreversibly” on its path to integration with Europe.  He hoped that the recent “political ferment” in Kosovo would not delay the launch of dialogue, and that a new administration would be established soon, with free and fair elections for all eligible residents, including minorities.

He commended Kosovo’s efforts to improve its State, such as through the handover of responsibility for the protection of some Serbian Orthodox monasteries from KFOR to the Kosovo police, as the Secretary-General’s report stated.  As for humanitarian situations, including the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, Japan was particularly concerned about the stagnancy in the process of reintegration of minority returnees.  As a proponent of the policy of human security, Japan continued to support the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to promote peaceful multiethnic coexistence and sustainable development through various frameworks.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom), speaking in his national capacity, said UNMIK continued to play a role in ensuring stability in the region.  He welcomed improved reintegration of Kosovo Roma, as well as increased cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina, but expressed concern about the trend to target Serbs in northern Kosovo who worked for Kosovar institutions. 

Noting that the World Court’s opinion stated that the unilateral declaration of independence did not violate international law and that the General Assembly resolution presented by all member States of the European Union and Serbia welcomed dialogue between Kosovo and Belgrade, he called on Kosovo and Serbia to put their differences aside and open dialogue on practical matters.  He welcomed in that regard the statements by Serbian and Kosovar sides welcoming such talks.

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