Kosovo’s Precarious Situation Warrants Security Council Attention, Leadership, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Says in Briefing
Kosovo’s Precarious Situation Warrants Security Council Attention, Leadership, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Says in Briefing
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6670th Meeting (AM)
Kosovo’s Precarious Situation Warrants Security Council Attention, Leadership,
Secretary-General’s Special Representative Says in Briefing
Violence against International Forces Deplored
As Members Differ over Investigation into Human-Organ Trafficking Claims
The situation in Kosovo remained precarious and warranted the Security Council’s attention and leadership, Farid Zarif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said today.
“While some speak of Kosovo as a ‘frozen conflict’, I believe the situation is fluid and dynamic,” he said. While potentially entailing greater dangers, it also presented opportunities to pursue a viable, sustainable resolution that could overcome long-standing tensions. The need now was for both sides, Serbia and Kosovo, to muster the good will, pragmatism, boldness, courage and resolve required to achieve genuine progress.
Mr. Zarif was briefing Council members on several incidents involving roadblocks mounted by local residents in northern Kosovo to keep border crossings into Serbia closed. He recalled that on the night of 23 and 24 November, troops of the multinational Kosovo force (KFOR) had attempted to dismantle an unmanned barricade at Dudin Krš on the Mitrovica bypass, but local Kosovo Serbs had attacked them with rocks and vehicles, injuring 21 soldiers from Germany, Hungary and Portugal. On the morning of 28 November, KFOR had removed a roadblock from a village west of Zubin Potok, he said, adding that two soldiers had been wounded by small-arms fire and 23 by rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown by Kosovo Serb demonstrators.
Those incidents clearly marked an escalation in the level of tension and violence, he continued, adding that without progress on the political level, KFOR and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) would continue to face difficulties north of the Ibar River. Previous successes in building a functional, multi-ethnic Kosovo police presence there would also be at risk, he added. Despite KFOR’s general posture of avoiding forceful action in the north, the combination of frustration, fear and mistrust could easily provide the spark for violence, he warned.
Turning to the EULEX investigation into allegations of Kosovo’s inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs, he said the lead prosecutor of a the European Mission’s Special Investigative Task Force had recently met with the leaders of Kosovo, Albania and Serbia, but Belgrade maintained that the Security Council should establish an independent body to lead the investigation.
There was much debate over the EULEX investigation, with some delegates calling for witness-protection guarantees, other representatives suggesting that the Council play a more active role, while still other speakers said EULEX lacked the mandate to conduct investigations outside Kosovo. The representatives of China and the Russian Federation expressed support for an investigation under United Nations auspices, with the latter saying the need for witness protection had been completely ignored.
However, the representative of the United States said there was no need for the Council to interfere with the EULEX investigation, while her counterpart from the United Kingdom said the European Union Mission had the appropriate authority and jurisdiction to carry it out. Germany’s representative echoed that sentiment, saying there was no doubt that EULEX had “full jurisdiction”, and it was therefore not necessary to set up an additional investigative mechanism.
Vuk Jeremić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that given the worsening situation in Kosovo and Metohija since the end of the previous reporting period, some key actors continued to ignore Serbia’s repeated warnings that unilateral forceful action would adversely affect stability. Despite diplomatic efforts, the Council had found it impossible to agree that unilateralism and the use of force were unacceptable. As a result, everything was “much more difficult”, amid deteriorating conditions on the ground.
“It is truly frustrating that all of this was eminently avoidable, had everyone had enough patience to seek solutions by exclusively peaceful means, through dialogue,” he continued. Lessons must be learned from the incidents provoked by KFOR’s use of heavy equipment to dismantle the barricades. The choice could not be clearer: peaceful dialogue or unilateral action, he said, emphasizing that his country was ready for the former but rejected the latter. “We must find the way out of the vicious cycle of violence in which only extremism thrives,” he added. “It is indicative, however, that almost every time a new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is due to take place, in the present case tomorrow, unilateralism comes back to the fore.”
Enver Hoxhaj of Kosovo said his government did not wish to be part of “destabilizing scenarios”. It was a constructive partner, but would not give up its sovereignty as a young democratic state. Kosovo was committed to providing a peaceful and prosperous future for all its citizens and to maintaining its internationally recognized borders, he said, adding that it would exercise its right to extend the rule of law throughout its territory and would not accept ethnic partition. The time had come for Serbia to come to terms with an independent Kosovo, he said.
