Special Representative, Briefing Security Council, Stresses Need for Serbia, Kosovo to Launch Dialogue, Work towards Solving Critical Regional Issues

16 February 2011
SC/10177

Special Representative, Briefing Security Council, Stresses Need for Serbia, Kosovo to Launch Dialogue, Work towards Solving Critical Regional Issues

16 February 2011
Security Council
SC/10177
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6483rd Meeting (PM)

Special Representative, Briefing Security Council, Stresses Need for Serbia,

Kosovo to Launch Dialogue, Work towards Solving Critical Regional Issues

 

Members Call for Probe into Allegations of Trafficking in Human Organs

There was a pressing need to launch the internationally-mandated dialogue between authorities in Kosovo and Serbia, long delayed by political turmoil in Kosovo, and to work towards viable cooperation on peace and security as well as other critical issues facing the region, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

“There will be no long-term stability and development of Kosovo without a successful process of reconciliation among the communities,” said Lamberto Zannier, who is also the Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).  Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation, he said Belgrade had already stressed its readiness to begin the European Union-facilitated dialogue, called for by the United Nations General Assembly.  He welcomed statements by the authorities in Pristina that they would be ready to engage in the process and pledged UNMIK’s continuing commitment to work closely with the European Union in advancing it.

“Political instability and uncertainty have characterized the three-month reporting period,” he said, noting that the security situation in Kosovo remained stable, through threatened by unresolved issues.  In December, the Kosovo authorities had organized the first Assembly elections not held within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and in which UNMIK had played no role, he recalled.  However, participation by Kosovo Serbs had increased except in the north, he said, adding that the authorities had addressed widespread irregularities reported by observers.

He went on to state that a report by the Rapporteur of the Council of Europe concerning allegations of organized criminal activities by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, including trafficking in illegal organs, must be followed immediately by an investigation.  The European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) was ready to undertake a probe, he added.  Beyond those issues, fiscal difficulties were mounting, he said, urging all stakeholders to seek solutions.

A chilling effect on returns by displaced persons had been brought about by recent attacks on minority returnees, he continued, describing other acts of violence that had occurred in northern Mitrovica.  UNMIK continued to engage closely with communities there, but there was a decrease in cooperation with the Mission in other areas, as well as continued targeting of UNMIK staff by Pristina-based media.  Nevertheless, the Mission would continue its attempts to engage in proactive mediation between the communities and to link leaders in northern Kosovo with the Pristina authorities, in addition to promoting economic development and stability, in close cooperation with the United Nations Kosovo team and other partners on the ground.

Vuk Jeremić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, reaffirmed his country’s support for UNMIK as an indispensable pillar of peace and stability, as well as his Government’s position that the unilateral declaration of independence by the ethnic Albanian authorities of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija was “null and void” and would never be recognized.  However, he also affirmed Serbia’s dedication to resolving all differences at the negotiating table and the importance of the Assembly-mandated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

On the allegations of human-organ trafficking, he called for a thorough and independent investigation, while pointing to other crimes in Kosovo and saying that the roots of democracy had not yet taken hold there.  He criticized the conduct of the recent elections, and pointed to the low numbers of returns by displaced ethnic Serbs, expressing hope that a way could be found to empower Kosovo Serbs to exercise their right of return, immediately and unconditionally.  He also discussed issues of Serbian cultural and religious heritage, saying there was still a culture of impunity in regard to ethnic attacks.

Taking the floor next, Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo described the progress made in the three years since the declaration of independence.  The opinion of the International Court of Justice had been “a giant final step in a long and torturous process of defining Kosovo’s final status”, ending decades of injustice capped off by tragedy, she said, pointing also to planned reductions in the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) as evidence that Kosovo had turned out to be an international success story.

She admitted, however, that Kosovo had “experienced a challenging time during the last couple of months”, including the resignation of the former president.  The ensuing campaign and elections showed that the system functioned, as all complaints had been in accordance with due process and, in the end, all parties, including a large percentage of Serbs and other minorities, had accepted the results.  She rejected the allegations of trafficking in organs, but expressed support for an investigation owing to the seriousness of the accusations.  She also supported the start of dialogue with Belgrade, saying she hoped it would lead to Serbia treating Kosovo as an equal partner in tackling the challenges they both faced.

Following those presentations, representatives of all 15 Council members all welcomed UNMIK’s continuing role and supporting the start of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue as soon as possible.  However, members differed on whether the Council should mandate an investigation into the allegations of trafficking in human organs, an option supported by the representatives of the Russian Federation and Gabon, who also strongly expressed their regret that the recent elections had been held outside the framework of resolution 1244 (1999) and the administrating authority of UNMIK.

