Serbian President, in Security Council Meeting, Blames Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Deadly Violence in Kosovo
Serbian President, in Security Council Meeting, Blames Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Deadly Violence in Kosovo
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6353rd Meeting (AM)
Serbian President, in Security Council Meeting, Blames Unilateral Declaration
of Independence for Deadly Violence in Kosovo
Special Representative Reiterates Call
By Secretary-General for Dialogue among Parties on Disputed Area
Following a fatal explosion at a demonstration in northern Kosovo last Friday, the President of Serbia blamed tensions there on the enclave’s unilateral declaration of independence, while the Secretary-General’s Special Representative called on all parties to refrain from provocative statements, as the Security Council held a meeting on the subject today.
“This past Friday’s tragedy reminds us of the fear and violence that stands at the foundation of unilateralism,” President Boris Tadić told the meeting that he had requested because of “a serious deterioration in security in northern Kosovo”. He urged the international community to stop the expansion of Pristina-based institutions and called for a consensual solution to the status of Kosovo.
He said the bombing had occurred after close to 3,000 Kosovo Serbs had assembled to protest a forcible attempt by “ethnic-Albanian secessionists based in Pristina” to establish a “Kosovo Government Office” in north Mitrovica. The move to expand “Pristina-based parallel institutions” to that area had been done deliberately to increase tensions and sabotage the quest for comprehensive peace, he said, describing it as the latest violation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which had ended inter-ethnic fighting in Kosovo and established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK).
Lamberto Zannier, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIK, provided details of Friday’s attack and expressed his deep regret over the violence. “I call on all sides to refrain from provocative statements and to remain calm, and on all competent law-enforcement authorities to take urgent measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.
He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call urging all sides to commit to dialogue in addressing the challenges in northern Kosovo. “Events over the past few days point to the need to initiate this dialogue as a matter of urgency,” he said. The United Nations would remain engaged with all sides 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).
Yves De Kermabon, Head of EULEX, said the mission had condemned the violence and was working with all parties to help bring the perpetrators to justice. Denying that there was a general deterioration in the security situation of northern Kosovo, he expressed regret over yesterday’s shooting of a Kosovo Serb parliamentarian, saying threats were being made against individuals in the area who cooperated with EULEX. Those threats were unacceptable, he stressed.
Skender Hyseni of Kosovo pledged that local police would work closely with the international presence to find the perpetrators and swiftly bring them to justice. He maintained that the opening of the office in question was no threat to anyone, adding that it had been decided to establish a community service centre with the aim of bringing basic services to ordinary citizens.
Following those presentations, all Council members taking the floor condemned the attack on the demonstrators and extended their condolences to the wounded and the family of the dead victim. Some speakers said the attack was an isolated crime and did not indicate a general deterioration of security in Kosovo. Neither could the establishment of the branch office be blamed for the bombing. Those speakers claimed that the attacks neither represented a threat to international peace and security nor warranted an urgent Council meeting.
However, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had backed Serbia’s request for an urgent meeting due to the deteriorating conditions in Kosovo. He agreed with President Tadić’s assessment of the issues involved, saying that the Pristina strategy for northern Kosovo was a serious violation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), and recalling that his delegation had warned in earlier Council meetings that the strategy would raise tensions.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, China, United States, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Austria, Lebanon, Gabon, Uganda, Turkey, Japan and Nigeria.
The meeting began at 10:55 a.m. and ended at 1:01 p.m.
As it met this morning, the Security Council had before it a letter dated 2 July from the Permanent Representative of Serbia addressed to the President of the Security Council (document S/2010/355), requesting an urgent meeting due to “the serious deterioration of the security situation in the northern part of Kosovo”.
Noting that the situation has already resulted in the loss of human life and threatens to provoke further violence, the letter asks the Council President to allow President Boris Tadić of Serbia, to participate in that meeting, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the United Nations Charter and rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure, and to make a statement.
BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, recalled that last Friday, close to 3,000 Kosovo Serbs had assembled to protest the forcible attempt by “ethnic-Albanian secessionists based in Pristina” to establish a so-called Kosovo Government Office in North Mitrovica. Bombs had been thrown into the crowd, resulting in one death and many injuries, a flagrant act of terror resulting directly from the conscious choice made by provocateurs to expand the scope of Pristina-based parallel institutions to North Kosovo. The action had been carried out deliberately to increase tensions and sabotage the quest for comprehensive peace, he said, describing it as the latest violation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which had ended inter-ethnic fighting in Kosovo and established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) there.