All speakers condemned the violence, including yesterday’s incident, and called upon all parties to refrain from actions that would escalate tensions. Debate also revolved around the definition of unilateral action, with some pointing out that Kosovo’s enforcement of border controls could not be considered as such. Others, however, said Kosovo’s actions were indeed unilateral and in contravention of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).
The Council also heard that selective implementation of the EULEX mandate played into Kosovo’s unilateral actions and was not status-neutral, in addition to an argument that Serbia’s response to challenges in Kosovo would be crucial to its consideration as a candidate for accession to the European Union.
Also speaking today were representatives of India, Nigeria, France, Lebanon, South Africa, Colombia, Brazil, Gabon and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal.
The meeting began at 11:11 a.m. and ended at 1:15 p.m.
Council members had before them the latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2011/675), dated 31 October 2011 and covering related activities and developments from 16 July to 15 October. It states that the Mission (UNMIK) continues to further its priority goals of promoting security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the wider region by engaging with Pristina and Belgrade, the communities in Kosovo as well as regional and international actors. The report adds that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the multinational Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) continued to cooperate and coordinate with UNMIK.
According to the report, the situation in northern Kosovo overshadowed all other political developments. Following the cancellation of the 20 July session of the dialogue facilitated by the European Union, Kosovo authorities imposed an embargo on imports from Serbia, in response to that country’s treatment of its goods, by attempting to deploy Kosovo Police Regional Operations Special Units (ROSU) to Gate 1 and Gate 31, the two authorized boundary/border crossings. However, local Kosovo Serbs erected roadblocks, effectively blocking the police units and an officer was killed during a gunfight. A letter from the Permanent Representative of Serbia requesting an urgent United Nations investigation into that and subsequent incidents has been transmitted to the Council.
The report notes that the European Union-facilitated dialogue resumed on 2 September, culminating in agreements on Kosovo customs stamps and other questions. However, further discussions on telecommunications, energy and university diplomas have not led to agreement, while subsequent scheduled dialogue sessions did not take place and the process remains frozen. Belgrade and Pristina nevertheless continued to cooperate on the issue of missing persons, which remains a major challenge to reconciliation efforts between the Kosovo communities. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 220 voluntary returns by members of minorities in July and September, bringing the 2011 total to 822.
Opposition to returns on the part of receiving communities remained largely isolated, the report says, noting that the first two phases of the “return and reintegration in Kosovo” project have drawn to a close. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was selected to implement a third phase of the project. However, the gap in housing construction this year, due to the lengthy tendering and approval process between phases, has led to a sharp decrease in the number of voluntary returns, the report says, pointing out that an increasing number of people are being forcibly returned to Kosovo, mainly from Western European countries.
According to the report, there was a 24 per cent increase in incidents affecting minority communities throughout Kosovo, with 38 of the 151 recorded ones occurring in the north. They included 13 cases of vandalism on Serbian Orthodox churches and cemeteries as well as a rise in damage to unoccupied houses belonging to Kosovo Serbs, especially in the ethnically mixed village of Cërnicë/Cernica. The most serious incident was the murder of a Kosovo Serb man and the wounding of his son outside a restaurant in the predominantly Kosovo Albanian village of Xërxë/Zrze on 2 October.
The report goes on to note that UNMIK facilitated the participation of Kosovo representatives in numerous regional meetings and played an important role in the context of the 2011 UNMIK/Kosovo chairmanship of the Central European Free Trade Agreement. On 3 and 4 October, the Mission participated in the European Union-Western Balkans Ministerial Forum on Justice and Home Affairs, held in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Describing developments in northern Kosovo as a strong reminder that unresolved underlying issues constitute a threat to regional peace and stability, the Secretary-General expresses concern about the deteriorating security situation and the worsening inter-ethnic relations, as well as the polarization of political positions and the widening of the gap between the communities north and south of the Ibar River.
He goes on to stress that as long as the situation at Gates 1 and 31 continues, and rule-of-law issues remain entangled with positions on status, the international community and people on the ground will continue to face the risk of escalating tensions and outbreaks of violence, expressing hope that the Council will send a clear message to both sides regarding the need to take responsibility for reducing tensions and preventing the recurrence of violence in northern Kosovo, the report says.
Annexed to the document is the report of the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the activities of EULEX, which covers northern Kosovo, war crimes, corruption and organized crime, including the “Medicus” case involving trafficking in humans and organs, among other issues.
FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the situation in Kosovo remained precarious, warranting the Council’s attention and leadership. KFOR had consolidated the perimeters at Gates 1 and 31 since mid-October, and its attempts to remove some of the roadblocks had resulted in clashes with Kosovo Serb protesters, who had kept the border crossings closed to traffic and continued to object to the presence of customs and police officials. EULEX continued to transport Pristina officials to the crossings by helicopter and in response local Kosovo Serbs had denied EULEX freedom of movement through the north, he said, adding that KFOR’s ability to conduct patrols and gain access to its bases in the north was unpredictable.
He said that on the night of 23 and 24 November, KFOR troops had attempted to dismantle an unmanned barricade at Dudin Krš on the Mitrovica bypass, but local Kosovo Serb residents had attacked them with rocks and vehicles, injuring 21 soldiers from Germany, Hungary and Portugal. In the morning of 28 November, KFOR had removed a roadblock from a village west of Zubin Potok, using water cannons, teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets, he said, adding that two soldiers had been wounded by small-arms fire. In the afternoon, Kosovo Serb demonstrators had thrown Molotov cocktails at KFOR troops, resulting in injuries to an additional 23 soldiers. About 15 demonstrators had reportedly been treated for injuries. Today, the situation was peaceful, although local protesters were still present.
Those incidents clearly marked an escalation in the level of tension and violence, he said, emphasizing that UNMIK had condemned the shooting of KFOR soldiers. Regrettably, the situation in the north had become intertwined with the politics of the forthcoming elections in Serbia and with the current political dynamics in Pristina. UNMIK and its international partners had taken several initiatives to contain the situation and to focus on its underlying causes. Reaching out to both sides, the Mission had urged them to exercise patience, refrain from the use of force, avoid violence and support the Council-mandated international presence by not impeding its freedom of movement.
The various sides had already toned down their rhetoric and UNMIK’s advice had been positively implemented in Pristina and Belgrade, he said. However, without progress at the political level, EULEX and KFOR would continue to face difficulties north of the Ibar River, and previous successes in building a functional and multi-ethnic Kosovo police presence there would be at risk, he said. Despite KFOR’s general posture of avoiding forceful action in the north, the combination of frustration, fear and mistrust could easily provide the spark for violence, he warned.
He said that during the meeting to resume the European Union-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade on 21 November, it had been agreed that the European University Association would be asked to certify diplomas issued by universities of both sides. Regional cooperation had also been discussed, he said, adding that the implementation of previously reached agreements on cadastre, civil registry and freedom had been reviewed. The parties had committed to rapid progress in that process.
The reporting period had also seen an increase in incidents affecting minority communities elsewhere in Kosovo, he said. They included the killing of a Kosovo Croat and the wounding of another on 2 October, as well as the killing of a Kosovo Serb and injuring of two others in western Kosovo on 20 October. UNMIK was adding its voice to others in calling for more active and effective efforts by political leaders to help change the atmosphere, in which inter-ethnic crime was tacitly tolerated, he stressed.
He went on to point out that perceptions of safety and security were among the key elements affecting returns by members of minorities, the rate of which was declining. For instance, in early November, a public protest by some 200 members of the receiving Kosovo Albanian community had prevented a visit by Kosovo Serb internally displaced persons. However, there was better news about the preservation of Serbian Orthodox heritage sites, he said, noting that there had been a decrease in the number of incidents since 2009, when the Kosovo police had gradually begun to assume responsibility for security arrangements at protected sites. However, there had been only modest progress in the clarification of the fate and location of missing persons, he said, calling on all those who had information to inform the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Regarding the EULEX investigation into allegations of inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo, following the Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s adoption of resolution 1782 (2011), he said the lead prosecutor of a special investigative task force had recently met with the leaders of Kosovo, Albania and Serbia, and Belgrade maintained that the Security Council should establish an independent body to lead the investigation. “While some speak of Kosovo as a ‘frozen conflict’, I believe the situation is fluid and dynamic,” he emphasized. While it potentially entailed greater dangers, it also presented opportunities to pursue a viable, sustainable resolution that could overcome the long-standing tensions. That could best be achieved through Council stewardship, he stressed. What was needed now was for both sides to muster the goodwill, pragmatism, boldness, courage and resolve required to achieve genuine progress.
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that by continuing to support the principle of inviolability of the borders of United Nations Member States, the Council was preventing a dangerous precedent that could be repeated in any part of the world, with devastating consequences for international peace and security. With the worsening situation in Kosovo and Metohija since the end of the previous reporting period, some key actors continued to ignore Serbia’s repeated warnings that unilateral forceful action would adversely affect stability, he noted.
