Kosovo Remains Stable, but Slow Progress on Reconciliation Could Lead to Volatility, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Kosovo Remains Stable, but Slow Progress on Reconciliation Could Lead to Volatility, Special Representative Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6314th Meeting (PM)
Kosovo Remains Stable, but Slow Progress on Reconciliation Could Lead
to Volatility, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Briefing Leaves Members Concerned about Slow Refugee Returns
Kosovo remained stable, but the potential for volatility remained because little progress had been made in reconciling the ethnic Albanian and Serb communities there, Lambert Zannier, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told the Security Council today.
“The absence of a significant process of reconciliation between the communities continued to be a challenge, which, coupled with economic difficulties, continued to present the risk of social unrest,” said Mr. Zannier, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
As he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission, he said UNMIK continued to devote close attention to relations between the two communities, to facilitate regional cooperation, to focus on northern Kosovo by exercising administrative responsibilities in northern Mitrovica and other activities, to engage with all interested parties on cultural and religious heritage and to offer its good offices for the resolution of practical issues between Pristina and Belgrade.
While there had been some encouraging movement in inter-ethnic issues and the preservation of cultural heritage, he said, progress in other areas was still awaiting the upcoming advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence. Property, missing persons, economics, governance issues, services and returns of displaced persons remained flashpoints in that context, he said.
Also taking the floor this afternoon was Vuk Jeremić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, who once again firmly rejected Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. He painted a troubling picture of challenges in Kosovo, saying that ethnic Albanian authorities had on numerous occasions failed to embrace pragmatic, status-neutral engagement, notably in the area of rule of law and the state of Serbian heritage in Kosovo. The Security Council had done nothing about the “awful” effort at cultural cleansing, he maintained.
He said his country continued to work with the international community and welcomed the irreplaceable role that UNMIK played in resolving practical problems, as well as the European’s enhanced status-neutral presence in north Kosovo. Serbia would continue to work with its partners to ensure that the role of the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) was not diminished.
The work of the International Court of Justice should be allowed to run its course, unhindered by political pressures such as further recognitions of the declaration of independence, he said, assuring the Council that his country stood ready to engage flexibly in all sincerity. Serbia would pursue a compromise with Pristina, constructively and in good faith, as if Kosovo had never attempted the unilateral declaration of independence.
Skender Hyseni of Kosovo said the territory continued to make progress in all areas, the number of nations having formally recognized its independence having risen to 68. Kosovo’s institutions continued to work on improving conditions in minority areas and to reach out to the Kosovo Serb community.
Through its disruptive and destabilizing interference, however, Serbia continued to be unhelpful by supporting illegal structures and organizing elections in the north of Kosovo, he said, warning that such actions were aimed at undermining efforts to enforce law and order. Nevertheless, the Kosovo government stood ready to address a number of issues with Serbia, as two independent States. He added that the recent uncovering of a mass grave in Serbia had triggered a new wave of profound sadness in thousands of Kosovo families.
Following those presentations, Security Council members, while expressing differences over Kosovo’s status, praised UNMIK’s performance and agreed that practical cooperation should be advanced to reduce tensions. Most speakers also welcomed Kosovo’s continuing stability, calling for greater progress on improving the rule of law and ensuring the return of refugees and displaced persons.
With regard to status, however, the representative of the Russian Federation insisted that resolution 1244 (1999), which had established UNMIK, remained in force, and that any recognition of the unilateral declaration of independence demonstrated a misunderstanding of international law. The representative of the United States, on the other hand, stressed that Kosovo’s independence was irreversible.
Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Austria, Uganda, Brazil, Japan, China, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gabon, Mexico, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Turkey and Lebanon.
The meeting began at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:30 p.m.
Security Council members had before them the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2010/169), which calls for continued regional and international support for the Mission, known as UNMIK, saying it is uniquely placed to facilitate dialogue between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian, Serb and other minority communities. “The strategic goal of UNMIK remains the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights through engagement with all communities in Kosovo, as well as with Pristina and Belgrade and regional and international actors,” the report says.