The meeting began at 3:20 p.m. and ended at 5:35 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the latest report of the Secretary-General covering the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and related developments occurring between 19 October 2010 and 15 January 2011.  Annexed to it was the latest report of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the activities of the regional body’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.

The Secretary-General’s report (document S/2011/43) spotlights the events leading up to and following the collapse of Kosovo’s governing coalition, as well as the calling of extraordinary Assembly elections on last 12 December.  Those political developments have slowed down the momentum generated by General Assembly resolution 64/298, adopted on 9 September 2010, which welcomed the European Union’s readiness to facilitate a dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.  As of 28 January 2011, the date of the current report, representatives of Belgrade and Pristina have not met, although the European Union facilitators have held several preparatory meetings with both sides, and with those contributing to the preparations, including United Nations representatives.

According to the report, the leadership in Belgrade has continued to stress its readiness to begin the dialogue immediately.  Pristina has also expressed its willingness to start rapidly, but the need for partial reruns of the elections has delayed the formation of a new Government in Kosovo and consequently the start of the dialogue.  “I remain encouraged by the continued commitment of the sides to engage in this dialogue, and I urge all stakeholders to maintain their positive and constructive approach towards it,” the Secretary-General writes, describing the dialogue as a valuable opportunity to address and resolve long-standing issues, which would contribute significantly to the consolidation of peace, stability and reconciliation in Kosovo and in the wider region.

As for the Assembly elections, organized by the Kosovo authorities without UNMIK involvement, the report notes that while the ballot was held in a peaceful atmosphere and did not escalate tensions among the population, organizations monitoring the polls have expressed concerns about the level of adherence to democratic standards during the electoral process.  The report also notes a “considerable increase” in participation by Kosovo Serbs south of the Ibër/Ibar River compared to earlier elections, as opposed to the community’s boycott of the electoral exercise in the north.

The report goes on to note that the situation in northern Kosovo has remained volatile, “with simmering inter-ethnic tensions and a wave of attacks” against members of the international community and Kosovo Serbs associated with the authorities.  The Secretary-General expects that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade will provide the appropriate forum for resolving issues that could lead to tensions and instability in northern Kosovo, and will, therefore, greatly enhance peace and security in the area.

Continuing misrepresentation of UNMIK activities in northern Kosovo by some Pristina-based media, which risks placing United Nations staff in danger, remains another cause for concern, the Secretary-General states.  “I urge all parties to acknowledge UNMIK’s efforts to provide good offices to all communities in northern Kosovo and to cooperate with such efforts.”  The development of stronger inter-community relations and inter-faith contacts can also significantly benefit the long-term safety and sustainability of the remaining Serbian Orthodox sites in Kosovo.

In that context, UNMIK’s continuing efforts to encourage greater inter-faith contact and dialogue are of particular importance, as they serve to foster reconciliation among the communities, the report says.  The Secretary-General appeals to local religious leaders of different faiths to demonstrate openness towards each other and participate in inter-faith events, and to the international community to support those leaders who can play a positive role in bridging the divide between the communities.

Briefings

LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), presented the Secretary-General’s report, noting that political instability and uncertainty had characterized the three month reporting period.  In December, the Kosovo authorities had organized the first Assembly elections not held within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999) and in which UNMIK had played no role.  Except in the north, participation by Kosovo Serbs had been the largest since the general elections organized by UNMIK in 2001, but local and international observers reported widespread irregularities and vote manipulation, he said, adding that voting had been repeated in several municipalities, but external observers had noted the persistence of some irregularities.

With the certification of the final results now behind them, Kosovo leaders were in the process of forming a new government, he said, expressing hope that it would be sufficiently strong to engage in meaningful dialogue with Belgrade.  Joining calls for a Kosovo government with “clean hands”, he said that the report by the Rapporteur of the Council of Europe concerning allegations of organized criminal activities by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, including trafficking in illegal organs, must be taken seriously.  There was a need to launch a priority investigation, to make all evidence available without delay, and to provide adequate protection to all witnesses, he emphasized.  From consultations, it was understood that the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) would be ready and able to conduct the investigation or assume any responsibility assigned to it in the matter, he said, reiterating UNMIK’s support for any investigating authority.

