|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6822nd Meeting* (AM)
International Community Should Exploit Assurances by New Serbian Government
to Help Settle Unresolved Issues in Kosovo, Security Council Told
Members Briefed on Successful Elections,
As Concerns over Returnees, Violence against Ethnic Minorities Persist
Assurances that the new Government of Serbia would fully implement previous agreements with Kosovo leaders was a welcome sign that the international community should exploit in order to help settle unresolved issues, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
“My assessments is that a more active and deliberate political international engagement with the parties is needed very soon,” said Farid Zarif, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) during a briefing to the 15-member body. Following May general elections in Serbia, resulting in the formation of a new Government last month, the Secretary-General’s official visit to Kosovo in mid-July had helped set the stage for discussing essential issues such as upholding human rights, establishing the rule of law and ensuring the rights of returnees and minority groups. It was now important that both Belgrade and Pristina speedily implement agreementsreached, andthat the Council encourage and help them adopt a “more creative, bold and forward-looking approach to negotiations, based on compromise and mutual respect”.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of UNMIK, he applauded the increased exchanges and efficiencies among that Mission, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), as well as the Kosovo population’s heightened trust in the United Nations and UNMIK’s efforts to support human rights protection, as well as the return home of internally displaced persons and refugees, while attempting to determine the fate of missing persons. However, more must be done to create enabling conditions for a legitimate, genuine representation of the population in northern Kosovo, he said, expressing hope that pervasive unconstructive patterns and political bluster would not impede that process further.
Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia said that resolving the final status of Kosovo and Metohija through high-level talks that took into account the legitimate interests of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and all others living there was among the most important priorities of his newly elected Government. “We are ready to do our part, but we are not — nor will we be — ready to accept Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.” He appealed to fellow Member States to refrain from recognizing an independent Kosovo, saying no comprehensive settlement had been accepted by the stakeholders.
He went on to dismiss as invalid Pristina’s so-called “reforms” aimed at removing the executive authority of international organizations in Kosovo, stressing that only the Security Council had the authority to make such changes. The European Union’s engagement in Kosovo remained unchanged and should be deepened, he said, pledging that Serbia would support efforts in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) to ensure more funds for UNMIK, if necessary. He also expressed concern over recent violence against ethnic Serbs in north and south Kosovo, including the murder of the elected Kosovo Serb village representative and his wife near the town of Uroševac; threatening letters and pamphlets addressed to returnees; and acts of vandalism and religious intolerance. They were all part of an orchestrated attempt to “ethnically cleanse” Kosovo Serbs, he said, adding that the results were clear: only 45 Serbs had returned to Kosovo during the reporting period, less than half the number returning during the same period in 2011.
But Hashim Thaci retorted that Kosovo was in fact a democratic, multi-ethnic society with an unwavering commitment to minority rights. Three Kosovo Serbs served as ministers, including a Deputy Prime Minister, and 100,000 others were members of local governments. Ethnic Serbs also accounted for 15 per cent of the Kosovo police force. In recent months, the authorities had enacted 21 laws on religious rights, cultural and religious heritage, and reconciliation, he said, adding that, in April, they had signed an accord with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enable ethnic Serbs with dual citizenship to vote in Serbia’s recent elections.
Moreover, he continued, Kosovo leaders had established offices and committed €21 million over the next three years to facilitate returns and community rights. The recently established administrative office in northern Mitrovica would communicate and cooperate with every Serb leader in the north. Already, almost half of all United Nations Member States had recognized Kosovo’s independence, he said, noting that ethnically motivated crimes had declined drastically in post-independence Kosovo, turning Pristina into one of the region’s safest capitals. He urged Serbian leaders to work with, rather than against, their Kosovo partners, and to implement the series of bilateral agreements signed in March 2011, most of which remained only on paper. Normal relations with Serbia were a top priority for Kosovo and vital for maintaining security and stability throughout the Balkans, he said, stressing that the Kosovo State was a political and juridical fact, and that its territorial integrity would not be sacrificed.
Following those statements, Council members called for the early resumption of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue to address key challenges, including in northern Kosovo, in cooperation with EULEX and KFOR. Many of them called for swift implementation of technical agreements on regional cooperation, freedom of movement and border management. Most condemned violence against ethnic minorities and returnees, as well as cultural and religious sites.
