|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6534th Meeting (PM)
Kosovo Seems Headed for Period of Greater Political Stability, Secretary-General’s
Special Representative Says in Briefing to Security Council
Members Urge Investigation into Allegations of Trafficking in Human Organs
Welcoming the recent start of a much-awaited dialogue between officials in Pristina and Belgrade, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General told the Security Council today that Kosovo had emerged from a constitutional crisis and appeared to be headed towards a period of increased political stability.
Lamberto Zannier, who is also the Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the European Union-mediated dialogue — focused on technical and practical day-to-day matters such as civil registration, telecommunications, civil aviation, electricity and matters defined as “freedom of movement” issues — was crucial to resolving problems hampering development.
“I am hopeful that both Pristina and Belgrade will demonstrate the resolve needed to find solutions to all relevant issues in a constructive spirit,” he said. Kosovo and Serbia must reconcile with each other, achieve regional integration and fully restore the administration of justice in northern Kosovo, where relations between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities had been very tense and plans for the United Nations to conduct a census were being thwarted.
Citing the lack of economic progress in Kosovo as a major obstacle to the return of refugees, he said efforts must continue to clarify the fates and locations of missing persons, investigate their disappearances and bring those responsible to justice. He also supported the call by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations of inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking of human organs in Kosovo. “UNMIK remains fully available to cooperate with such an investigation, in the awareness that while these allegations are pending, it will be even harder for reconciliation to take root,” he said.
Vuk Jeremić, Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, agreed with that claim, saying that an investigation was a prerequisite for lasting peace between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans. Calling for the “full truth” about the allegations, he said Serbia had formally asked the Council to set up a mechanism to carry out a comprehensive investigation. The assertion by the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) that it had the capacity and jurisdiction to head an investigation was factually incorrect because its jurisdiction did not extend beyond Kosovo, he said, adding, however, that EULEX should play a crucial role in uncovering what had happened within Kosovo.
He reaffirmed his Government’s rejection of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and criticized Pristina’s unilateral attempts to alter realities on the ground, such as its recent action to deploy heavily-armed special police units in north Kosovo. Since most Member States — including some Council members — continued to respect Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he urged them to maintain that principled position by ensuring that unilateral attempts to impose outcomes to ethnic and territorial disputes were not legitimized. However, Serbia remained strongly committed to dialogue, which was the only road to peace in Kosovo, he said.
Enver Hoxhaj of Kosovo pointed out, however, that the International Court of Justice had confirmed the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence. Now was the time for Serbia and Kosovo to put the past behind them and focus on entering the European Union as equal, independent States, he said. “We want to solve practical issues: the mutual recognition of documents, car plates, airspace, school and university diplomas, telephone communication and others.”
Free movement was in Kosovo’s strategic interest and within the framework of European Union integration, he continued, expressing regret that Serbia still refused to acknowledge passports issued in Kosovo. Serbia must stop obstructing Kosovo’s participation in the Central European Free Trade Agreement, he emphasized, saying he was “extremely disappointed” that the Serbian Government had called for a boycott of the census in Kosovo. However, Kosovo’s new governing coalition led a multi-ethnic democracy, in which the Kosovo Serb community was represented at all levels of government and in the civil service, he said.
In the ensuing debate, Council members urged officials in Pristina and Belgrade to continue their dialogue in good faith and engage constructively to sort out short- and long-term disputes. They also expressed concern over tensions in northern Kosovo and called for a full, independent and impartial investigation into the organ-trafficking allegations cited in the Council of Europe’s report.
Several speakers underscored the need for progress to accelerate the return of refugees, while others emphasized that Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for resolving the dispute.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Brazil, Russian Federation, Germany, United States, Nigeria, Gabon, China, Lebanon, India, Portugal, South Africa, Colombia and France.
Mr. Jeremić and Mr. Hoxhaj took the floor a second time in response to comments.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:15 p.m.
The Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2011/281), which covers its activities and related developments in the period from 16 January to 15 April 2011.
In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes the launching of the much-awaited dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia following the formation of a new government in Pristina in February. Describing regular meetings facilitated by the European Union as “an encouraging development”, he urges both sides to intensify their good faith and constructive engagement while redoubling efforts to reach agreement on the topics under discussion.