According to the report, UNMIK continued to support minority communities, encourage reconciliation and facilitate dialogue and regional cooperation during the reporting period, from 16 December 2009 to 15 March 2010, with the Special Representative continuing to cultivate good-faith relations with all sides. The Mission maintained close cooperation with the 3,200-strong European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which has 1,400 international police officers operating under the overall authority and within the framework of the United Nations, which retains a “status neutral” stance vis-à-vis Kosovo’s declaration of independence in early 2008. UNMIK also maintained cooperation with the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), which was being phased into a “deterrent presence”. The number of troops in Kosovo was drawn down to 10,200 by the end of January, and further reductions will be determined by the North Atlantic Council on the basis of prevailing conditions rather than a fixed calendar.
The report states that the security situation remained relatively “calm but fragile” during the period under review, with no increase in incidents in comparison to previous periods. However, the persistence of such incidents — including stone-throwing on the part of both ethnic groups, other assaults and the discovery of the bodies of two ethnic Serb men who were apparently the victims of violence — continues to represent an obstacle to the return of those who fled the fighting that ended in 1999, and perpetuates a perception of insecurity among minority communities. Bringing the perpetrators of crimes to justice, publicly condemning such incidents and reaching out to the victims, as occurred in some instances during the reporting period, would serve to alleviate some concerns among the communities and foster a feeling of increased security.
Turning to the question of refugees, the report notes that, although voluntary minority returns remain “disappointingly low” in absolute numbers, they increased from 2008, with 1,153 people returning from displacement in and outside Kosovo in 2009, compared with 679 in 2008. United Nations statistics show 259 returns, including 90 Kosovo Serbs and 89 Kosovo Ashkali, between January and February 2010, compared with 55 in the same period in 2009. Several Serbian cultural and religious sites were vandalized during the reporting period, showing that securing respect for the rights of all communities continues to be a challenge, the report says, welcoming, in that context, progress in discussions relating to the establishment of a mechanism for the protection of Serbian Orthodox religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo.
The report expresses continuing concern over the possibility of increased tensions in northern Kosovo, where many ethnic Serbs live, if sensitive issues there are not addressed through consultation and dialogue with all stakeholders. To that end, the Special Representative met with Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders, and UNMIK is engaging with both sides to establish task forces comprising all stakeholders to address practical issues such as reconstruction of houses, infrastructure and services, in order to decrease tensions, focus on common needs and thereby facilitate more returns.
According to the report, task forces are also planned to tackle education, health and the relocation of members of the Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities to permanent housing, in order to address the critical health risks they face as a result of lead contamination. As for regional development and cooperation, the authorities in Serbia and Kosovo should be encouraged to exercise flexibility in working towards mutually beneficial goals, irrespective of status-related considerations. In that regard, the Secretary-General urges both sides to take a pragmatic approach to participation by representatives of the Kosovo institutions in regional and international forums.
LAMBERT ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that, since his last address to the Council in late January, the overall situation in Kosovo had remained stable, although the potential for volatility and instability remained, especially in the north. “The absence of a significant process of reconciliation between the communities continued to be a challenge, which, coupled with economic difficulties, continued to present the risk of social unrest.”
He said UNMIK continued to devote close attention to relations between the communities, facilitate regional cooperation, focus on northern Kosovo by exercising administrative responsibilities in northern Mitrovica and other activities, and to engage with all interested parties on cultural and religious heritage while offering its good offices for the resolution of practical issues between Pristina and Belgrade in the expectation that more direct channels of dialogue could be activated at some point. While there had been some encouraging movement on inter-ethnic issues and the preservation of cultural heritage, he said, progress in other areas still awaited the upcoming advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Outlining the Mission’s facilitation of Kosovo’s participation in regional and international forums, he said that role would continue as long as it was useful. There had been some progress on UNMIK’s facilitation of direct dealings on cultural heritage and missing persons, but the problem of missing persons remained a major challenge, with 1,862 individuals still missing across Kosovo. However, he welcomed the announcement on 10 May by the Office of Serbia’s War Crimes Prosecutor that a mass grave believed to contain the remains of some 250 Kosovo Albanians had been discovered. The prompt identification of bodies and their return to their families would help the bereaved begin the healing process, he added.