However, differences persisted over Kosovo’s creation of an administrative office in northern Mitrovica, with the representative of Guatemala expressing concern over a decision to reassign to it funds intended for UNMIK. While most Council members expressed support for efforts to combat trafficking in human organs, the Russian Federation’s representative criticized the slow pace of the EULEX-led investigation into that matter while supporting Serbia’s proposal that it be transferred to the United Nations.
Also speaking today were representatives of Morocco, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Portugal, China, United States, Pakistan, Colombia, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Togo and France.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:26 p.m.
Before the Security Council today was the latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2012/603). Dated 3 August 2012 and covering the Mission’s activities from 16 April to 15 July, it states that the Mission’s priorities — to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region — remain unchanged.
According to the report, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is intensifying its engagements with Pristina and Belgrade and the communities in Kosovo, as well as regional and international actors. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) continue to perform their roles within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). The European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) continues to operate under United Nations authority, and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes continue to work closely with the Mission. Annexed to the document is the report of the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the Secretary-General on the activities of EULEX in the same period.
The Secretary-General commends United Nations partners in Kosovo, particularly OSCE, KFOR andEULEX, for their key contributions to the successful voting operation. Describing the peaceful and orderly conduct of the Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections, including the OSCE-facilitated voting in Kosovo, as “a welcome change”, he congratulates Tomislav Nikolić on his election as President of Serbia and welcomes his clear reaffirmations of Belgrade’s commitment to honour fully all agreements reached in its European Union-facilitated dialogue with Pristina, and welcomes the President’s stated readiness to engage in those talks.
Meanwhile, the situation in northern Kosovo remains fragile, requiring vigilance and restraint by all to reduce possible regressive political developments or instability, he reports. Genuine outreach by the Pristina institutions to the population in the north is essential, as is genuine goodwill on all sides. However, any institutional moves in this direction can only be successful if conceived fully in and based firmly on the trust and acceptance of the population, he stresses, expressing concern over possibly precipitate efforts by Pristina to deprive the UNMIK Administration Mitrovica of funds to support the functioning of the administrative office in northern Mitrovica, whose access to the local community and public confidence have yet to be established.
The report also highlights the challenges facing minority communities throughout Kosovo and the need for improved responses by public institutions, the police and other public service providers in particular. This is also essential for improving voluntary returns, which have again been disappointing. Many difficulties in Kosovo are “not simply the result of the lingering differences among the parties”, but also of the ongoing lack of international consensus, which could help the parties reach the necessary compromises and thus make faster progress towards lasting political settlements. Thus, “unity of purpose is indispensable for safeguarding the long-term investment of the international community in the stability of Kosovo, as well as of the region, and promoting genuine reconciliation”. The ultimate success and efficiency of the collective international effort would be better served by a common understanding of the tasks still at hand in order to “avoid any premature disengagements”, he concludes.
FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, introduced the Secretary-General’s report and warned against the “quiet, yet hazardous” tendency towards complacency. “My assessment is that a more active and deliberate political international engagement with the parties is needed very soon,” he emphasized, recalling that, during the reporting period, sessions of the European Union-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue had been suspended due to the May general elections in Serbia and the political process leading to the creation of the new Government on 27 July.
He said he had met with Serbia’s incoming President Tomislav Nikolić and Prime Minister Ivica Dačić two weeks ago, welcoming the “early and clear assurances” of their commitment to implement fully previously reached agreements and to resume dialogue early. It was very important for both sides clearly to demonstrate a full commitment to dialogue and speedy implementation of those agreements, he stressed. The delays should not be an excuse, he added, expressing hope that the dialogue would soon resume. The Secretary-General’s first official visit to the region in late July had helped to elevate the discussions on several essential issues, and the international community should renew its engagement during the next critical period.
Describing considerable progress on the ground in efforts to increase cohesion and efficiency among the internationally mandated presences in Kosovo, he said increased exchanges among UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX had improved coherence among issues of common interest. The European Union office in Kosovo continued to bolster its operations, and EULEX had carried out substantial internal restructuring to streamline operations and increase conceptual clarity and efficiency. However, great care must be taken, particularly in areas where the rule-of-law institutions remained insufficient and sometimes subject to political currents, he cautioned.