Also encouraging is the fact that the situation in northern Kosovo was relatively calm during the reporting period, despite underlying tensions, the Secretary-General writes, adding that he expects dialogue to guide the resolution of long-standing issues in that regard. Urging all sides to avoid unilateral action that could undermine the situation on the ground, he says that all initiatives to address the situation within the framework of Council resolution 1244 (1999) must be closely coordinated in the overall interest of maintaining peace and stability.
According to the report, the Secretary-General has taken note of the resolution adopted by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly on the report relating to the investigation of allegations of inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking of human organs in Kosovo. He calls for a “thorough, impartial and independent investigation into those serious allegations, with a strong witness-protection programme and with the full cooperation of all relevant stakeholders”.
The report goes on to call on the international community to provide concrete support for the Reconstruction Implementation Commission, the only mechanism for technical interaction between the Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade and Pristina on cultural heritage reconstruction and preservation. Without more funds, the Commission will be phased out by year’s end, the Secretary-General notes.
Annexed to the report is the report of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the activities of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX),which states that the Mission focused on enforcing rule of law in the north of Kosovo during the reporting period, and on policing and investigative tasks to tackle war crimes, organized crime and corruption. EULEX also began a working relationship with Kosovo’s new government.
LAMBERTO ZANNIER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that in the wake of the latest constitutional crisis, Kosovo appeared to be headed towards a period on increased political stability. That should be conducive to further progress in the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, which was key to finding solutions to unresolved issues hampering Kosovo’s development. The dialogue had started on a positive note, with three face-to-face meetings to date between Serbian and Kosovo representatives on important day-to-day issues such as civil registration, freedom of movement and telephony.
“I am hopeful that both Pristina and Belgrade will demonstrate the resolve needed to find solutions to all relevant issues in a constructive spirit,” said Mr. Zannier, stressing the need for reconciliation and regional integration. He hailed today’s meeting of senior officials in Pristina as “particularly positive”, but expressed regret that the escalation into violence of a street protest against the Serbian visitors had resulted in several injuries. Such violence undermined dialogue and must be firmly condemned, he added.
In northern Kosovo, relations between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities were particularly difficult, he noted. Renovation work on a northern Mitrovica courthouse — where an occupation and subsequent action to regain the court had occurred three years ago, killing an UNMIK officer and injuring scores of people — had largely concluded. Since then, a small group of international judges and prosecutors had been working intermittently in the courthouse, he said, noting, however, that the issues that had led to the occupation remained unresolved and contentious. Progress was needed to engage both sides and fully restore the administration of justice in northern Kosovo.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) had agreed to conduct a census in northern Kosovo, with UNMIK support, he said. Regrettably, however, the census, expected to be conducted in early May, had yet to begin. The process had been unduly politicized and lacked cooperation from local institutions on several operational aspects, particularly concerning the formation of local census commissions and the recruitment of field staff. Unless rectified, that situation would be detrimental to everyone, he warned, noting that it would be more difficult to plan much-needed interventions to promote socio-economic development.
Mr. Zannier said the economic situation was of concern due to high unemployment and heavy spending, which had led the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the European Commission to suspend external budget support. Foreign investment was still lacking and inflation was on the rise. IMF and some recognizing States had offered advice and support to help the Kosovo authorities develop a more realistic economic programme, and it was expected that they would carry out the necessary adjustments.
The lack of economic progress was also a major obstacle to the return of refugees, he continued. Although minority returns of 2,275 people had been greater in 2010 than at any other time in the past six years, there had been a 53 per cent decrease over the last year, with Kosovo Serbs comprising fewer than 1 in 4 returnees. The lack of reconciliation was a key impediment, he said. However, efforts continued to clarify the fates and locations of missing persons and identify their remains. UNMIK supported efforts by Pristina, Belgrade, EULEX and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to identify all missing persons, investigate their disappearances and bring those responsible to justice.
Regarding the call by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly for an investigation of allegations of inhuman treatment of people and illicit organ trafficking, he said such claims must be subjected to a “thorough, impartial and independent” investigation. “UNMIK remains fully available to cooperate with such an investigation, in the awareness that while these allegations are pending, it will be even harder for reconciliation to take root,” he said.