Beyond those issues, the security situation in Kosovo remained largely unchanged since the last reporting period, with unresolved issues still challenging long-term stability, he said.  In addition, mounting fiscal difficulties might soon overshadow political differences as the greatest threat.  The government had stated that it would finance substantial pay raises promised to civil servants by enforcing tax collection, but the low level of foreign direct investment was also of concern, with Kosovo facing €1.8 billion trade deficit and the non-renewal of its preferential trade agreement with the European Union.  High unemployment and over-reliance on remittances from the Kosovo diaspora were also problematic, he said.

The Kosovo authorities were determined to find ways to participate in regional forums without facilitation by UNMIK, he said, adding that the Mission continued to facilitate Kosovo’s participation in such forums as the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).  He urged all stakeholders to seek solutions to Kosovo’s pressing economic problems and to re-think its budget projects as quickly as possible, pointing out that the economic situation was a primary impediment to the return of displaced persons.  A chilling effect on returns had also been brought about by recent attacks on minority returnees.

Municipal authorities had condemned such incidents and Kosovo police were investigating, but every incident would dissuade people from returning, he warned, noting also that unresolved issues in northern Kosovo included the murder of a Kosovo-Bosniak whose home was to have been used as a polling station.  The killing had sparked speculation about an intention to intimidate those cooperating with the Kosovo institutions, he noted, adding that ethnic Serb opposition to such engagement continued.  It included protests against the inauguration of a newly renovated park in northern Mitrovica.

UNMIK continued to engage closely and on a daily basis with northern Kosovo’s communities, he continued.  Contrary to 2010, however, the municipality of Mitrovica South had chosen not to engage in consultations on managing the next phase of the construction of houses for Kosovo Albanian returnees to the north.  In addition, Pristina-based media had continued to single out UNMIK staff members in that area on the basis of their nationality, exposing them to risks.  Nevertheless, UNMIK would continue its attempts to engage in proactive mediation between the communities and link leaders in northern Kosovo with the Pristina authorities, in addition to promoting economic development and stability, in close cooperation with the United Nations Kosovo team and other partners on the ground.

He expressed hope that the planned census in Kosovo would proceed as scheduled, with the assistance of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) as a status-neutral entity.  However, recent weeks had seen calls for a Kosovo Serb boycott that could harm the long-term welfare of Kosovo’s residents.  He urged all parties to ensure that the census took place in conformity with the requirements of resolution 1244 (1999).  “There will be no long-term stability and development of Kosovo without a successful process of reconciliation among the communities,” he said.

Emphasizing the pressing need to launch the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, work towards viable cooperation, and address issues of missing persons and sustainable returns of displaced persons, he said Belgrade had stressed its readiness to begin the dialogue called for by the General Assembly, the start of which had been delayed as a result of the political instability in Kosovo over the last few months.  He welcomed statements that the authorities in Pristina would be ready to engage in the process and pledged UNMIK’s continued commitment to working closely with the European Union to move it forward.

VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, reiterated at the outset that it was critical for all stakeholders on the ground, together with the Security Council, to reaffirm support for UNMILK as an indispensable pillar of peace and stability.  Emphasizing his Government’s position that the unilateral declaration of independence by the ethnic Albanian authorities of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija was “null and void” and would never be recognized, he reiterated his country’s deep gratitude to Member States that had continued to respect Serbia’s sovereignty.  Serbia urged them to maintain that principled position, “thus ensuring that unilateral attempts to impose outcomes to ethnic and territorial disputes are not legitimized”, stressing the need to prevent Kosovo’s actions from setting a dangerous precedent.

Holding firm to that position would also maintain a healthy international environment within which the long-awaited dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina could take place, he continued.  Serbia remained strongly committed to the talks, despite delays in getting them off the ground, and agreed with the Secretary-General’s assessment that the dialogue would provide a valuable opportunity to resolve long-standing issues.  “We are still waiting for Pristina and we hope they will be ready soon,” he said, noting that there would be many issues to discuss, some of which would be complicated.  As the parties moved forward, all should work to build trust, demonstrate good faith and work hard to ensure that results, if they came, would yield constructive arrangements benefiting all Serbia’s residents.  Ultimately, the dialogue should produce a transformative peace between Serbs and Albanians throughout the region, he said.

“My country is dedicated to resolving all differences at the negotiating table,” he continued, adding that Serbia would make the most of the opportunity presented by the dialogue and expected the other parties to do the same.  It was, therefore, critically important that no one try to alter the realities on the ground once the discussions got underway.  Numerous reports of the Secretary-General had warned of the danger of such actions, “including the one before us today”, as the province’s ethnic Albanian authorities continued or encouraged the illegal construction of new housing settlements or the expansion of existing ones.  That was a “direct challenge to the UNMIK Administration in Mitrovica, he said, adding that the authorities also seemed intent on extending the reach of Pristina-based institutions to North Kosovo, against the will of the local population.

