With Ongoing Tensions in Kosovo ‘Far Too Close to Surface’, Special Representative Seeks Security Council Support to ‘Reach Sustainable Solutions Sooner than Later’
With Ongoing Tensions in Kosovo ‘Far Too Close to Surface’, Special Representative Seeks Security Council Support to ‘Reach Sustainable Solutions Sooner than Later’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6769th Meeting (PM)
With ongoing Tensions in Kosovo ‘Far Too Close to Surface’, Special Representative
Seeks Security Council Support to ‘Reach Sustainable Solutions Sooner than Later’
Foreign Minister Says Serbia Will Remain Firm in Resisting Partition Attempts;
Kosovo’s Delegate Says Independence Produced Positive Results throughout Region
Progress in the European integration process in the Balkans, reduction of tensions following Serbian elections and cooperation of the parties on practical issues presented a window of opportunity for settling all unresolved issues in Kosovo, which must not be allowed to fester, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council this afternoon.
“I ask for your support in demonstrating increased unity of purpose that may help the sides and all of us to deal with unfinished business and reach sustainable solutions sooner than later”, Farid Zarif, who is also the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said to the 15-member body. He said continued violent and criminal incidents, consequent rhetoric that raised tensions, and “tit-for-tat” arrests, were stark reminders of the “fragility and instability” that remained far too close to the surface.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the topic, which describes progress in the Pristina/Belgrade talks facilitated by the European Union (see Background), he commended the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for its work on facilitating the voting by Kosovo Serbs in the first round of the Serbian general and presidential elections on 6 May. In addition, he said that European integration had taken significant steps forward with the decision to grant candidate status to Serbia and also to launch a feasibility study in Kosovo.
Unfortunately, he said, the power of the European prospects for the region to serve as an incentive for the parties to overcome differences was sometimes undermined by an absence of unity of purpose among key international actors, Security Council members. He called on them to take a proactive approach to the continuing challenges and to use their influence with the parties to encourage them to engage in good faith to make progress on all issues, including those that were fundamental to reconciliation and the protection of minority rights.
Vuk Jeremić, Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that his country’s long-standing position on the European Union’s engagement in Kosovo remained unchanged: the Union should sustain its status-neutral efforts in order to build the missing institutional environment and improve the “dismal” societal conditions in the province. The “tension and confrontation on the ground” described in the Secretary-General’s report had disproportionately affected the Kosovo Serb community, he said, noting reports of more than 180 separate attacks against Serbs, their possessions or their holy sites in the first quarter of 2012.
Thanking Mr. Zarif, Kosovo multinational security force commanders and others for helping to organize the recent elections, he underlined that Serbia remained fully committed to the dialogue process. “Disagreements on status must not impede our ability to act in concert on resolving practical issues,” he said in that regard. Ironclad, internationally guaranteed assurances that safeguarded Serbian interests inside the province were needed, as several cases showed serious gaps in justice in Kosovo. He also raised questions about the effectiveness of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) panel investigating what he called the monstrous allegations into illicit organ trafficking.
He said that Serbia’s response to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence would never be bellicose or belligerent, but it would remain firm in resisting attempts to partition its homeland, adding that no “maximalist, one-sided imposition” would propel the Western Balkans “past the point of no return” towards its European future.
Enver Hoxhaj of Kosovo said that Kosovo’s independence had produced positive results throughout the region and, today, close to half of all United Nations Member States recognized the State, and there were now clear European prospects. He recounted efforts in Kosovo to fight corruption, protect Serb cultural sites and build the economy, and affirmed Kosovo’s commitment to the EULEX investigation into allegations of organ trafficking. He also described what he called important progress in the integration of the Serb community at central and local levels of governance.
He remained very concerned, however, when it came to the three northern municipalities, where Serbia maintained police and security structures, he said, calling for the units’ withdrawal. Kosovo was against any kind of partition, change of borders or exchange of territories. Highlighting agreements reached on regional cooperation and integrated border management in the talks facilitated by the European Union, he called for their urgent implementation. “Agreements are worthless if they remain on paper and are not implemented on the ground,” he said.