Following further progress in the so-called “unfixing” of Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) protection for several key Serbian Orthodox Church sites, the Kosovo police had taken over protection responsibilities, without incident thus far, he said. However, the theft of 13 square metres of lead sheet roofing from the Bogorodica Ljeviška church in Prizren, described in the Secretary-General’s report, and other such events could seriously undermine the Serbian Orthodox Church’s confidence in the protection offered by the Kosovo police.
Saying he had consequently asked KFOR to provide information on the matter, Mr. Zannier recalled that on 3 May, the KFOR commander had reported that a German military police investigation had determined, on the basis of photographic evidence and witness statements, that the lead sheeting had most likely been removed between April and July 2008, when the church was guarded by a private security company. Kosovo police had assumed responsibility for guarding the church in February 2009.
He said UNMIK continued to play a key role in facilitating Kosovo’s participation in regional and international forums on justice, regional integration and transport, where non-recognizing States were present, he said. The 2011 UNMIK/Kosovo chairmanship of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) had got under way, with the first meeting held in Brussels. Pristina and Belgrade had indicated their willingness to go along with a loosely defined formula for the conduct of the meetings during the current chairmanship year, which was focused on making progress in areas of mutual interest rather than attempting to derive political advantage. That constructive approach should continue, the Special Representative emphasized.
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, acknowledging the report’s unequivocal statement that “the Mission’s priorities remain unchanged”, said it was critical for all responsible stakeholders on the ground, as well as the Council, to reaffirm support for UNMIK as an indispensable pillar of peace and stability. Reiterating his country’s support for the Mission’s ongoing commitment to representing Kosovo externally, he expressed deep concern, however, that the Kosovo authorities “remain fundamentally sceptical” on that issue. While the report suggested that those authorities appeared to be taking a fundamentally practical attitude, it also highlighted their continuing unwillingness to attend a number of regional meetings, including sessions of the Regional Cooperation Council, for which UNMIK facilitation was required.
Reaffirming the Serbian Government’s position on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, he emphasized: “We do not and we shall not recognize it, explicitly or implicitly.” Since a substantial majority of United Nations Member States — including some on the Council — continued to respect Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he urged them to maintain that principled position, thus ensuring that unilateral attempts to impose outcomes to ethnic and territorial disputes were not legitimized. Serbia remained strongly committed to dialogue, which was the only road to peace in Kosovo, he said.
Referring to the talks that had recently got under way, he said they covered civil registry, cadastral records, telecommunications, electricity, civil aviation and a package of issues defined as “freedom of movement”. Agreement had already been reached on practical arraignments regarding UNMIK’s chairmanship of the Central European Free Trade Agreement for 2011, within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). It had was been agreed that neither the facilitator nor any other stakeholder would attempt to impose any outcome on the parties, he said.
While stressing that Serbia would remain a constructive participant in the dialogue, he said the United Nations needed to be present during the negotiation sessions, and appealed to those insisting that it remain outside the room to reconsider their position. “This chamber’s leading role in determining and providing legitimacy to a comprehensive settlement remains indispensable, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999) and the Council’s primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security,” he said.
Underlining the critical importance of avoiding unilateral attempts to alter realities on the ground, he noted a number of actions by the authorities in Pristina, including attempts to deploy heavily-armed special police units in north Kosovo. As President Boris Tadić had told the General Assembly last September, any attempt to change established realities through the use of force would bring an immediate end to the process of dialogue. At the same time, the desecration of Orthodox churches and graveyards continued, with arrests for such attacks remaining few and far between.
That indicated the preponderance of a culture of impunity that tolerated extremism and hate crimes, he said, noting also that the cathedral of Bogorodica Ljeviška remained a target of extremists despite having been listed in UNESCO’s “World Heritage in Danger”. Indeed, the shrine’s lead roof had recently been stolen, although the local authorities had not even bothered to report the theft. Against that backdrop, KFOR’s ongoing commitment to maintain a static presence at such holy sites was absolutely critical, he said, calling for the deployment of a guard unit at the cathedral.
Turning to the overall situation in south Kosovo, he cited the political turmoil noted in the Secretary-General’s report, adding that EUROPOL’s biannual Organized Crime Threat Assessment, released last week, identified Kosovo as a major European hub of organized crime. Ethnic Albanian groups remained the most prominent in the trafficking of heroin into and within the European Union, he said, citing the assessment as stating that some of the proceeds from those activities were reportedly destined for support organizations of the former Kosovo Liberation Army.