Regrettably, direct practical cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina had not extended to areas other than those just mentioned, he said. Effects by EULEX to re-establish a fully functioning multi-ethnic court in north Mitrovica had produced mixed results, and progress towards full-fledged customs facilities in some areas was proving difficult. UNMIK continued to support the reconstruction of housing in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods as a way to reduce tensions and increase cooperation between communities, through technical working groups. However, efforts to open new channels of dialogue between northern and southern Mitrovica had so far been stymied by disagreements over modalities, he noted, adding that the efforts continued, but they would need good will from local leaders on both sides.
Describing the events that had followed the spontaneous return of 23 Kosovo Serbs to the village of Zallq/Žac in late March as an example of inter-ethnic dynamics, he said they had been met by protesting groups of Kosovo Albanians who alleged that the returnees included individuals who had committed war crimes. Unresolved questions of missing persons, the related lack of reconciliation, difficult economic circumstances, security and property matters and the effect of all those issues on the returns process typified Kosovo’s problems, he said, maintaining that more must be done at the grass-roots level to overcome the legacy of the past.
He also described tensions over measures taken by the Kosovo Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to destroy transmitters used by unlicensed telecommunications services. UNMIK had repeatedly reminded the unauthorized providers of the licensing requirements, but remained concerned about the humanitarian impact of the disconnections.
On local governance, he said newly created Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities had now set up their administrative structures and, while they enjoyed a certain degree of goodwill from the Kosovo authorities, it was too early to assess their performance in meeting their constituents’ needs and aspirations. At the level of the central government, there had been a reshuffling of cabinet ministers in March and tensions with the international community due to allegations of corruption against the Minister of Transport and Communications. Relations between UNMIK and the Kosovo authorities remained courteous, if “at arms’ length”, he said, adding that Mission staff continued to maintain a variety of daily, fruitful working contacts with their Kosovo counterparts.
Turning to the development of a United Nations strategic framework for Kosovo, he said the Organization’s strongest comparative advantage there was that it was accepted by all communities. The Mission and the country team were identifying priorities that would maximize their impact, especially with respect to human rights and governance, inclusive municipalities, the situation in northern Kosovo and the question of returns. UNMIK would continue to help ensure continued peace and stability, he pledged, expressing hope that the two sides would continue to take advantage of its facilitation and good offices.
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the status of his country’s province of Kosovo remained bitterly disputed. Pristina’s unilateral declaration of independence had clearly divided the world, calling into question the fundamental tenets of the contemporary international system. A substantial majority of Member States had stood firm against efforts to impose Serbia’s forcible partition, respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. “The principled position of Serbia’s democracy remains set in stone: we will never recognize [a unilateral declaration of independence],” he stressed.
He said the Kosovo Albanian authorities had failed on numerous occasions to embrace pragmatic, status-neutral engagement, notably in the rule of law area. It had rejected a Belgrade agreement on how to move forward rapidly on the judiciary issue, in particular the question of the north Mitrovica courthouse. The Secretary-General’s report downplayed a number of challenges in Kosovo, from organized crime and corruption to police misconduct and a dysfunctional judiciary, he said, noting that the European Commission’s most recent report painted a more realistic picture. Several Serbian officials, including a minister and his deputy, had been illegitimately expelled by Pristina, despite being legal residents of the province.
The precarious state of Serbian heritage remained troubling, he said, citing church vandalism, graveyard desecration, looting of icons and denial of property rights. The Council had done nothing about that “awful” effort at cultural cleansing. Especially in south Kosovo, the police seemed unable to prevent acts of intimidation and violence against Kosovo Serbs exercising their right of return, including the vandalizing of homes, the cutting of power lines and the stoning of children. “The return of displaced persons [has] literally stopped,” he said, citing a senior Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) official.
He said his country continued to work with the international community in a number of important areas of mutual concern. The irreplaceable role that UNMIK played in resolving practical problems was very welcome, as was its offer to chair a number of multi-ethnic task forces comprising representatives of north Kosovo institutions and local ethnic Albanian authorities. Serbia also supported the European Union’s enhanced status-neutral presence in north Kosovo, he said, noting that day-to-day cooperation between Serbia and EULEX on police, justice and customs continued apace.