“Serbia remains deeply concerned by these and other provocative actions, which cannot contribute to peace and stability in North Kosovo — and which could dramatically, perhaps fatally, undermine the dialogue,” he declared.  Stressing the importance of the United Nations reporting function, he said the world body’s neutrality — and that of all organizations operating under its authority — remained the only acceptable framework within which all parties could work together to improve the lives of ordinary people in Kosovo, irrespective of their ethnicity.  While Serbia appreciated UNMIK’s principled commitment to its external representation function for Kosovo, it was deeply concerned by the ethnic Albanian authorities’ lack of enthusiasm in that regard, as revealed in the Secretary-General’s report.

“We hope that Pristina will come to embrace the constructive approach offered by UNMIK,” he said, recalling the report’s emphasis on the fact that the authorities’ current stance would directly affect Kosovo’s economic and social development.  It would also affect how seriously rules were taken by the region’s democracies.  The question of UNMIK’s facilitation could not be separated from the necessity for all to adhere to the terms of treaties and legally-binding agreements, he stressed.  “No one in the Western Balkans — or, for that matter, in the wider world — should be permitted simply to ignore established procedures or attempt to unilaterally impose new ones.”  Agreement was required for change to be legitimate, he said, adding that until one was established, consistent adherence to existing working arrangements was the only way to ensure that regional cooperation continued to improve and stability to be strengthened.

Recalling that the Secretary-General’s report also drew attention to the small number of internally displaced persons and returns by non-ethnic Albanians, he said the number of Kosovo Serbs exercising their right of return was estimated at some 120 out of the total 205,835 expelled since 1999.  Amnesty International had reported that international organizations did not consider conditions suitable for the return of ethnic Serbs, which represented a failure of “monumental proportions”, he said, reminding the Council that Serbia had repeatedly urged stakeholders to focus on the central humanitarian issue of internally displaced persons.  Hopefully, a way could be found to empower Kosovo Serbs to exercise their right of return, immediately and unconditionally.

Turning to issues of Serbian cultural and religious heritage, he said he appreciated UNMIK’s critical role in facilitating the activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Council of Europe-led Reconstruction and Implementation Commission.  Urging all potential donors to contribute to that Commission’s work, he pointed out that the report noted the desecration of a number of Serbian holy sites as what could happen as the Kosovo Force (KFOR) downsized.  Unfortunately, it provided neither details of hate crimes nor indications of the arrest of the perpetrators.  The culture of impunity for attacks on places representing the core of Serbian national identity continued unabated, he said, calling on all relevant authorities to prioritize investigations into such distressing incidents.

“The roots of democracy have not taken hold in Kosovo,” he continued, pointing out that several international assessments had concluded that Kosovo did not classify as an electoral democracy.  The recent elections were controversial and should be examined, he said, adding that by all accounts, the ballot had been deeply flawed despite the presence of 14 observers at each polling station.  Several re-votes and recounts had been required and, according to the Secretary-General’s report, the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations had concluded that “a high number of irregularities have severely affected the trust in the democratic process in Kosovo”.

As for the report’s assessment that the security situation in Kosovo was “potentially volatile”, he said the number of murders, cases of unauthorized weapons possession, and shooting incidents remained significant.  In addition, organized crime — mainly smuggling and narcotics trafficking — remained a concern.  The report did not provide details about the smuggling of human organs, he noted, citing Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo, a “deeply disturbing” report approved last month by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.  Based on a number of testimonials, the document noted that as far back as 1999, international actors had turned a blind eye to war crimes perpetrated by the Kosovo Liberation Army, including money laundering, kidnapping and human trafficking.

He said the report went on to state that abductees were sent from Kosovo by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army Drenica Group to secrete detention camps in Albania, where many were singled out for forced surgery before they were murdered.  Their internal organs were extracted and sold on the international black market.  The report identified Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s sitting prime minister, as the group’s leader and listed a number of other prominent personalities as having played a vital role as co-conspirators in various criminal activities, including trafficking in human organs.  “For justice to be done, a full and independent criminal investigation of the reported allegations is essential,” he emphasized.

Such an investigation must be internationally mandated as well as internationally accountable, he continued.  It must also provide an effective witness-protection and relocation programme to guarantee credible testimony.  No existing institution had such a mandate, not even EULEX, which could not operate outside Kosovo, he pointed out.  A single authority must ultimately coordinate the investigation process, manage jurisdictional issues and ensure the proper administration of justice.  An ad hoc investigative mechanism must be created by — and held accountable to — the Security Council, he stressed.