Attributing the attempt to establish the office to a plan sponsored in part by the International Civilian Office, he said it was opposed by UNMIK, as well as the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and other responsible stakeholders, including the Security Council, which also had not approved the blueprint for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. He called on UNMIK to restore the province’s legitimate legal framework, and on EULEX to bring the perpetrators of all crimes against Kosovo Serbs to justice. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should maintain its present troop levels and exclusive static presence at all Serbian holy sites currently under their protection, he said, urging all responsible stakeholders to lay out the consequences for any future unilateral acts by Pristina.
Previous atrocities, including those of March 2004, in which 35 Serbian holy sites had been set ablaze by ethnic Albanian militants, had resulted in deaths and displacement, setting the stage for today’s situation, he said, adding that the unilateral declaration of independence had caused further divisions. It was time to chart a course towards a secure future for all residents of Serbia’s southern province, for all the country’s citizens and for all nations of the region. Stability was only possible through full implementation of the Secretary-General’s Six-Point Plan, welcomed by the entire Council in November 2008.
No serious impediment stood in the way of engaging immediately through that Plan to find pragmatic arrangements that would benefit all residents of the country, he continued, adding that he had strong expectations that the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which had been asked to consider the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence, would not legitimize it. “Any other outcome would mean that no frontier — anywhere in the world — would remain safe from separatist ambitions” and would result in instability in all corners of the globe.
Reiterating his deep gratitude for the support of the majority of Member States, which continued to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity, he said compromise with Pristina would be pursued constructively and in good faith, as if they had never attempted the unilateral declaration of independence, adding that he was confident that agreement could be reached on a consensual solution. However, no democratic leadership in Serbia would ever, under any circumstances, recognize the unilateral declaration, he emphasized. “This principled position is set in stone, and will not change — come what may.”
He continued: “This past Friday’s tragedy reminds us of the fear and violence that stand at the foundation of unilateralism,” he said, calling for “the establishment of a harmonious peace between two vibrant and proud nations — Serbs and Albanians”. Serbia was determined to reach a sustainable agreement on the final status of Kosovo that all parties could embrace. Extremist voices that believed it was impossible for Serbs and Albanians to reach an historic compromise must be rejected, he said, stressing that comprehensive peace was essential for securing a shared, prosperous future in the European Union.
LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that the authorities had decided to inaugurate a “civil services centre” on 2 July, in an ethnically mixed area of northern Mitrovica known as the “Bosniak Mahalla”, which would provide the local community with Kosovo-issued birth, death and marriage certificates, identification cards and travel documents. At 8:30 a.m., a large number of Kosovo Serbs had started gathering near the East Bridge to protest the centre’s opening, saying there had been no consultation with the local Kosovo Serb community. It was part of efforts by the authorities to establish their institutions throughout the territory. Those efforts were opposed by Kosovo Serbs in the north, but elsewhere, they had been making increased use of the services of Kosovo civil registry offices.
After the sound of the siren at 9 a.m., the number of protestors had increased to between 1,500 and 2,000, he said, adding that the Kosovo police and EULEX had created a buffer between the protestors and the centre. The Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) had been present and ready to assist, if necessary. At 9:50 a.m., several shots had been heard and an explosive device had gone off close to the crowd heading towards the centre. Some 600 to 700 people had broken the security cordons. At about 10 a.m., the protestors, upon reaching the front of the centre, had demanded the removal of a sign bearing the inscription, “Republic of Kosovo, Ministry of Internal Affairs” from the front of the building. Once the sign had been removed, the protestors had begun to disperse, and one hour later all roads had been cleared.
But as a result of the explosion, 12 people had been injured — including seven Kosovo Serb females, four Kosovo Serb males and one Kosovo Bosniak, he said. Mesud Dzekovic, a doctor who had not been participating in the protest, had been hurt and had later died. At around 2 p.m., the emergency siren had sounded again, calling on residents of northern Mitrovica to mourn the doctor’s death. The Belgrade-appointed head of the Kosovska Mitrovica region had told a crowd of up to 3,000 people that the Kosovo Serbs would continue protesting the integration of northern Kosovo into Pristina-based institutions, he said, branding the explosion a “terrorist attack” and criticizing the EULEX approach as not “status-neutral”.