Following those statements, Council members welcomed the calm holding of Serb polls in Kosovo and other positive developments, and supported continuing the central role of UNMIK. Most also welcomed the progress in European integration and called for the continued engagement of both parties in the European-facilitated dialogue in Brussels, along with more progress in the protection of minority rights and Serb cultural sites, as well as in the creation of conducive conditions to encourage the voluntary return of more displaced persons. Most also urged a thorough investigation of the allegations of organ trafficking.
Differences persisted on the status issue, with the representative of the Russian Federation and others continuing to insist that all international organizations operating in Kosovo act strictly on the basis of status neutrality.
Also speaking were the representatives of Togo, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Morocco, South Africa, Colombia, United Kingdom, Germany, India, China, France, Portugal, United States, Guatemala and Azerbaijan.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2012/275) which covers the activities of the Mission, known as UNMIK, from 16 January to 15 April 2012. The latest report of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), which operates under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations, is attached as an annex to the report.
According to the report, the priorities of the Mission to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and in the region, remain unchanged. In furtherance of those goals, UNMIK continues to intensify its engagements with Pristina and Belgrade, the communities in Kosovo, and regional and international actors, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which continue to perform their roles within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). It states that the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes also continue to work closely with the Mission, which comprises eight police and eight military staff members.
On major political developments during the period, the report says that there were successful discussions of integrated management of crossing points and the international representation of Kosovo in the Brussels dialogue facilitated by the European Union. In consequence, both Belgrade and Pristina advanced their European plans, with the Union’s member States voting to grant candidacy status to Serbia and the European Commissioner for Enlargement formally launching a feasibility study for a Stabilization and Association Agreement between the Union and Kosovo. Casting a shadow over these developments, however, was an increase in tension on the ground during the latter part of the reporting period, attributable in part to controversies over voting in Kosovo related to the Serbian elections to be held on 6 May and accompanying controversies about voting in Kosovo. It also seemed to derive, however, from a widening perception that fundamental resolution remains elusive for the underlying issues of the conflict.
The Secretary-General expresses hope, however, that the positive trends will continue and tension and confrontation will gradually subside, adding that the Government in Belgrade has heeded UNMIK’s advice regarding the organization of local elections in Kosovo. He encourages all stakeholders to engage constructively on the identification of appropriate modalities for the exercise of voting rights in Kosovo with regard to the Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections.
There was also a need for robust mechanisms to monitor the implementation of agreements reached in the European-facilitated dialogue and to urgently assist in the resolution of any disputes. He urged the sides to intensify their engagement in addressing sensitive issues and in creating the conditions for efficient implementation of agreements. He warns that room for dialogue may be narrowed, however, if calm is not sustained, particularly if public responses to incidents and provocations on the ground are “imprudent”. Arbitrary arrests, passivity in the face of acts of intolerance, and belligerent rhetoric inevitably lead to further tension and violence, as demonstrated during this reporting period; the political leaders of both sides bear responsibility for such outcomes, he says, calling on them to reduce tension and promote dialogue.
Addressing the Security Council, he expresses the hope that the members will reinforce the messages to this end delivered to the parties by his Special Representative, saying that sustained engagement on the part of local and international actors is vital to deter regressive developments and to find positive ways forward. Actions undertaken by the international actors operating within the framework of the United Nations and resolution 1244 (1999) need to be strategically aligned and closely coordinated.
Finally, the Secretary-General renews his call for strengthened political will to reverse the continuously declining number of voluntary returns to Kosovo and expresses regret over resistance to measures that aim at the protection of Serb cultural and religious sites in Kosovo, urging the Kosovo authorities to redouble their efforts to close the gap between commitments and implementation in this area.
FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMIK, said that there was reason for cautious optimism on Kosovo, but there were also stark reminders of the “fragility and instability” that remained far too close to the surface. “I believe that the stage is set for more decisive efforts from the international community to tackle fundamental issues, before the end of this year,” he said, adding “I wish to implore the members of this Council to consider anew the possibilities for greater political consensus and harmony of effort in the application of resources,” saying “business as usual” was unsustainable.