Finally, he said that while his delegation did not expect the situation, including the allegations in the report, to be resolved today, it was nevertheless the start of a shared effort to reach a consensus on how to address the “heinous contentions” in a decisive manner.  Serbia intended to participate actively in that process, he said, adding that the question of trafficking in human organs was an ethical and human rights issue of the first order.  “We have to make sure it is not portrayed as an attempt to assign communal blame,” he said.

“There is no such thing as guilt or innocence of an entire nation,” he declared.  “Guilt, like innocence, is not collective but personal.”  A proper investigation must not be politicized or linked to diplomatic disagreements over Kosovo, he said, adding that it must ultimately be placed at the service of truth and reconciliation.  Its successful completion was a prerequisite for lasting peace and would represent the final repudiation of the policies that had prompted extra-judicial killings, ethnic cleansing and the criminalization of society.

VLORA ÇITAKU of Kosovo said she was addressing the Council on the eve of the third anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which marked the birth of a new country on the continent of Europe.  During that time, the Kosovo government had implemented the critical provisions of the Ahtisaari Plan, in full accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions, as determined by the International Court of Justice in an opinion that had been “a giant final step in a long and torturous process of defining Kosovo’s final status”, ending decades of injustice capped off by tragedy.

She admitted, however, that Kosovo had “experienced a challenging time during the last couple of months”, recalling that former president Fatmir Sejdiu had been found in breach of the constitution and had promptly resigned, leading to early elections.  Candidates for parliament had then engaged in a “lively electoral campaign, sometimes at the edge of fair play”, but, notwithstanding attacks against election officials in the north, international monitors had reported a calm and remarkably peaceful voting day.

Describing complaints submitted to election bodies, she said all procedural and legal steps had been lawfully followed and respected.  “The system functioned, the state delivered its services and the appropriate procedures of a caretaker government were strictly observed,” she stressed.  However, Kosovo’s leaders had taken note of all criticism and experienced “thoughtful reflection” in an endeavour to strengthen the institutions and democracy that were being firmly established.  At the end of the process, all political parties had accepted the final results and an agreement to form a new government had been reached yesterday among several political parties, including representatives of minorities.  That provided the institutions of Kosovo with full political and legal clout, she said.

Regarding the report by the Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, she said the government of Kosovo clearly and firmly rejected its allegations, which were not new and had already been subjected to international investigation by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, UNMIK and, most recently, EULEX.  In light of the severity of the allegations, however, the government would insist on the prompt launch of a thorough investigation by EULEX prosecutors on the ground, and give it full cooperation.  Nevertheless, it must be remembered that the war in Kosovo had occurred only 11 years ago and no report could change a well-known and clearly documented situation between oppressor and oppressed, she said.  The people of Kosovo had demanded an investigation because they had nothing to hide, and the Government of Albania had expressed the same clear stance.

She said she was happy to report significant progress in the integration of minorities, with a substantial number of ethnic Serb voters having participated in national elections.  For the first time, their number had exceeded that of those who had participated in elections organized by illegal Kosovo Serb structures.  Ethnic Serbs had won more than 10 per cent of all parliamentary seats, with other minority communities winning over 20 per cent, she said, adding that, for the first time, an ethnic Serb politician would soon become a deputy prime minister.  She also reported success in decentralization efforts.

Reporting on preparations for the census, she urged the international community to call for full participation by the Serb community, particularly in North Mitrovica.  It was only in that area that ethnic Serbs were not exercising their rights because the political landscape had become a “hostage of parallel structures” involved in crime and smuggling.  Kosovo expected Serbia to honour its pledge to fight crime and corruption by helping EULEX and the government of Kosovo re-establish the same principle of integrated tax collections as that existing in Kosovo’s other border points with Serbia and its other neighbours.

Emphasizing that the status-neutral position of the United Nations meant exactly what it said and did not exclude Kosovo’s right to be recognized as a State, she said, “sometimes this point is not clear on the ground”.  She made a “modest” call upon Serbia to respect the framework under which Kosovo operated as a State, including Council resolutions.  Serbia’s insistence on keeping mobile operations in Kosovo was in blatant disregard of resolution 1244 (1999), she said, adding that, in a similar vein, Serbian authorities had no right to issue car licence plates or to ban flights from Kosovo from entering their airspace.  A new, realistic approach was needed in which the Serbian Government recognized the basic truth that Kosovo was a separate nation and must be treated as an equal partner in establishing the truth about many issues.  In that light, Kosovo’s government looked forward to engaging in meaningful talks with the Serbian Government in the immediate future, on all important issues and with European Union facilitation.