He went on to note that the evening of 2 July had been calm and no incidents had been reported, adding that the victim’s funeral had taken place peacefully on 3 July. The Kosovo Police and EULEX, as well as KFOR, which had been deployed in the area, continued to investigate the incident in order to arrest the perpetrators. However, the security situation in northern Kosovo was now more tense than usual, he warned, reporting that on Monday morning, Petar Miletic, a Kosovo Serb member of the Assembly of Kosovo, had been shot in both legs outside his house in northern Mitrovica by an unknown assailant. He was reportedly in stable condition.
Expressing his deep regret over the violence and offering his condolences to the victim’s family, he said: “I call on all sides to refrain from provocative statements and to remain calm, and on all competent law-enforcement authorities to take urgent measures to bring the perpetrators to justice. I would like to ask you today to support these messages to Dr. Dzekovic’s family, to the communities in Kosovo, as well as to Pristina and Belgrade, and to help ensure that there will be no further escalation of the situation in northern Kosovo.”
While the authorities in both Pristina and Belgrade had condemned the incident and called for the arrest of the perpetrators, each laid the blame on the other, he said. The Kosovo authorities had called on Belgrade to distance itself from “such violent acts that are a product of Belgrade policies”, while vowing to keep the civil services centre open and to continue extending their institutions into northern Kosovo. The Serbian Council for National Security and other Belgrade representatives had described the centre’s inauguration as a provocation in violation of the principles of the Security Council and the European Union, “which have not endorsed the so-called strategy for northern Kosovo”.
He recalled the Secretary-General’s concern, expressed in his latest report, over the risk of tensions should implementation of the policies and strategies for northern Kosovo not take place in conditions of transparency and dialogue with local communities and all relevant stakeholders. He also reiterated the Secretary-General’s call on all sides to commit to dialogue in addressing challenges in northern Kosovo. “Events over the past few days point to the need to initiate this dialogue as a matter of urgency,” he said, pledging that the United Nations would remain engaged with all sides to encourage dialogue, help defuse tensions and maintain peace and stability on the ground, in close coordination with EULEX and KFOR.
YVES DE KERMABON, Head of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), condemned Friday’s incident and extended his condolences to the victims and their families. Noting that EULEX had clear operational responsibility for maintaining law and order in Kosovo, he recalled that early on the morning in question, Kosovo Serbs had gathered peacefully to demonstrate and present a petition against the opening of a branch office of the Ministry of Interior and Local Affairs, with both local and EULEX police present. An explosion had been heard at around 10 a.m. from an area about 600 metres from the branch office. A rapid police response had coordinated aid to the wounded, he said, adding that the explosion had been the result of a detonating grenade.
Confusion had ensued, forcing EULEX to restrict access in the area near the offices, he said, adding that calm had been restored quickly and EULEX had firmly condemned the act of violence. Unfortunately, another incident had occurred yesterday, in which a member of the Kosovar Parliament had been injured by a bullet. Local police attempting to investigate yesterday’s incident had been denied access to the hospital by Kosovo Serbs, he said, adding that radical elements in north Kosovo had threatened EULEX personnel, stressing the risks of cooperating with UNMIK. Such threats and obstructions to investigations were unacceptable, he emphasized.
He said the investigation into Friday’s events would be led by local police with the assistance of EULEX, which would also cooperate with the Serbian police, which had offered assistance. All efforts would be made to apprehend those responsible, he said, stressing that the investigation was ongoing. Details could not be discussed, but rumours should not be given credence, he added. There was no risk of a general deterioration in security at the present time, either in north Mitrovica or the rest of Kosovo, he said, adding that EULEX would continue to ensure security, in conjunction with all parties. He called on all parties to continue to back EULEX in the implementation of its mandate.