Among positive developments was the vote for the Serbian general and presidential elections, which had taken place “safely and calmly” in Kosovo on 6 May, facilitated by OSCE, in line with resolution 1244 (1999), despite the controversies and late political agreement by the parties. The OSCE facilitation would lead to a second round of polling on 20 May. He called on all concerned to show the same sense of responsibility and cooperation as they had on 6 May. Also during the reporting period, European integration had taken significant steps forward with the decision to grant candidate status to Serbia, and also to launch a feasibility study in Kosovo.
In addition, he said, Belgrade and the international community had taken unambiguous positions on the legitimacy of local elections planned by two municipalities in northern Kosovo outside the framework of resolution 1244. He was currently leading a consultative process to promote more legitimate and viable local representation and would call upon support for those from the Council in the future. Also in the north, EULEX had implemented new outreach strategies and UNMIK was operating in the area in close collaboration with that Mission, as well as OSCE and KFOR.
Negative trends, he said, included a concentration of serious security and criminal incidents throughout ethnically mixed areas, showing again that the status quo was not stable. Unfortunately, he added, incendiary and opportunistic rhetoric had frequently been the response of politicians on both sides, further increasing tensions. In addition, “tit-for-tat” police arrests, directed from both Pristina and Belgrade, illustrated the same fundamental problem.
He said that the power of the European prospects for the region to serve as an incentive for the parties to overcome differences was regrettably sometimes undermined by an absence of unity of purpose among key international actors. Closer cohesion of efforts among international actors, including members of the Security Council, might help facilitate efficient rationalization of efforts on the ground. In that context, he hoped that an important review of EULEX, currently being considered by the European Union, would be used to take full stock of future challenges and that a careful analysis of the disposition of stewardship over key executive Powers would be undertaken and followed.
Common efforts, he stressed, should not wane on issues that were fundamental to reconciliation and to the protection of minority rights. Those included progress in determining the fate of the missing, creating conditions for safe voluntary returns, fair resolution of property claims and full implementation of the legal framework for the protection of the cultural and religious heritage. He called again on Kosovo authorities to clearly demonstrate their intention to listen to, and take into account, the concerns of the Kosovo Serb community.
With the successful conclusion of Serbian elections and no general elections foreseen in Kosovo for the next 18 months, he said a period was approaching in which it might be possible to explore avenues of political engagement more removed from political campaigns. To the extent that the parties could focus on shared interests in prosperity and stability, new space might open for settling some differences. Achieving better results would require, from the international community, renewed energy from those working on the ground, as well as from members of the Security Council and all those who had invested heavily in Kosovo.
Thanking the Council for its support of UNMIK, he asked for a proactive approach to the continuing challenges and the use of influence with the parties to encourage them to engage in good faith. “Above all, I ask for your support in demonstrating increased unity of purpose that may help the sides and all of us to deal with ‘unfinished business’ and reach sustainable solutions, sooner than later.”
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said that his country’s long-standing position on the European Union’s engagement in Kosovo remained unchanged: the Union should sustain its status-neutral efforts in order to build the missing institutional environment and improve the “dismal” societal conditions in the province. The “tension and confrontation on the ground” described in the Secretary-General’s report had disproportionately affected the Kosovo Serb community, he said, noting that Serbia’s Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija had recorded more than 180 separate attacks against Serbs, their possessions or their holy sites in the first quarter of 2012. Describing several recent attacks, he stressed that the desecration of Orthodox churches and graveyards continued unabated, and that the report did not list any specifics regarding those attacks. Additionally, during the reporting period, not a single perpetrator had been arrested for committing hate crimes against such sites, and no senior ethnic-Albanian official had spoken out against the acts of desecration.
Thanking Mr. Zarif, Kosovo multinational security force commanders and others for helping to organize the recent elections and for deterring factors that might have prevented them from taking place, he nonetheless noted with regret that UNMIK had been unable to organize local elections in the province, in accordance with Council resolution 1244 (1999). In response, Serbia had proposed to begin jointly monitoring developments relevant to conducting the elections, with the aim of revisiting the issue over the next six months.
Referring to the Secretary-General’s concern that “the room for dialogue in the coming months may be narrowed, if calm is not sustained” — in particular, as it appeared that ethnic-Albanian public opinion was turning increasingly hostile to the continuation of any sort of negotiations — he underlined that Serbia remained fully committed to the dialogue process. “Disagreements on status must not impede our ability to act in concert on resolving practical issues,” he said in that regard. Ironclad, internationally-guaranteed assurances that safeguarded Serbian interests inside the province were needed.