She said the security situation was stable, and the planned reduction of KFOR troops showed how far Kosovo had come to becoming a success story for the United Nations and the international community.  The tasks Kosovo had been confronted with in overcoming a political crisis had not affected the continuous process of international recognition, she said, noting that five United Nations Member States had recognized Kosovo’s independence since her last report.  That recognition proved that the process was irreversible and remained the only legal and sustainable path upon which to proceed further with the agenda of development and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Such common concerns provided an opportunity, as did the wish of both Serbia and Kosovo to become members of the European Union, she said.  The need for progress on internal reforms and neighbourly relations would drive the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, and adjustments could already be seen with Serbia’s submission of a new text for the draft resolution accepting the opinion of the International Court of Justice.  She pledged to continue Kosovo’s efforts to advance its European Union agenda and deliver on promises made in the electoral campaign, saying she expected Serbia also to make the “final step needed”, and consider Kosovo as a partner on an equal footing.  Dialogue was not as an end in itself, but rather an instrument to establish new fundamentals in the region.  Neither history nor geography could be changed, she said, adding that what could be changed was the future.  Both countries must provide the leadership and commitment to ensure that their children inherited a peaceful and prosperous region, she said, assuring the Council that Kosovo was ready.

Statements

CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon), welcoming UNMIK’s efforts in facilitating dialogue and interaction among the parties, urged the Mission to continue initiatives to ease tensions and ensure stability.  At the same time, the parties must extend all support to the Mission.  He also welcomed the continuing coordination between UNMIK and EULEX and said that, while her delegation was satisfied with the relative calm in Kosovo, the authorities must work harder to tackle organized crime.  Moreover, the authorities, especially in the north, must do more to ensure the safety and security of all peoples, regardless of ethnicity.  Indeed, stability would engender the trust that would allow more internally displaced persons to feel they could return home safely.  Concerned about reported irregularities in the recent Assembly elections, she expressed hope for the full implementation of the resolution that had paved the way for talks between Pristina and Belgrade for the benefit of all the people of Kosovo.  She also urged religious authorities to do more to generate mutual trust.  On the illegal trade in human organs, she said she hoped appropriate legal means would be found to get to the bottom of that issue and address the needs of the victims’ families.

BASO SANGQU (South Africa) urged both sides to start a direct dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, as mandated by General Assembly resolution 64/298 (2010).  It was critical to continue implementing UNMIK’s activities to promote reconciliation, including on the issue of missing persons and returns of the displaced.  South Africa was concerned that the current political impasse undermined regional peace and stability, and thus the potential for sustainable development and full regional integration, he said, calling on Pristina to exert all efforts to reach a political solution that would allow dialogue to start in good faith.  Charges of organ smuggling brought against leading political figures in Kosovo must be investigated fully and an appropriate international response found with the aim of ending impunity, he emphasized.

NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said he hoped the firm commitment expressed by both sides would be reflected in concrete steps that took advantage of the European Union’s efforts to facilitate the dialogue.  Such regional assistance could be instrumental in bringing the two sides together and providing broader perspectives on addressing discrepancies between them.  In light of UNMIK’s cooperation and coordination with EULEX and KFOR, it was appropriate that the Council strongly support the dialogue process while continuing to promote actions to encourage an environment of political, social and multicultural stability in Kosovo, he said.  It was also imperative that the Kosovo authorities ensure adequate respect for and proper coordination with UNMIK’s mandate throughout the territory, including its northern regions.

LI BAODONG ( China) said that the situation in Kosovo, while calm, remained complex and fragile, adding that his delegation was concerned about ethnic tensions.  China respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and encouraged all parties to embark on dialogue to find solutions to outstanding issues.  Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained an important legal instrument in that regard, he said, emphasizing that the parties must guarantee the security and safety of UNMIK staff and ensure that the Mission was able to carry out its work effectively.  China was “very concerned” about reports of trafficking in human beings and human organs, he said, stressing that his delegation took very seriously all allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said it was regrettable that UNMIK had been excluded from the extraordinary elections of 12 December and had not been able to certify the results.  Stakeholders must maintain their positive, constructive approach to dialogue in order to address and resolve long-standing issues.  Expressing strong concern over allegations of inhumane treatment of people and illicit trafficking of human organs, he welcomed the willingness of EULEX to consider any evidence uncovered and expressed full support for any future investigations into the allegations.