He went on to stress that despite diplomatic efforts, it had been impossible to agree in the Council chamber that unilateralism and the use of force were unacceptable. As a result, everything was “much more difficult”, as positions hardened amid deteriorating conditions on the ground, he said. “It is truly frustrating that all of this was eminently avoidable, had everyone had enough patience to seek solutions by exclusively peaceful means, through dialogue.”
At the start of the reporting period, he recalled, it had been possible to be cautiously optimistic as the situation in Kosovo had seemed to be improving and dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had just produced status-neutral agreements in important areas. Rather than building on that positive momentum, a choice had twice been made in Pristina, outside the dialogue framework, to attempt unilaterally to alter reality on the ground during the reporting period.
The first time had been on 25 July, when the Kosovo Albanian authorities had ordered the deployment of a paramilitary unit to north Kosovo to seize the Gates 1 and 31 checkpoints, he continued. As a result, the dynamics had changed overnight, but due to Belgrade’s swift, measured response, the situation had been contained. Another round of dialogue had taken place in Brussels in September, producing another status-neutral solution on custom stamps. The second incident had occurred on 7 September, when Hashim Thaqi, the so-called Prime Minister of Kosovo, had stated “his purpose to ‘preserve and assume control over the territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo’”.
That was incompatible with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and ignored the terms of the Secretary-General’s Six Points Agreement, he pointed out, noting that both KFOR and EULEX had nevertheless chosen to support the operation, which had begun on 16 September. Recalling that explicit warnings had been voiced in the Council chamber on the eve of the announced action, he said that, unfortunately, residents of north Kosovo had responded by reinforcing existing roadblocks and erecting new ones to resist the imposition of an unwanted regime. Some clashes had turned violent, he said, emphasizing that Serbia’s condemnation of the use of force by any party had always been swift and unequivocal.
The right messages must be sent and lessons learned from the recent incident at Dudin Krš and yesterday’s at Jagnjenica, he said. Both had been provoked by KFOR’s use of heavy equipment to dismantle the barricades. As tensions had escalated, scores of civilians and soldiers had been injured. He called upon all stakeholders in north Kosovo, including KFOR and EULEX officials as well as local community leaders, to engage in dialogue and restore calm immediately. The removal of the barricades was in the interest of peace and stability, but should be carried out by peaceful means. “We must find the way out of the vicious cycle of violence in which only extremism thrives,” he stressed. “It is indicative, however, that almost every time a new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is due to take place, in the present case tomorrow, unilateralism comes back to the fore.” The choice could not be clearer: peaceful dialogue or unilateral action, he said, adding that Serbia was ready for the former but rejected the latter.
Turning to the situation in the south, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report omitted incidents, including one involving the beating of two Kosovo Serbs by paramilitary officers. Moreover, only 96 Kosovo Serbs had returned to the province, half the number that had returned in 2010 he said, adding that the future looked even bleaker. In addition, little had been done to uncover the truth about a 2010 Council of Europe report on the inhumane treatment of people and organ trafficking in Kosovo. Current investigations were insufficient and a comprehensive, independent investigation should be carried out in order to guarantee fairness and transparency. The recent statement by the spokesman of the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force that details would remain confidential was “outrageous and unacceptable”, he said, underscoring the need for witness-protection guarantees.
Turning to relations between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians, he said his country would take “all necessary measures” to establish a comprehensive peace, despite setbacks caused by unilateralism. “Dialogue is the only vehicle to reach this goal,” he stressed, adding that the talks were not an exercise in enforcing either party’s legal position, but focused on practical considerations. “If both sides are prepared to be flexible, common ground can surely be found.” It was essential that all stakeholders pledged to make dialogue the sole mechanism by which differences were brought to the forefront. The worsening situation in Kosovo necessitated more active engagement by the Security Council, he stressed, calling on the Council to ensure that no more forceful unilateral actions would be allowed to occur.
He went on to emphasize: “If we are genuinely concerned about peace and stability in Kosovo, if re-establishing security and improving the quality of life for the people on the ground is our objective, then there can be no justification for refusing to heed such a call right now.” A failure to act would be a disappointing abdication of the responsibility entrusted to the Council by the world’s family of nations, he stressed. “Taking charge of the present moment cannot but enhance the enduring benefit and honour of the founding principles of the United Nations.”