Between the end of the reporting period and the present Security Council meeting, he continued, disturbing developments had set back further the cause of justice in Kosovo. The most glaring was the case of Fatmir Limaj, a former senior Kosovo Liberation Army commander, who had been acquitted of war crimes for the 1999 torture and killing of Serbs in the infamous Klecka prison camp. The only witness in the case had died under mysterious circumstances, and the not-guilty verdict had shocked and outraged the Serbian public. It was encouraging that EULEX Special Prosecutor’s Office had announced that it would appeal that ruling.
In another instance, however, Serbia was concerned about a lack of transparency in the conduct of a EULEX inquiry into allegations of illicit trafficking in human organs, he said. Many critical questions, including those related to accountability, mandate, jurisdiction and witness protection and relocation, had gone unanswered during the reporting period. Uncovering the truth about those “monstrous” allegations should remain a top priority.
“At the heart of all of our difficulties lies the unresolved status of Kosovo,” he stressed, expressing Serbia’s gratitude to the majority of United Nations Member States that respected his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He appealed to them to refrain from recognizing any solution to Kosovo that was not the product of a clear agreement between the parties. Serbia’s response to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was not, and would never be, bellicose or belligerent; however, it would remain firm and unequivocal in resisting attempts to partition its homeland. “One of the principal lessons of our history is that zero-sum outcomes never fulfil their promise,” he said, stressing that no “maximalist, one-sided imposition” would propel the Western Balkans “past the point of no return” towards its European future.
ENVER HOXHAJ of Kosovo said that Kosovo’s State-building process during the last five years was a major success story, and that its independence had produced peace, stability and security throughout the region. Today, close to half of all United Nations Member States recognized the State of Kosovo. During the reporting period, Kosovo’s leaders and its citizens had focused on strengthening its multi-ethnic and democratic institutions. Two important bodies, the National Council against Corruption and the National Council for European Integration, had been established, and Kosovo’s institutions had granted special protection to 45 Serb Orthodox cultural heritage sites, based on the highest international standards. Reforms and investments to ensure economic growth and to enable Kosovo to compete with other countries had been put in place.
He said that, despite its struggle with unemployment, Kosovo had maintained its macroeconomic and fiscal stability. It had also reached a new Stand-By Agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for some €107 million in support. Additionally, it had been focused on law enforcement, reforming its justice system and its public administration. Kosovo remained committed to and supported the EULEX Special Task Force on its investigation of all allegations contained in the report of Dick Marty concerning trafficking in human organs.
In the last five years, Kosovo had made important progress in the integration of the Serb community at central and local levels of governance, he said. Today, the Kosovo Serb community took part in Parliament, and in self-governance in the municipal areas of administration, police, justice, education and culture. Based on its Constitution, Kosovo citizens enjoyed the right of double citizenship; therefore, when the presidential and parliamentary elections had been held in Serbia on 6 May, Serbs living in Kosovo had been able to vote. It was very important to mention that Serbia did not try to organize local elections in the three municipalities of the north, which constituted a “very good sign” that Serbia was beginning to accept the reality of an independent Kosovo.
Kosovo remained very concerned, however, when it came to those three northern municipalities, where Serbia maintained, in violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999), illegal police and security structures, he said. The situation there was very tense, and neither KFOR nor EULEX was allowed to operate in the area according to their mandates. Crucially, the entire stability of Kosovo and the security structure in the region hinged on the situation in the north. Kosovo’s position was very clear: the violence must stop, and Serbia must withdraw its police and security units. Kosovo was against any kind of ideas of partition, change of borders or exchange of territories.
On the technical dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, he highlighted the agreements reached on regional cooperation and integrated border management. In February, an agreement had been reached on Kosovo’s regional representation, allowing it to speak for itself at all regional meetings as an equal partner. Despite that progress, however, the credibility of the whole dialogue process was at stake. “Agreements are worthless if they remain on paper and are not implemented on the ground,” he said. Many agreements had not been implemented at all, while others remained only partially implemented, such as the ones on freedom of movement and free trade, which were directly impacted by road blocks and the systematic arrest of Kosovo citizens by Serbian authorities.