Saluting the international community’s indispensable role in protecting Serbian religious and cultural heritage, he said the appointment of the Head of the Greek Liaison Office in Pristina to the position of facilitator in that regard was a positive development, and he was also cautiously optimistic that issues relating to electricity supply for Kosovo Serb communities would be resolved in the near future. “Despite recent setbacks on the ground, I believe we are approaching a new, more promising moment on Kosovo.”
In 2008, the General Assembly had tasked the International Court of Justice with determining whether Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence conformed to international law, he recalled. The Court was close to completing its deliberations, and the judges’ work should be allowed to run its course, unhindered by political pressures, such as further recognition of the unilateral declaration of independence. It was therefore regrettable that a few States had recently chosen to do so anyway. Once the Court reported to the Assembly, there would be an unprecedented opportunity to build momentum for achieving the ultimate goal: a strategic compromise between Serbs and Albanians. The Kosovo problem had been made more difficult by the consequences of unilateral action. “Yet I strongly believe that we have the ability to look beyond the divisions of the past and create a new environment that will make future solutions possible,” he said.
Assuring the Council that Serbia stood ready to engage flexibly, he said the Kosovo question could not be solved by forcing submissive conditions on a party that would be compelled by circumstance and duress to accept. A solution that left no one defeated could unite the world and help advance common priorities. “Only such a solution — built with the free consent of all responsible stakeholders — can last,” he emphasized, pledging that Belgrade would pursue a compromise with Pristina, constructively and in good faith, as if the latter had never attempted the unilateral declaration of independence.
Dialogue that produced a fair and balanced agreement between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians would provide a critical boost to securing a peaceful European future for the Western Balkans, he said, noting that membership in the European Union was his country’s central strategic priority. Waiting for an indeterminate period in the vague hope that one side would eventually give in was a recipe for freezing Kosovo’s limbo. “The only way forward is to bring about a just compromise that balances the desires and interests of our two peoples,” he said in conclusion.
SKENDER HYSENI of Kosovo said 68 nations had now extended formal recognition, with more about to do the same. The security situation remained stable, and the reporting period had been marled by discussions on efforts to make the territory’s European integration more tangible. The government of Kosovo had engaged in a comprehensive process with European Union institutions and had recently established a ministry for European integration. Kosovo also supported the European perspective of all Balkan countries.
He said his Government had stepped up efforts to address many important issues for the economy, justice and the fight against crime and corruption. It had established a special task force against corruption and organized crime, and EULEX had provided indispensable assistance in the police and justice sectors. On the economic front, the Government had signed a contract with a consortium to build a main highway that would connect Kosovo with Albania and Serbia. That would provide the territory with a profitable corridor beneficial to all countries in the region.
Kosovo’s institutions continued to work on improving conditions in minority areas, he continued. It provided support to newly established municipalities and continued to reach out to the Kosovo Serb community. Serbia, however, through its disruptive and destabilizing interference, continued to be unhelpful by supporting illegal structures and organizing elections in the north of Kosovo, he said, stressing that such actions were aimed at undermining efforts to enforce law and order. Kosovo was trying to achieve normal living conditions throughout the territory, he said, stressing that everybody wanted normality, regardless of ethnic background.
Emphasizing that bilateral and regional cooperation was also a high priority, he said Kosovo had good relations with its immediate neighbours — Montenegro, Albania and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He invited Serbia to establish an environment of cooperation in the region, including through normalization of relations with Kosovo, saying his Government stood ready to address a number of issues with Serbia as two independent States. Regarding the recent uncovering of a mass grave in Serbia, he said it had triggered a new wave of profound sadness in thousands of Kosovo families.
CHRISTIAN EBNER ( Austria) said there had been progress in Kosovo, including the recent successful elections, but challenges persisted in the areas of economic development, good governance, rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime, and the situation in northern Kosovo. There were still no signs of communication, let alone cooperation, between the Kosovo Albanian and the Kosovo Serb sides, he said, expressing hope that both sides would intensify their efforts to find pragmatic solutions to unresolved issues.