Meanwhile, key public figures in Kosovo stood at the centre of serious organ-trafficking allegations, he continued. A report titled Inhuman Treatment of People and Illicit Trafficking in Human Organs in Kosovo also claimed that the Kosovo Liberation Army leadership was responsible for kidnapping hundreds of Kosovo Serb civilians before, during and after the 1999 conflict. According to the report, the abductees had been sent to secret detention camps in Albania, where their organs were extracted during forced surgeries, which had resulted in at least one death, and sold on the black market.
Calling for the “full truth” about those allegations, he said Security Council action was required for justice to be done. To that end, Serbia had made a formal proposal, in the form of a concept paper designated as an official Council document (S/2011/256), for the Council to establish a mechanism to carry out a comprehensive investigation. The assertion by EULEX, in a 28 January press release, that it had the capacity and jurisdiction to head such an investigation, was factually incorrect, given that its jurisdiction did not extend beyond Kosovo, he pointed out. While EULEX could not conduct that investigation on its own, it should play a crucial role in uncovering what had happened in Kosovo itself, he suggested, adding that in order to do so, it would have to ensure its full statutory independence from ethnic-Albanian institutions.
He said EULEX would also have to act far more decisively in other cases, including that of Fatmir Limaj, a former “minister of transport and telecommunications” indicted in connection with war crimes allegations. In that context, he asked why the Security Council had not investigated war crimes committed against Kosovo Serbs, as it had done in the case of war crimes allegedly committed by them. “Like must be treated as like,” he emphasized, contending that no suspected war criminals in the Balkans should ever enjoy any sort of privileges, immunities or protections. He concluded by reiterating his call for a full investigation into the organ-trafficking allegations, describing the matter as “a black and white situation”. Security Council support for that call would constitute an integral part of the reconciliation process, and was, in fact, a prerequisite for lasting peace between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans, he said.
ENVER HOXHAJ of Kosovo said independence had brought peace, stability and security to the region in the last three years. Over the past months, Kosovo had consolidated its institutions in pursuit of good governance and political stability, weathered a constitutional crisis and formed a new government under the leadership of prime minister Hashim Thaçi. The Democratic Party of Kosovo, having won the most votes, had entered into coalition discussions with relevant political stakeholders, forming a dynamic, multi-ethnic government that was prepared to lead Kosovo towards integration.
He noted that opposition parties had filed a complaint in the Constitutional Court, objecting to the procedures that parliament had used to elect Behgjet Pacolli as president. Less than a month ago, the Court had ruled that the new president had been elected in violation of a constitutional quorum and candidate requirements. That had created political challenges, but at no time had any party opposed or objected to the Constitutional Court’s role or its decisions, he stressed, adding that Kosovo’s people and government respected their institutions and recognized the importance of the Court’s independence as arbiter of the constitution.
That was a prime example of Kosovo’s dedication to the rule of law, he said. “Kosovo came through these challenges when the governing coalition and the largest opposition party showed that they were ready to elevate national interests for stable governance above narrow political interests.” They had reached a compromise in support of the election of Atifete Jahjaga as the first female president, he noted. The governing coalition now led a stable political environment and enjoyed the participation of ethnic minorities that had 25 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Kosovo Serbs were represented at all levels of government and in the civil service, reflecting Kosovo’s status as a multi-ethnic democracy, he said, noting that more Serbs had participated in the elections than in the illegal polls previously organized by the Serbian Government in some parts of Kosovo.
Recalling that the International Court of Justice had confirmed the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, he said the government had engaged fully in the European Union-facilitated dialogue with Serbia. It was a good opportunity for Serbia and Kosovo to put the past behind them and focus on entering the European Union as equal, independent States, he noted. Kosovo was ready and committed to finding new ways to improve the lives for all its citizens, and wanted the dialogue to result in creative solutions. “We want to solve practical issues: the mutual recognition of documents, car plates, airspace, school and university diplomas, telephone communication and others,” he said.
He went on to say that Kosovo wished to extend freedom of movement for its people across the Balkans, and expressed regret that Serbia still refused to acknowledge documents issued in Kosovo. Serbia had no right to exercise any type of authority within Kosovo’s borders, he emphasized. Free movement was in Kosovo’s strategic interest and within the framework of European Union integration, and for that reason, the government had set up a special ministry of European Union integration.