During the reporting period, the European Union had confirmed that Kosovo had a “clear European perspective”, he said, adding that the Commissioner for Enlargement had announced the launching of a feasibility study for Stabilization and Association between Kosovo and the European Union. That was the start of establishing contractual relations between the two entities, he added.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) welcomed the talks between the parties, along with the agreements reached on crossing points and international participation of Kosovo, while regretting continued incidents of violence and arrests. He welcomed UNMIK’s readiness to implement agreements, while calling on Pristina to ensure protection of Serb religious sites. He also looked forward to a thorough investigation of charges of trafficking in body parts. Inviting the parties to continue dialogue on a peaceful and lasting solution to outstanding issues such as final status, he urged them to avoid actions and rhetoric that would raise tensions.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that his country’s position in not recognizing the Unilateral Declaration Independence of Kosovo had not changed. International institutions must act strictly on the basis of status neutrality. Welcoming UNMIK’s continuing role in Kosovo, he said the Mission must facilitate a settlement in Kosovo through dialogue. In that context, he warned against the broad use of agreements made for the representation of Kosovo in international forums in a way that legitimized the unilateral declaration of independence.
He said he was also concerned over the slow pace of the investigation of illegal trade in human organs. All culprits must he held responsible, he stressed, calling again for the investigation to be turned over to the United Nations. Regretting what he depicted as continued insecurity for Serbs in Kosovo, he also warned against training Syrian insurgents in Kosovo, attempts at which had been reported, he said. In general, he expressed concern over a gap between agreements and their implementation on the part of the authorities in Pristina.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said that his delegation remained concerned at the continued fragility of the situation in northern Kosovo. UNMIK was playing a vital role in ensuring stability in Kosovo, and he called on all constituents of the international presence to maintain neutrality while executing their respective mandates. He welcomed, in that regard, the continuation of the European Union-facilitated dialogue. Any differences on the implementation of the recently reached agreement on regional representation and cooperation should be resolved through dialogue. Furthermore, the implementation of the technical protocol on the integrated management of crossing points would help in addressing the situation in the north. Both sides should avoid actions and rhetoric that would inflame tensions. In that regard, the holding of a referendum in northern Kosovo on 14 and 15 February had been “counter-productive”. Similarly, the Kosovo authorities must ensure the provision of security for all segments of society, including minorities, as well as guarantee the safety of religions and cultural sites. Also, better cooperation among the parties was needed to resolve the missing persons cases.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) regretted that the security situation in Kosovo had regressed, instead of improved, compared to the previous reporting period. The tense situation would not bring the two parties closer or help them reconcile their positions on important questions. However, he welcomed the fact that the two parties had reached an agreement on the regional representation of Kosovo, which demonstrated that agreement was possible “if the political will is there”. The parties should avoid rhetoric, he said; he welcomed the work of UNMIK in combating organized crime. However, Morocco remained concerned about allegations of human trafficking, though more light should be shed on the matter. The situation could further degenerate if the parties did not agree to work together on building trust, confidence and mutual interests, he concluded.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) said that it was incumbent upon the international presence in Kosovo, including KFOR and EULEX, to maintain a status-neutral position in the execution of their mandates, in line with the Council’s previous decisions. Noting recent positive developments, he nonetheless expressed concern that tensions between the two sides remained. “We call on all sides to utilize regular direct contact as an important confidence-building measure to improve trust and allow the parties to address the outstanding and contentious issues,” he stressed in that regard. Arbitrary arrests by both sides were provocations aimed at causing instability; they threatened political will to engage in constructive dialogue. All parties, therefore, should exercise restrain and refrain from actions that might erode the fragile trust between the two sides.