ENVER HOXHAJ of Kosovo said independent Kosovo had been a factor of stability in the region. In the last three months, progress had been made on strengthening its institutions, democratic governance and the rule of law, while other factors had proven Kosovo’s viability. It was committed to strengthening the rule of law and fighting organized crime and corruption, he said, stressing that his government enjoyed excellent cooperation with EULEX. The rule of law was imperative for Kosovo’s economic development and that of the Western Balkans.
Among this year’s many challenges, however, unemployment remained a key problem, he said, adding that his government was working hard to ensure economic rules and social welfare. While Europe faced a debt crisis, Kosovo remained the last debt-free country in the Balkans, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth projected at 6 per cent, he said, emphasizing that economic growth was crucial to ethnic integration and social cohesion. Kosovo’s independence was a political reality, he said, adding that there was no reason to delay recognition following the verdict of the International Court of Justice on its declaration of independence.
He went on to describe Kosovo as a critical part of Europe, stressing that political integration was the best framework within which to ensure long-term peace and prosperity in the region. On 12 October, the European Commission had published its progress report on Kosovo, which noted its progress in respect of political criteria in a number of important areas. It also mentioned progress in building multi-ethnic institutions and announced the prospective launch of a dialogue on visa liberalization. Hopefully, 2012 would be the year of a European Kosovo, he said.
Calling the situation in the north complex, he said it threatened the multi-ethnic nature of Kosovo as well as regional security and stability. The Government of Serbia maintained control over and sponsored illicit structures in there, in direct violation of resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that their operation posed an obstacle to the integration of local populations and the rule of law. Organized crime flourished in the area and the illegal structures were meant to safeguard illegal activities such as smuggling, and held the local population hostage.
He went on to say that Kosovo had contributed financially to local institutions in the north since 1999, but unfortunately, Belgrade had interfered at all times. The government of Kosovo had shown patience and insisted that the situation should be resolved in cooperation with international partners, through cooperation rather than confrontation. Serbia invoked resolution 1244 (1999), but had done everything in its power to prevent its implementation in the north, he said, pointing out that most Kosovo Serbs lived throughout Kosovo and participated in its institutions.
The situation in northern Kosovo remained unchanged, with 18 roadblocks that were an obstacle to freedom of movement, he continued, adding that even EULEX and KFOR were prevented from crossing the barricades. There was a “balance of fear” between Kosovo and Serbia, and illegal Serbian security structures had used violence against citizens and soldiers since July 25. The government of Kosovo had been patient and did not wish to be part of “destabilizing scenarios”, he said, adding that it was a constructive partner, but would not give up its sovereignty as a young democratic state.
Kosovo engaged in dialogue with Serbia, facilitated by the European Union and aimed at finding practical solutions to the problems that people faced every day, he said. It had participated in a constructive manner and in good faith, working to improve the lives of all citizens in Kosovo and Serbia, who would all benefit from the free movement of goods. All solutions proposed so far were aimed at bringing communities together, he said, stressing that there could not be ethnic electricity or ethnic telephones. Solutions should not produce more parallelism. Kosovo was part of the dialogue and welcomed Serbia back to the table. Dialogue, however, was not only a process, he cautioned, underscoring the need for concrete results. Kosovo and Serbia had agreed on many issues in July and September, but Serbia had only implemented one agreement.
Underscoring that Kosovo would never accept countries, Serbia in particular, to undermine its statehood, he said time had come for that country to remove the roadblocks and dismantle the illegal structures in northern Kosovo, as that was the best way to achieve the integration of Kosovo Serbs. He expressed hope that Serbia was not using the dialogue process to score points with the European Union in order to achieve candidate status. Kosovo was committed to providing a peaceful and prosperous future for all its citizens and to maintaining its internationally recognized borders. It would exercise its right to extend the rule of law throughout its territory and would not accept ethnic partition, he said, stressing that the time had come for Serbia to come to terms with an independent Kosovo.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) welcomed the September agreement on custom stamps, and the commitment expressed by both sides to look further into other issues, including telecommunications, but stressed that the overall security situation overshadowed those developments. Careful handling of the security situation was needed, and EULEX should investigate the allegations of inhuman treatment of people and organ trafficking. While Serbia maintained interest in the Council’s involvement, a number of unresolved issues connected with the question of status could be resolved only between the two parties, he said. During the continuing dialogue, the international presence should act with neutrality, in accordance with mandates including Council resolution 1244 (1999). Unilateral actions should be avoided and parties should resolve sensitive issues through peaceful means, he said, calling upon the parties to use dialogue without resorting to violence.