Applauding the findings of the European Union’s June survey revealing that more than 75 per cent of the Kosovo population trusted the United Nations, up 15 per cent from 2010, he said UNMIK was refining its operations to work more efficiently with local communities, institutions and global partners to support much-needed progress in human rights protection, returns of internally displaced persons and refugees, and determining the fate of missing persons. The Mission was also coordinating efforts to improve constructive engagement at all levels in northern Kosovo, he said, stressing, however, that far greater efforts were needed to change the familiar posturing and rhetoric in the area, as well as from Pristina and Belgrade.
He went on to underscore that the creation of enabling conditions for a legitimate, genuine representation of the northern Kosovo population must be a priority. Expressing hope that progress would not continue to be hindered by pervasive unconstructive patterns and political bluster, he appealed to Council members to use their authority and influence to encourage and help the parties towards a “more creative, bold and forward-looking approach to negotiations, based on compromise and mutual respect”. A less active approach would create a chronic need for international involvement, which was in no one’s interest, he warned.
IVICA DAČIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, said consolidating regional peace, security and stability was a priority for the newly elected Government, noting that 20 years since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, the region’s peoples continued to “live in the past, in mutual accusation, instead of finding a sustainable solution for the future”. Thus, resolving the final status of Kosovo and Metohija was among the Government’s most important priorities, he said, adding that, through negotiations and dialogue, it stood ready to arrive at a sustainable solution, via high-level talks that took into account the legitimate interests of Albanians, Serbs and all others living in Kosovo.
However, “ Serbia will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly, recognize the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian authorities, because it was not the result of mutual agreement”, he emphasized. “On this fundamental issue, our nation will remain united.” Appealing to Member States, the majority of which respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, also to refrain from recognition, he said Kosovo’s final status remained unresolved, as no solution had been approved by the Security Council and no comprehensive settlement had been accepted by the stakeholders. The interim arrangements reached in Brussels during the European Union-facilitated technical talks were undoubtedly “status-neutral” and in line with Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that Pristina’s presence at regional forums constituted “participation, not membership”.
The Secretary-General’s report, he continued, understood the ongoing lack of international consensus, and in order to achieve a lasting political settlement, further international effort was required. Serbia was committed to a process that would ultimately lead to lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians, and was ready to engage, in good faith and at all levels, in order to achieve a mutually acceptable and comprehensive final-status solution. As for the unilateral developments cited in the report, including a reference to so-called “reforms” by Pristina to remove the executive authority of international organizations in Kosovo, Serbia held that the Security Council was the only institution of indisputable and universal legitimacy authorized to make the sort of changes that the report indicated were taking place.
He went on to stress that EULEX must fully respect resolution 1244 (1999) and operate under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations. Despite such disturbing developments as the unilateral “removal” of the international organizations’ authority, it was Serbia’s long-standing position that the European Union’s engagement in Kosovo remained unchanged. In fact, deeper engagement by EULEX was required, and if it lacked the capacity, then UNMIK should review its reconfiguration, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). Should it become necessary, Serbia would work through the Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) to ensure that additional funds were allocated to the Mission, he added.
The Secretary-General’s report, he continued, also drew attention to the security threats facing the ethnic Serb community in both north and south Kosovo, and to the double murder of the elected Kosovo Serb village representative and his wife near the town of Uroševac. As was usually the case in attacks against Serbs, the perpetrators remained at large, he noted. Among other things, the report also highlighted the numerous threatening letters and pamphlets sent by ultra-nationalist Albanian organizations to returnees, and underscored that “acts of vandalism and religious intolerance have continued”. That situation was part of an orchestrated campaign of intimidation directed against Kosovo Serbs with the “ultimate aim of completing the total ethnic cleansing of Serbs and the cultural cleansing of our patrimony”, he said, adding that the results were clear: only 45 Serbs had returned to the province during the reporting period, less than half the number that had done so during the same period in 2011.
Recalling that more than 200,000 non-Albanians had been expelled from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija since June 1999, according to the United Nations, he reiterated Serbia’s commitment to forging a lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians in the Balkans, but emphasized that that would require both parties to make difficult and courageous decisions. “We are ready to do our part,” he said, adding that Serbia was also ready to engage in dialogue with the goal of arriving at a comprehensive solution. “But we are not — nor will we be — ready to accept Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence,” he reiterated. Indeed, any unilateral moves, on anyone’s part, “can only pull us further away”. A credible interlocutor and compromise were needed. Paraphrasing Nelson Mandela, he said that in order to make peace and reconcile, one must work with those whom one opposed.