He said it was unfortunate that progress on voluntary returns appeared to be slow compared to last year. It was the responsibility of both sides to encourage returns by ensuring safe conditions on the ground. In that regard, South Africa urged all parties to show cooperation and flexibility in finding solutions to that crucial outstanding issue. Additionally, the delegation remained concerned by the resistance against legislative measures aimed at protecting cultural and religious sites in Kosovo. He called on Pristina to strengthen the security measures to guard those sites. Finally, regarding the allegations of organ trafficking, he reiterated his position that a credible, thorough, impartial and independent inquiry into those charges should be conducted.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) said that UNMIK should continue to play its role in cooperation with the parties involved, while he welcomed progress in the advancement of the European perspective. He was concerned at the tension on the ground, however, and he urged the parties to counter it. He paid tribute to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for facilitating voluntary returns to Kosovo, while noting that such returns were still slow. He urged a thorough investigation into alleged organ trafficking. In regard to the Brussels talks, he encouraged the parties to continue their dialogue and peacefully resolve their differences.
MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) welcomed progress over the reporting period, but was concerned that Belgrade had yet to sign the protocol on integrated border management and urged both Governments to implement the agreement facilitating international cooperation. He encouraged Kosovo to engage proactively with the European feasibility study. Welcoming action against corruption, he called on the Government to take ownership of reforms in the judiciary, rule of law and administrative capacity, using the tools available through EULEX. Sharing concern over pre-election tensions and incidents on the ground, he welcomed the OSCE facilitation.
It was essential, he said, for Kosovo to use the historic moment of “the approaching end of supervised independence” to demonstrate its continued commitment to full implementation of the Comprehensive Settlement Plan. In addition, he called for freedom of movement to close bypasses to the northern gates and encouraged all those who exercised influence in northern Kosovo to work actively to deter violence and give consistent backing to both KFOR and EULEX. He also looked forward to Belgrade and Pristina’s continued constructive engagement in the Brussels dialogue. Finally, he welcomed the developments in the investigation of allegations of organ trafficking and urged the continued cooperation of authorities in Kosovo.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) welcomed the calm holding of the Serbian elections, along with the part played by OSCE and UNMIK. During the period, Kosovo authorities showed that they took seriously the security of the citizens of the north. He urged all parties to ensure calm in the second round of election. Supporting Serbia’s pro-European stance, he counted on any new Government to continue on that path. Unfortunately, the implementation of agreements in the Brussels dialogue lagged; it must become an urgent priority in the coming months. The situation in northern Kosovo was still a great concern, since the underlying tensions had not been calmed. He regretted any violence emanating from the tensions, while praising the work of KFOR and EULEX. Welcoming progress in the investigation on allegations of organ trafficking, he looked forward to a completion of the probe and the cooperation of all concerned.
VINAY KUMAR ( India) said that, regarding the agreement reached on Kosovo’s regional representation and cooperation, he hoped that the differences “in the use of the footnote” concerning Kosovo’s status and their mutually-exclusive interpretations would be resolved soon by mutual agreement and understanding. Conclusion by the parties of a technical protocol, providing an operational dimension to the agreement on integrated management of crossing points, was a welcome development, however, India remained seriously concerned by the overall security situation in Kosovo that was marked by political tension, as well as criminal incidents, including damage to Serbian Orthodox churches and other properties. In that regard, he suggested that heed be paid to the concerns about transfer of security responsibilities at Devic. India urged UNMIK to prioritize adequate protection of Serbian religious and cultural heritage in Kosovo.
He encouraged the Mission to also provide document certification services of a civil nature and to facilitate the interaction of the Kosovo authorities with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and other organizations. UNMIK should also remain engaged in the missing persons issue and other measures for confidence-building between the communities. He also welcomed the readiness of Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha to sign an agreement with the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force, John Clint Williamson, allowing the Task Force to fully implement its mandate.
LI BAODONG ( China) said that, although the current situation in Kosovo was stable as a whole, it remained tense and fragile. China hoped that the parties would take a “cautious approach” and refrain from actions that would negatively impact the situation. The territorial integrity of Serbia should be fully respected. With regard to Kosovo, several rounds of dialogue had recently been conducted and some progress had been made. He hoped that the parties would push forward with that dialogue, which affected peace and security in the Balkan region and in all of Europe. China supported implementation of UNMIK’s mandate, but expressed its deep concern about the allegations of illicit trafficking of human organs. In that regard, the concerns expressed by Serbia were justified, and the United Nations should pursue investigations of the matter.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said that, owing to a recent agreement between Serbia, Kosovo and OSCE, dual citizens living in Kosovo had been able to take part in Serbian elections on 6 May. EULEX had also allowed the elections to take place in a peaceful environment, and restraint on both sides had been crucial in their success. Pristina and Serbia had moved forward in their respective relationships with Europe. Those events had been made possible through the dialogue facilitated by the European Union; the Union also strengthened its commitment to progress in Kosovo.