Stressing that Kosovo would not allow extremist elements to distract it from its objectives, he called on Serbia also to oppose radical organizations that used nationalist language and violence against members of the Kosovo Serb community who had agreed to cooperate with local institutions. Serbs across Kosovo were participating in its democratic institutions, but the situation was not as positive in the north, where fear persisted, he said. Having implemented the Ahtisaari Proposal, Kosovo was working with the international community to extend the rule of law and a unified legal system. But radicals claiming to represent the Government of Serbia had prevented national elections from being organized in northern Kosovo, opposed efforts by EULEX and KFOR to establish the rule of law, prevented the reopening of the Mitrovica District Court and obstructed attempts by Kosovo’s political leaders to visit local communities. Kosovo looked to EULEX for help in defeating those elements.
On the economy, he said Kosovo had approved its new budget, but IMF was concerned about salary increases for public employees, mandated by the budget. The government was in contact with its partners to prove the need for those increases, he said, citing the IMF 2011 economic outlook, which said Kosovo had the fastest-growing economy in Europe. The combined value of investments in telecommunications, energy, agriculture, ski tourism and infrastructure for the next three years was expected to increase and further fuel economic growth, providing a major economic push and enabling the government to pass the “development baton” to the private sector. “The new country is dynamic, growing and open for business,” he said, adding that for Kosovo to enjoy the same benefits as other Balkan nations, Serbia must stop obstructing its participation in the Central European Free Trade Agreement.
The census had been successfully completed in almost all of Kosovo, he said, noting that in June, for the first time in three decades, the central government would have exact data on population, unemployment, education, age and gender. However, he said he was “extremely disappointed” that Serbian Government representatives had called for a boycott of the census. It was good news that Kosovo was clearly no longer the primary focus of international diplomacy. NATO had reduced its forces to less than 5,000 soldiers, he said, pointing out that Kosovo would need less military support and more investments, cultural and academic exchanges and political and economic reforms. In describing Kosovo, Mr. Jeremić was “out of touch with the facts on the ground”, he added.
PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) said the last three months had been an important time for Kosovo’s consolidation of its progress as an independent State. Its institutions had risen to the challenges posed by recent political developments, while the president and his government had made progress on European Union integration. The dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia was clearly vital to both and should aim to improve trade, people-to-people contacts and the life of both peoples. It would also serve both on the road to integration with the European Union.
While the situation in north Kosovo remained calm, the government must continue to address challenges, including those related to the rule of law, he said, noting that EULEX was playing an increasingly important role, including addressing allegations of illegal trafficking in human organs. EULEX met fully the requirements to carry out a full investigation into those serious allegations, he said, describing the Mission as both impartial and independent, as evidenced by its past work in Kosovo and its proven track record in cooperating with States inside and outside the region. The United Nations had a critical role to play in a range of issues, including supporting a census in north Kosovo, he said, expressing hope that the census would proceed this month.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said stability in the Balkans remained the goal of the international community and, in that regard, Council resolution 1244 (1999) remained the critical framework for that effort. Welcoming the start of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, she said she expected it to lead ultimately to a resolution of the political differences between them. Despite reports of relative calm in north Kosovo, the situation nevertheless remained delicate, she said, expressing concern about grave allegations of human trafficking. It would be “interesting” to explore possible options, as well as jurisdictional requirements for an investigation, she said.
VITALY CHURKIN(Russian Federation) said his delegation shared Serbia’s views that Mr. Hoxhaj’s comments were made in his personal capacity. The Russian Federation’s position on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence remained unchanged, he said, emphasizing that resolution 1244 (1999) remained fully in force as the binding international legal basis for a settlement in Kosovo, in which the Council must continue to play a role. A viable solution could only be reached through dialogue, he said, adding that an official United Nations presence must be maintained during negotiation sessions, not only to inform the Organization’s regular reports on the situation in Kosovo, but because of the agenda for the talks. UNMIK should also continue representing Kosovo in international forums, he said.