He said he was encouraged by the increase in the number of minority people returning home voluntarily, even though the overall number remained low.  It was important to create suitable conditions for sustainable returns, he said, welcoming UNMIK’s efforts to defuse tensions.  He noted that UNMIK and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had facilitated several “go-and-see” and “go-and-inform” visits that had given displaced people a chance to visit their properties and make first-hand assessments of local conditions.

ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) congratulated the people of Kosovo on tomorrow’s anniversary of their declaration of independence, noting that in the three years since that event, Kosovo had demonstrated a commitment to creating democratic institutions, while playing a positive role in the region and the wider international community.  She also congratulated Serbia on its upcoming National Day, saying that country continued to play an important role in the region and on the wider international stage.  With all that in mind, the United States looked forward to European Union-facilitated dialogue that would support both countries on their respective paths to European Union integration.

She went on to say that Kosovo had made substantial progress towards building democracy, including the holding of elections and the establishment of Serb-majority municipalities.  Yet, there had been reports of serious irregularities in some areas during the recent Assembly elections.  That said, Kosovo’s institutions had responded quickly to hold organized re-votes.  Nevertheless, significant work remained to strengthen electoral systems, she said, joining other Member States in calling for electoral reforms.

The situation was not as encouraging in North Kosovo, she said, adding that her country was “very concerned” about reports of ethnic tension, violence and intimidation, which were preventing democratic advances from taking hold in the rest of country.  The United States also took very seriously any allegations of wrongdoing, especially regarding war crimes.  It therefore took seriously the allegations outlined in the Council of Europe report and supported the opening by EULEX of an investigation into such matters.  EULEX had the proper mandate and jurisdiction to address all matters related to war crimes, she noted, adding that a Council-mandated mechanism was therefore not necessary.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said that it was clear, three years later, that the fears of chaos that had followed Kosovo’s declaration of independence had been unfounded.  The December elections had been peaceful, enjoying high participation by ethnic Serbs, and many States had recognized Kosovo.  However, Kosovo must make greater progress on good governance, the rule of law, and the consolidation of judicial institutions in order to advance in combating corruption, organized crime and other problems, he said.  Deploring attacks against ethnic Serbs and other minorities as intolerable, he said he wished to see the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue begin as soon as the Kosovo government was formed, and take place without interference from other countries.  He called for the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to be completed and for an investigation into the allegations of illicit organ trafficking.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdoms) congratulated Kosovo on the peaceful December elections, noting that complaints had been addressed through due process.  He also welcomed the participation of Kosovo Serbs, saying he looked forward to supporting the incoming government.  The challenges in Kosovo were becoming those of the wider region, which meant that more attention must be paid to the economy, he commented.  Pleased that preparatory meetings for the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue had been held, he urged both sides to engage quickly in the spirit of cooperation and compromise.  He welcomed, in that light, progress on missing persons, as well as the increase in the number of minority returns.  On the Council of Europe report, he said the United Kingdom expected the allegations to be treated seriously, welcoming a EULEX investigation while stating that a Council-mandated investigation was unnecessary.

PETER WITTIG (Germany), congratulating the people and leadership of Kosovo three years after its declaration of independence, said his country would continue to support its steps towards democracy and urged all States to recognize its independence.  The prospect of integration into the European Union had fostered the movement towards peace and reconciliation, and one day all countries in the region would find themselves “under one roof”.  While some irregularities had regrettably marred the recent Assembly elections, he welcomed the fact that Kosovo institutions had acted quickly to address them, but called nevertheless for an investigation into all such irregularities.

He went on to say that the new Government must address many serious issues, including the need for socio-economic revival, the full integration of ethnic minorities into all Kosovo institutions, the protection of religious and cultural sites, and an end to corruption.  Many challenges remained in North Kosovo as well.  Germany was concerned about grave allegations described in the report of the European Parliament, he said, emphasizing that such “shocking” charges must be investigated fully and impartially.  All organizations and individuals should come forward quickly to provide any information they might have, he said, agreeing with others that EULEX had the mandate and jurisdiction to address the matter.  Setting up an ad hoc body would not meet the shared objective of rapidly launching an investigation and reaching a speedy conclusion, he said.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), while welcoming today’s briefing, said his delegation would have hoped for “a more objective statement” from the Kosovo representative.  Expressing his support for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said resolution 1244 (1999) remained in full force and was the sole basis for addressing all outstanding issues.  The Russian Federation’s non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence had not changed, he stressed, adding that his country did not believe that the recent elections were legitimate.  Indeed, international monitoring structures had declined “from the very beginning” to certify the exercise and the ballot had not been called by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, he noted.  Moreover, serious irregularities had marred the process, including bribery of voters.  The security situation in the province remained tense as Kosovo Albanians carried out “provocative actions”, he said.