A gradual reintegration of the north into the rest of Kosovo was needed, he said, adding that it would only happen through dialogue and acceptance by both the local communities and Belgrade, he said. Welcoming the joint patrols by EULEX and Kosovo police, he said the integration of local Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian judges and prosecutors into the Mitrovica court should be among the highest priorities. He also highlighted the valuable contributions of the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo in support of development of democratic institutions, pointing out that implementation of return strategies still faced a number of challenges.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA (Uganda) commended UNMIK’s proactive engagement with all communities as well as with Pristina, Belgrade and the wider region so as to strengthen stability and peace in Kosovo. The Mission’s activities remained critical, and the parties should cooperate with it in order to make progress on practical issues, despite political differences. It was also important to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice and for the different communities to engage while respecting each other’s cultures and people. Welcoming UNMIK’s continuing cooperation with EULEX and KFOR, he called for it to be strengthened within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). Negotiations on critical service needs were particularly important in reducing tensions and inducing cooperation between communities, he stressed, welcoming also UNMIK’s facilitation of Kosovo’s participation in international forums.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) reiterated that resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force, as well as her country’s respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Looking forward to the outcome of the proceedings at the International Court of Justice, she said the search for a negotiated settlement on the final status of Kosovo should remain the ultimate goal. Meanwhile, Brazil supported the important roles of UNMIK and EULEX, and affirmed that all concerned must ensure that Kosovo was a place where ethnic tolerance and multiculturalism allowed peaceful co-existence.
She also endorsed the Secretary-General’s call for all sides to demonstrate openness and flexibility in providing practical solutions in terms of delivering services to the population. Full cooperation with UNMIK was needed in that and other areas, she said, saying it was regrettable that Pristina had not consulted with the Mission in preparing and announcing its “strategy for northern Kosovo”. The Kosovo authorities must always bear in mind that the Security Council had given the Mission the authority to administer Kosovo in its entirety, she emphasized.
NORIHIRO OKUDA (Japan) said it was essential to avoid complications by maintaining a dialogue with the Kosovo Serb community. Also of highest priority was establishing the rule of law across different ethnicities in order to tackle organized crime and corruption. He expressed concern about sporadic incidents targeting minorities and called for further efforts by all parties to promote the return of displaced minorities. Japan would continue to support the engagement of UNHCR in the returns of internally displaced persons.
Maintaining that regional cooperation was of key importance, he urged all parties to work together so as to facilitate Kosovo’s participation in international frameworks. A human-centred approach, under the concept of human security, was particularly relevant in the northern provinces, with due consideration to reducing vulnerability among the population. Japan remained committed to helping Kosovo develop as a vibrant, multi-ethnic and fully democratic country, and to cooperating with Serbia and other countries to enhance the region’s stability and prosperity.
LI BAODONG (China) said that, although the situation in Kosovo was unstable, it had been possible to prevent it from deteriorating. China trusted that UNMIK, thanks to its continued mediation, would continue to encourage all parties to enter into dialogue and engage in reconciliation. In the future, the Mission must be careful about the impact of implementing its strategy for northern Kosovo, as the situation was sensitive and complex, and could affect peace and stability in the region. Emphasizing his country’s respect for the territorial integrity of Serbia, he recommended that the question be resolved on the basis of Council resolutions and that a solution acceptable to both stakeholders be found.
He said there was no link between UNMIK’s reconfiguration and reduction on the one hand, and Kosovo’s status on the other, and it should not affect the neutrality of the United Nations. The Mission’s mandate should be carried out pursuant to resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that it should continue to intensify its efforts in northern Kosovo. UNMIK should also facilitate the return of displaced ethnic minorities, expressing hope that EULEX would continue to play its role in a neutral way, under the aegis of the United Nations.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said Kosovo continued to stabilize its institutions in order to conform to European norms. Since its independence had been recognized by an increasing number of States, Kosovo would be able to take its place within the international community. The issue had been negotiated for a long time and all possible solutions had been explored. A mutually acceptable compromise had been impossible, he explained, adding that independence had, therefore, been the only solution.
He said that, on the ground, the security situation was consolidated. Each intercommunal incident, however, was unacceptable. Kosovo authorities supported by EULEX must catch the perpetrators. Regional cooperation was also progressing. The Kosovo authorities should take the opportunities that allowed for participation in regional meetings. Kosovo must continue to progress on rule of law and good governance and must extend help to the national minorities. France would assist in promoting dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), noting that UNMIK continued successfully to implement its strategic goal — the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo — welcomed efforts aimed at reconciliation, constructive dialogue, regional cooperation and mediation between the communities, saying they were of particular importance in the area of returns. Welcoming UNMIK’s efforts to establish task forces so as to reduce tensions and call attention to common needs.