Pristina’s actions in the north, including attempts to “Albanicize” police units, were unacceptable and could lead inevitably to an escalation of tensions, he warned. Calling on EULEX and KFOR to maintain their neutrality, he said robbery and vandalism at holy sites could also heighten tensions. The Russian Federation supported Serbia’s proposal that the Council establish a mechanism to investigate allegations of trafficking in human organs, including witness-protection programmes. Carrying out such an investigation would help establish peace, he said.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said he was satisfied that the difficulties occurring during the reporting period had been overcome and the focus could now shift to other challenges facing Kosovo. As facilitator of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, the European Union had hosted three meetings in Brussels, he said, noting that dialogue showed the potential to reach agreement in many critical areas.
Encouraged by reports of calm, particularly in the north, he nevertheless echoed the Secretary-General’s call for communities in the north to refrain from taking any unilateral actions that could exacerbate tensions on the ground. A full investigation of trafficking allegations was necessary, he said, emphasizing that EULEX had the capacities, competence and jurisdiction to carry out the task. It had opened a preliminary investigation and the government of Kosovo was ready to cooperate fully, he said, noting that EULEX prosecutors had also met with their Albanian counterparts.
ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States) conveyed her congratulations to the first female head of state in the Balkan region, saying Kosovo had demonstrated the resilience of its young multi-ethnic institutions in the face of challenges. Hopefully the new government would refocus its energies on political and economic reforms to improve citizens’ lives and further integrate Kosovo into the international community. The United States looked forward to working with the new government as it completed electoral reforms, she said.
Kosovo’s institutions deserved strong Council support, she said, adding that EULEX had an important role to play in assisting them. Recognizing Kosovo’s policies and professional standards, KFOR had transferred responsibility of protecting church sites to the Kosovo police, she continued. However, she said she was deeply concerned by the actions of so-called parallel structure in northern Kosovo that answered to the Government of Serbia and obstructed progress.
She went on to emphasize that Kosovo must have a country-wide police and judicial system serving all communities. Persistent threats of violence, acts of intimidation and obstruction of the census should not be tolerated. EULEX had the jurisdiction and mandate to prosecute all types of criminal activity alleged in the Council of Europe report, she said, adding that the United States was evaluating how best it could support that investigation. Kosovo law, the United Nations and the European Union explicitly provided for EULEX to investigate serious crimes independently, she said.
KIO SOLOMON AMIEYEOFORI (Nigeria) welcomed the ongoing talks between Pristina and Belgrade, saying the parties must remain engaged in the process of European Union integration. Underlying tensions in northern Kosovo required broad-based consultation, and the Council could and should do more to build stability, he said, calling on UNMIK to continue its role to that end. It was important to promote voluntary refugee returns, as well as access to public services, housing, property rights and socio-economic activities, which would go a long way towards long-term stability. There was a need for a thorough investigation of the allegations contained in the Council of Europe report in order to bring those responsible to account. However, that investigation should take cognizance of various international jurisdictional issues, he said.
NOEL NELSON MESSONE (Gabon), pointing out that the Secretary-General’s report contrasted with the serious allegations of human rights violations, said that while his delegation supported sovereignty and territorial integrity, a resolution in Kosovo required dialogue among all stakeholders. Gabon considered that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for a solution. Welcoming the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, he urged the parties to maintain the political determination necessary to carry the negotiations through. He also noted that missing persons, refugee returns and the security of cultural and religious sites remained critical areas of tension. Additionally, allegations of trafficking in human organs might compromise the possibility of establishing a climate of confidence, he said, adding that he supported steps by the Council to carry out an impartial investigation into the allegations, with the support of UNMIK.