It was also “troubling” that infrastructure projects were being carried out without authorization from UNMIK, he said, warning that such actions could lead to increased tensions, particularly among ethnic populations in the north.  The Russian Federation was also troubled by ongoing attempts to discredit UNMIK in the Kosovo media, he said, declaring such actions unacceptable.  The Russian Federation was also deeply alarmed by the Council of Europe report detailing inhumane treatment and trafficking in human organs.  The international community had a duty to take a serious look at such allegations, he said, agreeing with Serbia’s assessment of the matter, and with that country’s call for the establishment by the Security Council of an independent mechanism to investigate the allegations.  Such a mechanism was particularly necessary because any probe might go “far beyond the region”.  Noting that there had been threats of retaliation, he emphasized that the only way to guarantee the safety of witnesses was to move them outside the region.

EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET (Gabon) said it was regrettable that the recent elections in Kosovo had not been supervised or organized by UNMIK, as provided for by resolution 1244 (1999).  It was also regrettable that the dialogue required by the General Assembly had not yet started.  In addition, Gabon supported a Security Council investigation into the allegations of illicit organ trafficking, he said, deploring also the continuing tensions in northern Kosovo and expressing concern over other criminal activity, which had helped cause an instable environment.  On the other hand, progress had been made on the issues of missing persons, he noted, encouraging the international community to help the parties ensure that the conditions for the returns of displaced persons were improved.  Finally, he made it clear that Gabon rejected any unilateral declaration of independence and remained committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.

RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said that from the report, it was evident that serious challenges remained in Kosovo.  UNMIK continued to operate in difficult circumstances, he noted, affirming that the Mission still had an important role to play.  He said he shared the concerns of other delegations over the security situation in northern Kosovo, calling for the perpetrators of crimes to be brought to justice and for care to be taken of the victims.  Nigeria remained convinced that sustained dialogue was indispensable to resolving all outstanding issues and urged the parties to redouble their efforts to move the process forward as quickly as possible.  On the issue of illicit trafficking in organs, he said the allegations were serious and required an international investigation.

JOSE FELIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said UNMIK’s report presented the picture of a country facing serious challenges and on its way, “as we all hope”, towards full democracy.  It was clear that the Mission and the wider international community must continue to work together to ensure that the region remained stable and stayed on the path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.  Noting the Secretary-General’s special emphasis on the need to bolster socio-economic conditions lest further instability occur, he called on Belgrade and Pristina to begin dialogue as soon as possible.

He said he had taken note of the serious allegations contained in the Council of Europe report, including the possibility that the crimes might extend beyond the region, and the possible need to provide witness protection.  The allegations were “extremely disturbing”, and if true, they represented “truly despicable crimes”.  Portugal supported the ability of EULEX to carry out any investigation but urged the Council to keep a close eye on the situation.  As in other instances of such crimes, the guiding principle must be that impunity was not only intolerable in itself, but a serious obstacle to peace and to ensuring a healthy socio-economic environment that would enhance trust and the prospects for peace and stability.

VINAY KUMAR ( India) said that while Pristina and Belgrade continued to cooperate on some issues, they must begin serious dialogue on outstanding matters as soon as possible.  On the Council of Europe report, India supported calls for a thorough and impartial investigation, led by a legal entity empowered to look into all aspects of the matter.  He called on all parties to cooperate with UNMIK and to facilitate its work in all spheres of its mandate.  India also supported the extension of the Mission’s mandate so that it could continue its vital work, he said.

Council President MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil), speaking in her national capacity, said that stability in the Balkans was a matter of serious concern for her delegation.  Brazil had seen steps by both parties to promote democratic ideals and advance towards integration into the European Union.  A comprehensive and fair solution could be reached, in line with Council resolution 1244 (1999) and with the assistance and guidance of the Council, she said, adding that UNMIK could help bring the parties together to begin the long-hoped for dialogue on all outstanding issues.

Turning to recent political issues, she noted that while the December elections had been held peacefully, she was concerned about reports of rampant irregularities.  While it was commendable that the authorities had acted quickly to hold recounts, the matter must nevertheless be investigated.  She said she was also concerned that members of the international community were being violently targeted, and that UNMIK’s authority was routinely disregarded in some areas.

She went on to say that the severity of the allegations contained in the Council of Europe report could not be overlooked and a proper and thorough investigation must be carried out.  The Council should continue to keep political developments under close review, she said, expressing hope that the European Union-led dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade could begin without delay as a way to restore peace end security in the Balkans.

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