ROSEMARY DI CARLO ( United States) said that despite the recent violence, her country was confident that Kosovo would continue to develop. As the Council had affirmed that Kosovo was a single customs space with the right to control its borders and uphold the rule of law, enforcing border controls could not be considered unilateral action. Kosovo had announced its intention to establish control over its borders, and the obstructions to freedom of movement were caused by hard-line Kosovo Serb factions and, in some cases, endorsed by some Serbian Government officials, she said, calling on all actors to help remove the remaining roadblocks and arrest key suspected criminals.
Concerned about the recent violence, which had occurred while Serbian security structures remained illegally deployed in northern Kosovo, she said any attack on United Nations peacekeepers or KFOR was unacceptable. She commended KFOR’s use of minimal force to de-escalate the situation, and said requests for an investigation of the 27 September events were unwarranted. However, a “long list” of critical issues remained unresolved, she stressed, calling upon both sides to demonstrate flexibility as they returned to discussions tomorrow.
Referring to the Secretary-General’s report, she said the low number of voluntary returns was not surprising, given property disputes and other pressing issues. The United States also disagreed with the claim of a Kosovo-led embargo on Serbian goods, and neither KFOR nor the government of Kosovo could be accused of blocking them. There was no need for the Council to interfere with the ongoing EULEX investigation. The entire region was on the threshold of fulfilling its aspirations, she said, adding that in the long term, the multi-ethnic populations would decide their future. In the short term the international community must ensure that physical and political barriers did not stop them from doing so.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said that while the European Commission’s statement on visa liberalization testified to Kosovo’s progress, the rule of law and minority rights were areas in which further reform was needed. All actors should refrain from any action that threatened safety and security in northern Kosovo, and roadblocks should be removed immediately, he said, emphasizing that there could be no excuse for any attempt to restrict freedom of movement there. Condemning attacks on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, including yesterday’s violence, he said it was the responsibility of all, including the Government of Serbia, to strive for an end to violence and to guarantee security and freedom of movement.
Welcoming the appointment of Clint Williamson as lead prosecutor of the EULEX task force investigating allegations of organized criminal acts, including organ trafficking, he said EULEX had the appropriate authority and jurisdiction to carry that effort forward. Regional cooperation was essential for the future prosperity and stability of the Western Balkans, and an integral part of the European Union accession process, he said. Serbia’s response to challenges in Kosovo would be crucial to its consideration for European Union candidate status. Urging that country to engage constructively to reach new agreements while taking concrete steps towards guaranteeing freedom of movement in northern Kosovo, he emphasized that Kosovo’s progress as a viable independent state was irrefutable.
LI BAODONG ( China) said all parties should address their differences through dialogue and refrain from any action that would escalate tensions. China hoped that EULEX and KFOR would play a constructive role in maintaining stability in the area, as stability in Kosovo would ensure peace and stability in the wider region. He emphasized, however, that Serbia’s territorial integrity should be respected, and welcomed the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. While deploring the tension in northern Kosovo, he also expressed concern about the allegations of trafficking in human organs, expressing support for an investigation into the matter by the United Nations. China also supported UNMIK and hoped it would continue to play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo and the entire region.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said that while the Council’s response in addressing intense recent activities had helped to defuse tension, yesterday’s incident had confirmed fears of escalating security challenges. The parties should settle issues peacefully, and not through violence, he urged, adding that the international presence should strengthen communication and cooperation in efforts to preserve peace in Kosovo. The concerned parties had much to gain from dialogue, as had been demonstrated by trade agreements reached during discussions in September. However, concerns remained about the low number of returnees, he said, emphasizing that safe returns must be guaranteed and urging the continued support of UNHCR and other international entities. As for the organ trafficking allegations, he said all stakeholders should have a say in the investigation.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) condemned new attacks against EULEX and KFOR, adding that while their interventions with the local authorities had reduced tensions, roadblocks in the north should be lifted in the interest of a return to calm. Neither the international community nor neighbouring States wanted civilians in the area subjected to duress in the current situation, which had been manipulated by organized crime elements. He encouraged a return to dialogue and called on both sides to concentrate their efforts on accession to the European Union. They should abstain from all actions and statements that could heighten tensions and welcomed Mr. Williamson’s appointment as lead prosecutor of the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force, encouraging all States to cooperate with his investigation.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation), saying he shared the concerns expressed by Serbia’s Foreign Minister, noted Kosovo’s non-compliance with resolution 1244 (1999), emphasizing that his country would not recognize Kosovo’s independence. Resolution 1244 (1999) remained in full force and was binding in terms of settlement of the Kosovo issue and providing security for the population. It was important to resume dialogue and Pristina’s unilateral action was therefore unacceptable. He said he was seriously concerned about the incidents in a mixed ethnic area, pointing out that Kosovo Albanians had fired upon three Kosovo Serbs, killing one and partying loudly afterwards.