YANG TAO (China) said his delegation respected Serbia’s territorial integrity and that it was up to the parties to find solutions acceptable to both sides, within the framework of United Nations resolutions. Welcoming the talks between Pristina and Belgrade, he expressed appreciation for the role played by UNMIK and the European Union in facilitating the dialogue. UNMIK should continue its work, in accordance with its Security Council mandate, including its efforts to find a solution to the dispute. Any act that violated international law and international humanitarian law must be investigated, he stressed, expressing support for a United Nations investigation into the trafficking allegations.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon) called on all parties to provide the necessary support to help UNMIK carry out its mandate, and welcomed the continuing coordination between the Mission and EULEX. Applauding the relative calm in Kosovo, she nevertheless expressed concern at the spread of tensions in the north, stressing the importance of refraining from provocative acts. UNMIK must continue to play a positive role in facilitating communication and coordination between the parties. It was encouraging that the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was addressing many important issues, she said, expressing hope that it would foster reconciliation. She called for an independent investigation into illegal human trafficking in order to hold the perpetrators to account and ensure justice for the victims.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) welcomed the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, saying the Kosovo issue should be resolved peacefully, through consultation. India hoped both sides would continue working together until their immediate serious issues were resolved before taking up longer-term problems. No party should take unilateral action, he stressed. Expressing regret that underlying tensions continued in northern Kosovo, including murders, shootings and damage to religious sites, among other crimes, he appealed to the Kosovo police to be more vigilant. He described the return of refugees as heartening, saying he hoped the census would appropriately reflect displaced persons and not legalize ethnic cleansing. There was a need for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the allegations listed in the Council of Europe report, he said.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said greater efforts must be made to fight organized crime and end trafficking in humans, among other crimes. Regarding the allegations of trafficking in human organs, he said he was encouraged that the Kosovo authorities had expressed their intention to cooperate with investigations, particularly in light of the fact that organ trafficking was complex in nature and required complicity by a number of actors, including doctors. In that regard he noted the General Assembly’s adoption in 2010 of a global action plan on that crime. The Council had, time and again, denounced impunity, calling for those responsible for crimes to be brought to justice, he said, adding that, if proven, the organ-trafficking allegations of would undoubtedly weigh on the consciences of Council members. Portugal hoped the investigation started by EULEX would shed light on the allegations, he said, adding that the seriousness and relevance of the issue demanded that the Council follow the investigation closely.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) emphasizing that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the legal basis for resolving the dispute, said his delegation fully supported the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, which must aim at finding lasting solutions. Regular contact between the parties was an important confidence-building measure. South Africa was also pleased by the progress on missing persons, he said, adding that the work of the Reconstruction Implementation Commission was an important factor in the reconciliation process and should continue beyond 2011. Allegations of organ-smuggling must be investigated in a thorough, impartial and independent manner, and must include a strong witness-protection programme, he said.
NESTOR OSORIO (Colombia) applauded UNMIK’s commitment to facilitating closer relations between communities and interreligious contacts as a strategy for long-term security. He also welcomed the progress on technical matters, trade and freedom of movement during bilateral negotiations in Brussels, among other issues. The Council should proactively support the dialogue in the confidence that it could form the basis for a final settlement of differences between the two parties. Colombia supported calls for a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into allegations of inhuman treatment and organ smuggling, he said, adding that the cooperation of all parties was needed at all stages of inquiry regarding the arrest of public officials in connection with war crimes. Colombia supported a regional approach to resolving the dispute between Pristina and Belgrade.
Council President GÉRARD ARAUD ( France), speaking in his national capacity, said special efforts should be made to strengthen institutions, particularly in order to fight organized crime. Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was of crucial importance, and France hoped that the talks would strengthen confidence between the two parties. He pointed out that the United Nations was regularly invited to participate. Because reconciliation and justice went hand in hand, the allegations of organ trafficking must be fully investigated, he emphasized, noting that EULEX had undertaken preliminary investigations and that the Kosovo authorities had pledged their willing participation.
Foreign Minister JEREMIĆ of Serbia, referring to comments about Council mandates and the transfer of jurisdiction for war crime investigations to national courts, said the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia could only transfer such cases to United Nations Member States. Kosovo was not, and would not become, a Member State, he emphasized. Furthermore, all major crimes committed by leaders in Yugoslavia were investigated by the Council, he pointed out, saying he therefore did not understand the “fervour” for the Council to do the same in Kosovo’s case, unless there was something to hide. According to international organizations and non-governmental organizations, Kosovo was at the bottom of the list in terms of human rights and security, not a young, stable and vibrant democracy, he said. Indeed, there were more people sitting around the Council table than there were Serbs in Pristina, and only a small proportion of those who had left Kosovo had ever returned, he added.
Mr. HOXJAH of Kosovo stressed that EULEX had the professional capacities to undertake the investigation into the Council of Europe allegations. For Kosovo, it was important that those allegations be investigated as soon as possible because clarity was needed in that regard. He recalled that during the Vienna talks led by Martti Ahtisaari in 2005 and 2007, the best plans and provisions for the protection of cultural and heritage sites had been formulated. Today, 80 per cent of those had been implemented and were providing Serbs in Kosovo with protection and support.
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