SKENDER HYSENI of Kosovo said the enclave had a sovereign government and was an independent State, “very determined” to exercise its authority throughout its territory, and to be as close as possible to all its citizens, regardless of ethnic or religious background. In that context, it had decided to establish a community service centre in Malhala with the aim of bringing basic services to ordinary Kosovars. The opening of that centre was “no threat” to anyone, but Mr. Tadić had said that it represented a threat. That was true, he said, noting that the centre was a threat to criminals in the north, to hardliners, and to the organizers of the violent protest in Mitrovica. All citizens were deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Dzekovic and the injuries inflicted on other protestors, he said, adding that the government was doing everything to find out who the perpetrators were and to bring them to justice.
Kosovo police would work closely with the international presence in that part of Kosovo to uncover the perpetrators and bring them swiftly to justice, he said. Mr. Tadić had claimed that the perpetrators were already known and that they were Albanians, he said, noting that the Council had heard “some history”, but Mr. Tadić had failed to discuss what had happened before 2004. He had failed to talk about the mass grave in Serbia holding 3,000 bodies of the Albanians killed during the war.
He said the Kosovo Government Office and the Civil Services Centre would stay open and Kosovo would continue to work very hard to address the concerns and grievances of its Serb population. He pointed to the high turnout of the Serb population during recent elections in that municipality — over 65 per cent. Rather than viewing that as positive, the Belgrade authorities saw it as a threat, he said, wondering how the actions of the Kosovo government in its own territory could be considered illegal. It was necessary to call on Belgrade to stop interfering with and obstructively manipulating the Kosovo Serbs, just because they wished to work with the Kosovo government, he stressed, pointing to the “very sad event” that had taken place yesterday, in which a Serb Member of Parliament had been wounded. He had chosen to work with the Kosovo authorities, with the aim of improving the conditions of his own ethnic community.
The investigation into the incidents was proceeding, he said, adding that “those hand grenades most probably were thrown from the very crowd, the very protestors. This does not make me happy”. But hearing allegations that Albanian “terrorists” were responsible for it without any investigations having taken place was “at best awkward”. Addressing the Belgrade authorities, he said: “Please, for the sake of Kosovo Serbs, leave them alone. Work with us for their benefit. And do talk to us [……] on the many practical issues that would, on the one side, help relations between our two countries, but, on other side, would have a critical impact on the well-being of the Serb community.” The scenario was not black and white, he said, stressing that there were no angels and demons.
The International Court of Justice ruling was expected soon, he said, stating Kosovo’s trust and conviction that it would be free, fair, unbiased and just. It was necessary to avoid leaving impressions that only justice for oneself was good. The Belgrade authorities were undermining severely joint efforts finally to restore the rule of law in Kosovo. “The Government of Kosovo, the institutions of Kosovo - is very determined and is not going to give up” in its efforts to restore the rule of law and be at the service of all Kosovo citizens. Kosovo was very determined to pursue the goal of good neighbourliness, including with the Government of Serbia.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) expressed regret over the violence and extended his condolences to the victims and their families, saying there was no place in Kosovo for such actions. He also noted the progress made there and the statement that there was no current danger of a general deterioration. Urging EULEX to help find those responsible as quickly as possible, he called for calm and urged all parties to cooperate with the Mission. He stressed the right of ethnic Serbs to demonstrate, but also the right of all Kosovars to the services that the branch office was meant to provide. He disagreed with the placing of blame on those establishing the office, saying that the incident reinforced the need for all parties to work together in cooperation and dialogue.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his delegation had backed Serbia’s request for an urgent meeting due to the deteriorating conditions in Kosovo, and extended his condolences to the victims and their families. Concurring with President Tadić’s view of the situation, he said the strategy for northern Kosovo was a serious violation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), recalling that his delegation had warned that it would raise tensions. Those to be brought to justice should include not only those who had committed the crime, but also those whose pursuit of the strategy for northern Kosovo had brought it about, he said, calling for EULEX to remain within its status-neutral role and for all stakeholders to preserve the Security Council’s lead role on a Kosovo settlement.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) expressed regret over Friday’s explosion, condemning the act and asking the authorities to do everything possible to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. He welcomed the professionalism and efficiency of the Kosovo and EULEX police and called on all parties to cooperate to enable them to carry out their inquiry. It was a terrible but isolated event, he said, noting that the situation in Kosovo was stable thanks to EULEX and the efforts of local authorities to engage constructively in dialogue.