HASHIM THACI of Kosovo recalled that, during the Secretary-General’s visit in July, he had seen that Kosovo was among the most successful examples of peacebuilding and state-building in the last few decades. Kosovo was a modern, viable State, and since its status had been decided in February 2011, it had built cohesive, multi-ethnic and democratic institutions, based on implementation of the comprehensive settlement plan. There was fair representation of all ethnicities in the 120-seat parliament, and three Kosovo Serbs served as ministers, including a Deputy Prime Minister. Stressing Kosovo’s unwavering commitment to its elaborate system of minority rights, he said that in the past months, it had passed 21 laws on religious rights, cultural and religious heritage and reconciliation, among other areas. A language commissioner and a director of Channel 2 of Kosovo’s Public Broadcasting System for Serbs and other communities had been appointed, and there were laws intended to strengthen the Serbian Orthodox Church and other cultural sites, as well as to preserve 45 religious and cultural objects listed as special protected areas. Kosovo was committed to safeguarding all religions, and the police were fully prepared to take over the protection of structures currently under KFOR responsibility.
On the basis of recommendations contained in the European Union progress report, Kosovo had worked to create the most stable institutions in the region, he continued. Economic growth of 5 per cent had been forecast in 2012, and Kosovo was poised to successfully join the European Union in the coming years. EULEX had played a crucial role in the past few years, and Kosovo fully endorsed its reconfiguration and downsizing by about 25 per cent, though it would remain a strategic partner. Kosovo was committed to adopting a new legal basis for extending the EULEX mandate until June 2014, he added. More nations had recognized Kosovo’s independence in the past month, most recently Mali and Chad, he said, adding that almost half of all United Nations Member States had recognized it and that others were expected to follow suit in the coming months. Failure to recognize Kosovo’s independence undermined regional stability, he said, noting that implementation of the comprehensive settlement plan was an enormous milestone in building a multi-ethnic and diverse Kosovo. More than 50,000 Kosovo Serbs, including numerous Serbian religious and community leaders, had been given personal identification documents.
Emphasizing that the right of return remained central to daily policy, he said Kosovo had allocated more than €8 million for 2012, and would allocate €21 million in the next three years solely for returns and community rights. New action plans and offices had been set up to promote their return and their equal access to public services. On 30 April, Kosovo had reached agreement with the OSCE to provide ethnic Serbs with dual citizenship and the ability to vote in Serbia’s recent elections. Their turnout for those elections had been 30 per cent. Citing a 28 June security incident, he said 32 Kosovo police officers had been injured due to direct clashes with Serbian protestors that threw stones and attempted to remove a “Kosovo border” sign. Noting that minority communities accounted for 15 per cent of Kosovo’s police force, he strongly condemned the 9 July murder of two Kosovo citizens in the village of Talinovc, and pointed out that ethnically motivated crimes had declined drastically in post-independence Kosovo. Pristina was safer than most regional capitals, and a recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) survey revealed that personal security was no longer a prevailing issue. On 4 June, Kosovo had set up an interministerial working group on the past and reconciliation to enable every ethnic community to move forward, he added.
He went on to say there had been enormous progress in integrating the Serb community into central and local governance. More than 100,000 Kosovo Serbs were now involved in local government throughout the country. Still, they had not integrated into those in the three northern municipalities, which had only 30,000 local Serb residents. Serbia did not allow local Serbs to cooperate with KFOR, EULEX or local institutions in Kosovo. Stressing that he was against any partition or exchange of territories in the north, he said the Kosovo government had recently established an administrative office in northern Mitrovica to coordinate investment and business ties. It would initially have seven directorates and 55 employees, as well a budget of €4 million annually for projects in northern Mitrovica, he said, adding that his government had pledged to communicate and cooperate with every Serb leader in the north, but would never compromise the political integrity of the State.
Recalling that Kosovo had begun a technical dialogue with Serbia in March 2011, he said some agreements made had been implemented, but most remained only on paper, Serbia having refused to sign the technical protocol. Calling on Serbia to deliver on what had been agreed, he said normal relations with that country was Kosovo’s priority, the absence of which was a major impediment to security and stability throughout the Balkans. The Kosovo State was a political and juridical fact, and its territorial integrity would not be sacrificed, he stressed. Kosovo would move forward towards membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It had advanced formal relations with the European Union, working to sign a stabilization and accession agreement, and had formally entered into structured dialogue on the rule of law. Kosovo would soon publish a study on the new agreement. “We are and we will remain a full member of the international community,” he said.