Strengthening the rule of law was of great importance, he said, commending the activities of EULEX and UNMIK in that regard. He also noted that the transition of KFOR to a deterrent presence had been implemented in a gradual and phased manner. The international community should continue to play an important role in supporting the aspirations of countries in the region for integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Those countries should continue to cooperate with the international community in order to reach that goal, he said, stressing that fostering good relations and cooperation with neighbours was of the utmost importance to his own country.
EMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) voiced support for the central role played by UNMIK in encouraging and facilitating dialogue and reconciliation in Kosovo, as well as between Pristina and Belgrade, saying dialogue and consultation were absolutely necessary to achieve peace and stability in Kosovo and the whole region. Gabon would continue to support UNMIK’s role until a final settlement of the dispute was reached, he said, reaffirming his country’s respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for any peace initiative, and the international community’s final recognition of Kosovo’s status should be in line with international law, he emphasized.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), reaffirming the continuing relevance of resolution 1244 (1999), said the United Nations was the forum to provide a peaceful solution, in cooperation with the European Union and OSCE. Relations between the world body and regional organizations must be strengthened for that purpose, he said, adding that priority must be placed on the protection of human rights in dealing with Kosovo’s remaining problems, including the creation of conditions conducive to the return of displaced persons. The parties were obliged to provide such conditions under international law. He said UNMIK’s cooperation with human rights organizations on the ground must be strengthened, as must the rule of law in support of human rights. Those engaging in violence must be prosecuted and issues involving missing persons resolved, he added.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s unwavering support for Kosovo’s independence, noting that four out of six new municipalities had been established and two municipalities would be created soon after elections. That demonstrated Kosovo’s commitment to improving the everyday lives of its people, he said, noting the Secretary-General’s finding that there had been no increase in ethnically motivated incidents. That would help create the right environment for KFOR’s shift towards a “deterrent presence”. He said Kosovo must continue its efforts towards good governance and the rule of law, while extending help to all displaced persons wishing to return home.
The United Kingdom strongly encouraged deeper cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade on practical issues, which would benefit all communities in Kosovo, he said. It was also important to continue to address the wrongs of the past, he said, noting that continued disagreement over status issues would hinder the goal of European Union membership for both Serbia and Kosovo. While UNMIK continued its useful work in support of minority communities, its resources should be commensurate with its responsibilities, he stressed. Kosovo had established itself as a viable State with European support, and should advance towards a European perspective in parallel with its neighbours.
BROOKE D. ANDERSON (United States), noting that 17 February had been the second anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, and that 68 countries had recognized it, welcomed its progress in enhancing its institutional capacities as it pursued stability and European integration. Implementing the decentralization process would improve governance and empower all communities. Noting that authorities were reaching out to address local needs, she commended Kosovo Serb minority leaders who were cooperating with the Kosovo authorities in that regard. Upcoming elections could affect real change, but the parallel elections planned by Serbia would only detract from good-faith efforts to promote reconciliation, she said.
Noting the increase in refugee returns, she commended Kosovo’s and Serbia’s efforts to resolve that issue, and welcomed in that regard the reopening of the Kosovo Property Office. She also hailed statements by Kosovo and Serbian leaders in support of reconciliation, adding that her country would assist in the reconstruction of heritage sites in which the Government of Kosovo participated. Noting that the overall situation remained calm but fragile, she condemned incidents of ethnic violence. “Kosovo’s independence is irreversible, partition is unacceptable. Kosovo’s status and borders have been settled,” she emphasized. The United States stood with Kosovo, Serbia and all countries in the region as they advanced towards integration into and Euro-Atlantic institutions.
KIO SOLOMON AMIEYEOFORI(Nigeria) commended UNMIK for its role in maintaining peace and stability, reconciliation and facilitation in Kosovo, in cooperation with EULEX and under a “status-neutral” framework. He encouraged the Mission to continue to foster harmony, dialogue and mutual respect among different communities. Expressing regret over violent incidents, he stressed the need to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice, while also expressing concern about the low level of returns on the part of refugees and displaced persons. Concerted efforts by all partners were needed to ensure that returns were voluntary and safe, he stressed.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), agreeing with Serbia’s assessment, reiterated his country’s non-acceptance of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and reaffirmed that resolution 1244 (1999) remained in force. “Not understanding that means not understanding international legality,” he added. Nobody had the right to hinder UNMIK in the performance of its full mandate under the resolution, he said, welcoming the Mission’s efforts, in particular, to create technical working groups to solve practical problems.