Only yesterday, NATO forces had captured, through “sneak attacks”, a barricade erected out of frustration with Kosovo’s actions in the area, he recalled, expressing hope that KFOR would focus not on removing Kosovo Serb barricades but on providing security for all inhabitants of the area. Emphasizing his country’s opposition to selective implementation of the EULEX mandate, which played into the hands of Kosovo’s unilateral actions and was not status-neutral, he also called for a thorough investigation of the 27 September incident in which KFOR had used force, resulting in civilian fatalities.
He went on to say that the Secretary-General’s next report should contain an in-depth analysis of how international presences operated in Kosovo. Calling for an investigation, under United Nations auspices, of alleged human-organ trafficking, he pointed out that the need for witness protection had been completely ignored. In addition, the security situation in northern Kosovo remained tense, due mainly to Pristina’s tendency to use force. As for returns, internally displaced persons had no assurance of their own safety, he noted, emphasizing that the international presence should take all measures to protect Kosovo Serb cultural, religious and heritage sites. The Council must send a clear signal on the need to refrain from violence and continue dialogue, he said, adding that his delegation would circulate a draft presidential statement in that regard.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said the situation in northern Kosovo was of great concern due to the provocative actions by Kosovo Serb demonstrators. Yesterday’s violence against KFOR soldiers, including the use of Molotov cocktails and small-arms fire, had resulted in injuries to two German soldiers, among others shot, he noted, emphasizing that any use of violence against KFOR and other international presences must be condemned in the strongest terms. He called on all parties to refrain from violence, and on Serbia to exercise its influence in the area to reduce tensions. Erecting barricades to restrict freedom of movement in northern Kosovo was unacceptable, he added.
As outstanding issues could only be resolved by peaceful means, Germany supported the dialogue process designed to improve the daily lives of citizens in Kosovo and Serbia, he said, stressing that progress could pave the way for a European future for both. He called on them to ensure swift implementation of already reached agreements while deploring incidents of ethnically inspired crime. Noting that EULEX had made further progress in its investigation of crimes committed against Kosovo Serbs, he welcomed the full support that Mr. Williamson’s investigation had received from Kosovo, Albania and Serbia, saying there was no doubt that EULEX had “full jurisdiction” to carry out the investigation. It was therefore not necessary to set up an additional investigative mechanism, he added.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said he shared the Secretary-General’s concern over recent developments regarding Gates 1 and 31, which could become an increasing source of tension and violence. Any unilateral action was not acceptable, he stressed, urging a focus on reconciliation among communities. Dialogue would influence the situation in the north, he added. Lebanon welcomed the continued cooperation of Belgrade and Pristina with the Red Cross concerning the issue of missing persons, he said, calling also for the protection of witnesses and a transparent investigation of alleged inhuman treatment of people and organ trafficking. There could be no sustainable peace without justice, he emphasized.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa), condemning violence on both sides, urged the parties to refrain from unilateral actions and the use of force, which had only made reconciliation more difficult to achieve. A number of incidents, including the contamination of a well providing potable water, were of concern, he said. He commended the dialogue process as a confidence-building measure that had allowed both parties to address unresolved issues, and urged them to demonstrate cooperation and flexibility in seeking solutions. Negotiations were the only way towards lasting peace, he added. On the investigation of alleged inhuman treatment and organ trafficking, he said it should include an independent witness-protection programme.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia), expressing regret over yesterday’s incidents in which several NATO soldiers had been injured, as well as the death of a Kosovo Serb in an earlier incident, called on the parties to adopt measures that would reduce tension and work for renewed efforts for peace and dialogue. The statements by Serbia and Kosovo had shown that there was a clear inclination towards dialogue, but that there was still some intransigence in their positions, which should be brought closer, he said. Calling attention to the practical solutions found in such areas as telecommunications and recognition of academic certificates, he stressed the importance of avoiding confrontational statements. As for allegations of human organ trafficking, Colombia hoped it would be possible to bring those responsible to justice. The issue of disappeared persons also stood in the way of reconciliation and undermined the integration process, he noted, noting that given the meagre progress on returns, extraordinary measures were needed to ensure circumstances more suitable to returns.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said she had hoped to dedicate her statement to positive developments, but negative developments had come to the fore. Brazil called on both sides and the communities on the ground to act with restraint and hoped the broader underlying issues in the region would be addressed, and that dialogue could be resumed shortly. Resolution 1244 (1999) offered an adequate framework for an agreed settlement, she added. Expressing concern about allegations of inhumane treatment and trafficking in human organs, she said the willingness of all parties to cooperate with the investigation was encouraging and noted the role of EULEX in that regard. UNMIK’s role as intermediary was crucial and the Council should continue to keep developments under close review while encouraging dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, she said.