LOTFI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco) said it was crucial to demonstrate an increased commitment to security, particularly with respect to the protection of minorities and their property, as well as cultural and religious heritage. The reporting period had also been marked by the holding of elections by both parties, in a situation of calm and with the support of the OSCE, EULEX and KFOR. The parties were adhering to existing agreements, the implementation of which was crucial. Dialogue had been suspended owing to the elections, but the new President of Serbia had indicated his country’s commitment to honouring its obligations in that regard, he noted, adding that he was also pleased with the progress made in investigating allegations or organ trafficking. Despite ongoing violent incidents, there was reason for hope. Tensions must be avoided and progress made to improve relations. With the international community’s support, efforts must continue to guarantee a better future for the people of the region and to find compromise through negotiation and dialogue.
MICHAEL TATHAM (United Kingdom) said good-neighbourly relations were an integral part of accession to the European Union, he said, noting that, while the electoral period in Serbia had created a hiatus in dialogue, with the new Government’s formation, he hoped to see a “resumption and reinvigoration” of the European Union-led talks. Belgrade’s implementation of technical agreements on regional cooperation, freedom of movement and border management was crucial, and Pristina must also maintain its active adherence to them. Expressing support for the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue in addressing key challenges, including in northern Kosovo, he said both parties must tackle the main outstanding issues, with the cooperation of EULEX and KFOR. Attempts to inhibit their freedom of movement were unacceptable, he emphasized.
Urging the new Serbian Government to create “space” for cooperation, he said Kosovo must also demonstrate its commitment to minorities and set out its strategy for the north, including its socio-economic vision. The United Kingdom was concerned about the recent ethnically motivated violence in that area and felt the key to preventing such incidents in future was to engage the Kosovo Serb community. Security was important for returnees, but the lack of socio-economic and educational opportunities remained the overarching obstacle. As Kosovo’s largest bilateral donor, the United Kingdom encouraged others to offer their support, while welcoming the thorough and vigorous work by EULEX and its task force on organ trafficking, he said, describing the Mission as the “right body to take forward that work”.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the reporting period had seen several important developments, including the elections, and expressions of will by both Belgrade and Pristina to engage in European Union-facilitated dialogue, as well as to implement existing agreements and take up new topics. The question of missing persons was important, and India hoped that UNMIK’s direct encouragement would make possible further progress. He noted steps by EULEX to investigate allegations of organ trafficking and added his voice to calls for a thorough and impartial investigation. The situation in northern Kosovo remained fragile, requiring constant vigilance and restraint, he said, noting with concern the violence of June and July, including on buses transporting ethnic Serb children. There was a need for genuine outreach by the Kosovo institutions, particularly the police, he emphasized, urging international organizations in Kosovo, particularly EULEX and KFOR, to exercise their authority by preventing the recurrence of such incidents and ensuring the safety of minorities.
MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany) stressed the European Union’s important role as the appropriate and most suitable facilitator of the dialogue on Kosovo, pointing out that the swift and full implementation of existing agreements, including those on integrated border management or Kosovo’s representation in regional organizations, remained of key importance. As a next step, agreements were needed in areas that had not yet been tackled, such as energy and telecommunications. On the 2 July decision by the International Steering Group to end the supervision of Kosovo’s independence and accordingly close the International Civilian Office in Kosovo, he said that ending supervised independence, which still required the adoption of the necessary constitutional and legislative amendments by the competent Kosovo authorities, was based on the firm conviction that Kosovo had grown into a democratic and multi-ethnic State by implementing its obligations under the “Ahtisaari Plan”, including the passing of laws on the rights of ethnic minorities, on cultural and religious heritage, and on decentralization. In northern Kosovo, however, free movement for EULEX remained impaired due to roadblocks and repeated physical attacks on its staff and vehicles, he said, condemning such actions and calling on all parties, especially the Serbian authorities, to use their influence on responsible actors in the area to allow the Mission fully to carry out its mandate.