The role of the international community and the parties must be to ensure that such incidents did not occur again, so that Kosovo inhabitants could live a normal life, to which they were entitled, he said. He called on the Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs to renew dialogue and efforts to find solutions to the genuine problems of the local population. Expressing hope that Kosovo and Serbia would one day be members of the European Union, he urged politicians to pursue that goal.
LI BAODONG ( China) condemned the violence and expressed his condolences to the victims’ families. He expressed hope that the police would stabilize the situation on the ground. There must be investigation conducted at once and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The situation in Kosovo was complex. It affected the stability of the region. China’s position on the Kosovo issue had remained constant. China supported the Government and people of Serbia to achieve long-lasting peace, stability and prosperity.
The best way to solve the Kosovo problem was to reach a negotiated settlement acceptable to both parties, he said, emphasizing that unilateral actions were not helpful. They complicated the local situation and negatively impacted the regional situation. China supported the continued implementation of UNMIK’s mandate, in line with Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said, expressing hope that the Mission would take the necessary measures to address the situation.
ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) condemned Friday’s violence and urged all parties to remain calm, maintaining that it appeared to be an isolated criminal act and urging that those responsible be brought to justice. However, such an isolated crime did not warrant an urgent Security Council meeting, he said, agreeing with President Tadić’s call for the rejection of extremism and calling on him, in turn, to reject extremist statements from within his own Government. The establishment of the branch office in Mitrovica was part of an effort to improve services to citizens who greatly needed them, he pointed out, emphasizing the importance of calming the tensions in northern Kosovo through dialogue, improvement of conditions and cooperation by all stakeholders.
CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) expressed concern over the continued violent incidents in Kosovo and expressed his delegation’s support for UNMIK’s role in fostering reconciliation among the local communities. He called on the parties to avoid raising tensions through violations of international law or other provocations that could spark violence. Resolution 1244 (1999) remained the platform for settling the Kosovo situation, he stressed, saying he awaited the decision of the International Court of Justice on the status question. In the meantime, he urged both communities to engage in dialogue to create a climate conducive to implementation of that decision, and to seek progress on all contested issues.
MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ ( Bosnia and Herzegovina), condemning the tragic events in Mitrovica and extending her deepest condolences to the victims’ families, called for an investigation into the incident and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. She also appealed to the parties in Kosovo to act responsibly and to refrain from provocation so that peace could prevail. She strongly encouraged reconciliation, dialogue and confidence-building, as per UNMIK’s mandate.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) condemned the violence and called for full measures to investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice. Despite the calm situation in Kosovo, tensions had escalated, she noted, stressing that Kosovo must maintain peaceful coexistence. Resolution 1244 (1999) must remain the key parameter for addressing the situation. As the Council remained seized of the matter, the opinion of the International Court of Justice would be a crucial element to bear in mind, she said, adding that in the meantime, the Council must do its part. Both parties to the conflict must cooperate with UNMIK, she emphasized, pointing to the collective duty to ensure that every minority community was protected from intimidation.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria) condemned the violence and called for those responsible to be brought to justice, with the cooperation of all parties. However, the incident was not a threat to international peace and security, though it did show the need to support the role of EULEX. He called on all sides to refrain from any escalation while cooperating in reducing tensions. The disagreements and varied positions on Kosovo’s status were well known, he said, stressing, however, that they did not preclude dialogue and pragmatic solutions to problems.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) said it was clear that the situation in Kosovo remained fragile and that the much-needed reconciliation was not taking place as desired. The violent incidents of the past few days were cause for great concern, he said, condemning the perpetrators and calling for calm and restraint from all acts that could raise tensions. It was important to promote conditions likely to reduce tension, he said, welcoming the continuation of UNMIK’s efforts towards reconciliation between the parties.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) condemned the tragic events, saying the violence had arisen from Kosovo’s status. Gabon supported Kosovo’s sovereignty and its efforts based on Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that his delegation was in favour of dialogue and cooperation — the only way to resolve the situation in Kosovo.
PATRICK MUGOYA ( Uganda) condemned the attack and deplored the loss of life and injuries, emphasizing the need to bring the perpetrators to justice and calling on all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint and mutual respect in the interest of peace. The authorities in Kosovo must desist from any unilateral action of a provocative nature that could further aggravate the situation, he said, stressing the importance of ensuring adequate protection for the lives and property of minorities. Welcoming UNMIK’s continuing efforts to promote security and stability in Kosovo and the entire region, he commended the Mission’s work in fostering reconciliation and dialogue, but stressed that the parties must commit themselves to dialogue and implementation of resolution 1244 (1999).