ALFRED MOUNGARA MOUSSOTSI ( Gabon) said the incidents of July had contributed greatly to the current security situation in northern Kosovo and had blocked political dialogue. He also deplored yesterday’s incident, and called on all parties to use dialogue in seeking peace, and applauded international efforts, including those of UNMIK, EULEX and KFOR, aimed at guaranteeing peace and security. The recent agreements on custom stamps and trade also merited the Council’s support, he said, adding that it was essential that the next round of dialogue sought an inclusive, credible and lasting agreement on the current impasse over the northern border posts. Inviting all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that could jeopardize negotiations and raise new tensions, he said the settlement of the Kosovo question must remain an issue for the parties themselves, and urged Belgrade and Pristina to work together for a stable, lasting peace. Gabon reiterated the need for the international community to continue its financial support for the protection of cultural and religious heritage as well as efforts to address the issue of missing persons and returnees.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said recent incidents had exacerbated the security situation, adding that improved inter-ethnic relations throughout Kosovo and sustained dialogue were crucial to achieving mutually acceptable solutions. Therefore, it was necessary that both sides remained committed to resuming dialogue, facilitated by the European Union,on pending issues. The rule of law was indispensable to stability and progress in the Balkans, he stressed, reiterating his support for the activities of UNMIK and EULEX. They were imperative in the context of improving inter-community dialogue, building confidence among the parties, reducing tensions and drawing attention to common needs, he said.
Turning to the question of missing persons, he said it remained a great challenge to the process of reconciliation between communities, expressing hope that the Belgrade-Pristina Working Group on Missing Persons had resumed its activities. In addition, United Nations agencies had facilitated several “go-and-see” and “go-and-inform” visits, which provided the opportunity for displaced persons to visit their properties and assess conditions in receiving communities. Stability and security in Kosovo were essential to achieving peace in the region, he reiterated, calling upon the international community to play an important role in supporting the aspirations of the region’s countries towards integration into European and Euro-Atlantic organizations.
JOSE FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said he was deeply concerned about the recent violence against KFOR, and condemned the attacks. He appealed for restraint, stressing its fundamental importance in de-escalating the situation before it worsened. Stronger political dialogue was the only way forward, he stressed, adding that UNMIK was contributing to a safer, more secure environment. While aware of the challenges ahead, time was of paramount importance, he emphasized, urging the parties to make headway on outstanding issues. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he said it mentioned a worrying increase in the number of attacks on minority communities. As for the EULEX report, the Council would benefit from hearing more about that Mission’s work, including its investigation into organ-trafficking allegations.
Mr. JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, took the floor a second time, on the subject of “parallel structures”, saying that trust was really the heart of the matter. The lives of Kosovo Albanians had operated in parallel with Serbia before 1999, he said, abut in the current situation, Kosovo Serbs in the north had no trust in Pristina, he said. The Ahtisaari Plan was not in line with resolution 1244 (1999), but had been discussed in the Council, which had failed to support the Plan. In Serbia, it was null and void, he added.
Turning to comments about organ-trafficking allegations that referred to “organized crime”, he said it was a war crime when several hundred civilians were taken to a clinic for the removal of their organs during a conflict. Strongly reiterating the need for openness and fairness in the ongoing investigation, he appealed to the Council to allow such transparency. He said his country had made and would continue to make strong calls for peace, pointing out that the President of Serbia had announced earlier today that the barricades in northern Kosovo were in no one’s interest, but they should be removed through dialogue.
Mr. HOXHAJ of Kosovo also took the floor a second time, saying all sides must call for an end to all violence in northern Kosovo, and calling upon Serbia to implement the agreements reached in Brussels. Concerning the roadblocks, he said the European Union was based on the free movement of people and goods, and stressed that if Serbia upheld the barricades, it would be showing its position on the matter.
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