Any unilateral steps in northern Kosovo could worsen tensions there, he warned, expressing concern about Kosovo’s actions in the areas of communications and visas. Tolerance had regressed, he said, adding that the situation was particularly alarming when it came to the preservation of Serb cultural heritage. The Russian Federation was especially concerned about the transfer of responsibilities in that area to Kosovo police. The inactivity of EULEX in certain areas was also worrying, he said, adding that it must act in cooperation with UNMIK within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). The Council must foster a solution to the entire problem in implementation of that resolution, he stressed.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN (Turkey) said that, since Kosovo had become independent, the number of countries recognizing it had increased steadily, an irreversible process that could contribute to peace and stability in the region. Kosovo must concentrate on improving the rule of law, good governance and human rights, he said, noting that it had already made progress in establishing democracy through fair and credible elections. Progress had also been made in decentralization, and legislation had been adopted regarding the protection of minorities. However, efforts to integrate all communities would require time and resources, he noted.
It was important that all people of Kosovo should come to feel it was their home and that its future was their future together, he stressed, urging Kosovo Serbs to take part in the democratic process. Both parties, Pristina and Belgrade, should cooperate on pragmatic issues such as the protection of religious and cultural heritage, energy and organized crime. By putting aside status issues, they could work towards long-term stability in the region, he noted, adding that the international community should continue supporting Serbia’s efforts to integrate with Europe.
Council President NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), speaking in his national capacity, said that, although the security situation was improving, there were still incidents targeting minorities. He called upon all to cooperate in bringing about justice, compensating victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. It was important to improve the institutional human rights mechanisms, and to make sustained efforts to bring about improvements in northern Kosovo while finding practical solutions to issues concerning all stakeholders through dialogue.
Commending UNMIK for its work in strengthening stability, security and respect for human rights, he called on all groups to cooperate with the Mission on humanitarian and cultural issues. Lebanon welcomed the increased number of displaced persons returning home, and commended the Mission and the European Union for their efforts to resolve the problems of minority camps. In order to foster returns, he emphasized, there was a need to establish conditions of security and to protect the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo. Lebanon called upon all parties to find practical solutions to matters of common interest in order to improve the daily lives of Kosovo’s people.
Mr. JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said he could not agree with delegations that had said his country was interfering in the internal legal affairs of others. Reconciliation was at the forefront of Serbia’s regional strategy and it included an apology for the events that had occurred in Srebrenica, something unique in history. Serbia was ready to discuss all issues involving Kosovo and to settle them peacefully, through dialogue. He stressed that borders could only be settled through agreement by all interested parties, noting the historic significance of such an agreement, if reached — it would be the first time in the Balkans that such issues were settled peacefully.
Mr. HYSENI of Kosovo, saying he wished to address some “misleading allegations”, emphasized that nobody should doubt his government’s commitment to fighting organized crime and corruption, since, in cooperation with EULEX and other international parties, it had taken tangible actions on that front.
He said the “game” with the total number of displaced persons continued, noting that the Council had been informed of the real figures many times in the past. It was not about numbers, but the determination of the government of Kosovo to see progress in the repatriation of all citizens. Kosovo had protected the religious and cultural heritage of all in Kosovo throughout the centuries and continued to do so.
The Kosovo government had tolerated illegal mobile telephone service providers in one part of the country for “too long”, for the sole reason of not disrupting communications in that part of the country. The illegal providers had now been removed in an effort to restore law and order. At the same time, a legitimate service provider had offered the Kosovo Serb community mobile phones free of charge in order to ensure they all had access to telecommunications. Unfortunately, some of the legal providers had been attacked, which was unacceptable. He reiterated that Kosovo stood ready to talk with the Belgrade authorities on a plethora of issues because Kosovo and Serbia, as neighbours, must work together for their common good.
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