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) condemned Friday’s violence and called on all parties to refrain from making provocative statements in order to help reduce tensions. A new era would begin with the announcement of the International Court of Justice opinion, he said, calling on all parties to use that opinion as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and to make progress in all areas. Turkey attached great importance to the security and well-being of all communities in Kosovo, he stressed, noting that some areas of the enclave were a microcosm of the region, including not only Serbs and Albanians but also Turks and other minorities.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) condemned the attacks and called for every effort to be made in bringing those responsible to justice and preventing a repetition. Expressing hope that the local institutions would continue to work with UNMIK, EULEX and all parties to improve the rule of law, he called on the parties to engage in dialogue to improve all conditions. With the perspective of human security in mind, Japan would continue to work for the improvement of all indicators of well-being in Kosovo, he said.
Council President JOY OGWU (Nigeria), speaking in her national capacity, expressed regret over the incident and urged all parties to exercise restraint so as to avoid future violence. She called on the parties to engage on the issues of northern Kosovo and Kosovo in general, emphasizing that those issues should be addressed through peaceful means. She urged all countries in the region, as well as all relevant stakeholders, to commit to efforts for a peaceful settlement of the Kosovo issue.
President TADIĆ of Serbia, taking the floor a second time to respond to Mr. Hyseni’s statement, said there were a few ethnic groups that had been living side by side in Kosovo and the wider Balkans for centuries. Declaring his respect for all people and nationals living in the region and in Serbia, including its southern province, he dismissed the “so-called Kosovar identity”, describing it as a “new creation”. If Kosovars were living in other areas, they were not in areas where Serbs were the majority, especially the northern part of Kosovo, he said, adding that there were ethnic Serbs in Kosovo who did not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.
“Resolution 1244 is still our legal framework,” he stressed. “Kosovo is not a State, it has no sovereignty.” That was not only the position of Serbia, but that of the Council as well, he said, adding that Mr. Hyseni should accept that reality “once and for all”. Expressing regret that the United States had recognized the establishment of the office in Mitrovica, he said that “everyone” knew that Kosovo Serbs did not want that office and that it would not contribute to stability on the ground. But the United States had supported it, in the belief that Kosovo’s sovereignty was more important than preserving stability, he said.
Other speakers had mentioned history and the events of 1999, he recalled, apologizing for those events. One could go back further in time but doing so would “get us nowhere”, he said, stressing that the Serbian Government had already prosecuted its criminals. Mass graves had been uncovered and those found to have been responsible for killings would go to jail; some were already in prison. But the ethnic Albanian authorities had not held anyone responsible for the ethnic cleansing of 2004, he said, emphasizing that those acts must be condemned.
A community service centre, as defined, was being set up against the will of the international community, he said, adding that that was in itself “a clear act of aggression, an illegitimate act”. What would have happened had the Serbian authorities set up their own centre in Pristina? he asked. “Would EULEX and KFOR defend such an office and assist us?” The likely answer was no, he said, calling for consistent policies that would took both views into consideration, and for a compromise to restore peace and stability to the region. Serbia was committed to continuing its efforts to that end, he said.
Mr. HYSENI of Kosovo, stressing that all the ethnic groups that made up the enclave could be referred to as Kosovars, said the new branch office had been opened after profound consideration of the needs of the community, and was directed against no one. What had been seen on Friday was an isolated criminal act that had occurred amid an evidently violent protest rally that had included armed protesters. It was necessary to await the conclusions of the investigators, he said, but it was not disputed that the protest had been carried out with support from Kosovo Serb leaders.
He said that because of the coming European integration, he was confident that the day would come when Serbia would have an embassy in Kosovo and the existence of around 2.5 million Kosovars of all ethnic groups would be recognized, just like that of Serbian citizens. It was necessary to pay attention to history in order to prevent a repetition of past suffering, he cautioned, pointing out that the former Yugoslavia was “gone” because of Serbia’s efforts to keep control of its constituent States. Kosovo was one of them, he said, appealing to more countries to recognize Kosovo as an independent State.
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