He said France was dedicated to the existence of a Kosovo as stable, viable, secure and multiethnic. That meant consolidating the rights of minorities all over Kosovo and protecting their religious sites. France supported the idea to close the international office; however, an international presence must be maintained on the ground as long as the situation required it. Finally, he was confident in the EULEX Task Force’s ability to investigate instances of disappearances and human organ trafficking. In that regard, the commitment of the Kosovo authorities and those of neighbouring States to cooperate with the Special Prosecutor was a particularly welcome development, he said.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal), noting the “stabile but fragile” situation in Kosovo, called on Pristina and Belgrade to cooperate with international actors and avoid actions or declarations that could raise tensions. Better implementation of agreements reached in Brussels was needed. The momentum of those talks should not be lost. He condemned attempts to damage Serb cultural sites in Kosovo, urging Kosovo authorities to take the necessary efforts to protect them, supported by the international community if necessary. He commended efforts to investigate allegations of illicit organ trafficking, welcomed continued cooperation and urged a thorough completion of the work. He finally welcomed steps towards European integration of Serbia and Kosovo.
JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) welcomed the peaceful holding of Serbian elections and the cooperation with OSCE, which had allowed it to happen; that should serve as a model for the future. The same practical approach should be used for dealing with other problems in northern Kosovo and normalizing relations between Pristina and Belgrade. His country rejected any action that would undermine Kosovo’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. He called for the end of any situation in the north that contradicted that situation, as well as the implementation of any agreements made in the Brussels talks.
He also called for all parties to cooperate with EULEX in border security matters, including the gates issue, and welcomed progress in European integration, and in the investigation of allegations of organ trafficking, discussion of which must not be politicized. He said Kosovo was taking seriously its responsibilities as a sovereign State and he looked forward to continued progress by Kosovo and Serbia in cooperation and European integration.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said that the United Nations played a crucial role in ensuring stability and neutrality in Kosovo and in the region, and his country fully supported its presence there. Guatemala was pleased that new progress had been made, however, it took seriously the indication that continued tensions on the ground still posed a risk to peace and stability in the region. It encouraged the parties to seek comprehensive and lasting solutions in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999) and to support the conditions for constructive dialogue. The situations in northern Kosovo remained highly sensitive, and he hoped that the agreement on the integrated management of crossing points would become operational and freedom of movement would be realized.
He said that attacks, intimidation, threats and damage to the property of ethnic minorities must end. Pristina and Belgrade must assume their responsibility to reduce tension and use positive rhetoric. Additionally, as there was still a downward trend in voluntary returns to Kosovo, Guatemala supported the appeal by the Secretary-General to strengthen political will and political attention to reversing that trend. He was concerned that the report of the Secretary-General scarcely mentioned the investigation into allegations of trafficking in human organs; in that vein, he hoped that those responsible would be captured and tried.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan), speaking in his national capacity, said that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the binding international legal basis for resolving the Kosovo issue and providing security in the area. The positive trends of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as progress towards European integration, had been registered during the reporting period; he further welcomed the agreement on the regional representation and cooperation of Kosovo. At the same time, his delegation was deeply concerned at the increase in tensions and incidents on the ground. He noted the efforts aimed at de-escalating tensions and called upon all stakeholders to resolve disagreements peacefully.
According to the Secretary-General’s report, UNMIK and other international presences stressed that the public referendum conducted by the northern Kosovo Serb municipalities in February had no legal consequences, he said. It was Azerbaijan’s strong understanding that the same position equally applied to all unilateral actions, without exception, taken contrary to resolution 1244 (1999). Addressing with concern the issues of voluntary returns and missing persons, as well as of the protection and restoration of religious and cultural heritage sites and allegations of trafficking in human organs, he nonetheless went on to commend UNMIK, under the leadership of Special Representative Zarif, for its efforts and important role in maintaining peace and stability in Kosovo and the entire region.
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