NIKITA Y. ZHUKOV ( Russian Federation) said his country’s non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence still stood, and that UNMIK remained the primary international presence there, pursuant to the Council’s mandate. The Russian Federation supported the new Serbian Government’s position that called for United Nations participation in the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. UNMIK must carry out its obligations with respect to enforcement, he said, expressing concern over Kosovo’s decision to establish a so-called administrative office in Mitrovica, which had already caused a negative reaction among the local Serb population, and could only lead to destabilization of the situation as a whole. Several ethnically motivated killings had taken place in the past year, but there had been no investigation by the international presence, including EULEX. Against that backdrop, Serbians were living in constant fear for their lives, he said, citing the killing of ethnic Serb returnees on 6 July and the security incident on 26 June, during which dozens, including women and children, had been beaten and wounded.
Pointing to the continuing confiscation of private Serb property, he said there had been no less than 20,000 such cases, though Kosovo Serbs had reported more than 30,000 illegal seizures. Serbs were not allowed to use licence plates, and were forced to fill out Serbian documents, he said, adding that EULEX actively participated in carrying out such measures. Orthodox churches were being desecrated and the Kosovo government was systematically hindering the return of those who had been forced to leave, he said, calling for a full investigation into such crimes. The Russian Federation was also not pleased with the slow pace of the EULEX-led process to address issues of human-organ trafficking in which some current leaders were reportedly involved. Investigations into such cases must be reliable, he emphasized, expressing support for Serbia’s proposal to transfer investigations to the United Nations. UNMIK should not turn into a passive observer of issues of return and ethnic rights, he stressed, adding that it must more closely cooperate with or participate in the partition process and forthcoming meetings.
JOÃO MARIA CABRAL ( Portugal) called for the earliest possible resumption of the Belgrade—Pristina dialogue, as it was a fundamental tool to bring the two sides together. It must not be led on the basis of transient political circumstances, and the implementation of agreements reached should proceed swiftly. The potential for instability in Kosovo remained, and must be addressed. Condemning the recent attacks on civilians, including women and children, he called for greater efforts to prevent future violence. As change was coming to Kosovo at a fast pace, the next few months would be of great importance at the political and institutional levels. It was also necessary to reach out to the population in northern Kosovo. He noted the creation of the interministerial working group on voluntary returns and reconciliation, but said he was concerned by about the challenges still facing minority communities. The Kosovo police must be perceived by all as neutral guardians of the rule of law, he said, emphasizing that any attempt to obstruct the work of EULEX was totally unacceptable. The Mission must have the necessary support from all stakeholders.
WANG MIN ( China) said the situation in northern Kosovo remained tense, noting in particular the remarkable decline in the number of voluntary returns. The relationship between ethnic groups was sensitive, requiring a pragmatic approach and the resolution of differences through dialogue. A settlement plan should be agreed, in the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). Congratulating Serbia on the formation of its new Government, he expressed hope that Belgrade and Pristina would further their dialogue, which was not only in the interest of both parties, but also of peace and stability in the Balkans and all of Europe. He also commended UNMIK on its unremitting efforts to promote regional peace and stability, and voiced his country’s support for its continuing activities and strengthened coordination with EULEX and KFOR, all of which should play a constructive role in promoting a settlement of the issues. China was profoundly concerned about illicit trafficking in human organs, he said, stressing that no violation of international law and international humanitarian law should be condoned. Serbia’s concern in that regard was justified, he added.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) applauded several positive developments, especially the OSCE’s facilitation of the peaceful Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections for dual nationals in Kosovo. Unfortunately, however, two ethnic Serb municipalities in the north had instituted parallel voting processes, she said, stressing that parallel structures had no legitimate role in Kosovo and should have been dismantled long ago, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). With the election of the new Serbian Government, the United States hoped for a resumption of the European Union-led dialogue, as well as implementation of agreements, including on integrated border management. Congratulating Kosovo on the upcoming end of supervised independence, she joined colleagues in the International Steering Group in recognizing its enormous progress, including the enshrinement of the Ahtisaari proposals into law. Indeed, the decision to end supervised independence in September was a vote of confidence in Kosovo’s dedication and ability to build a multi-ethnic nation, she said.
At the same time, she said, the United States was concerned about threats to security and freedom of movement in northern Kosovo due to a nexus of hard-line criminals there. It looked to Belgrade to set a positive tone and encouraged Kosovo Serbs in the north to cooperate. KFOR’s initiative to close illegal border crossings was definitely part of its mandate, she said, encouraging all to support those efforts. Meanwhile, she commended Kosovo on opening an administration office in the north, noting that a significant number of northern Kosovo Serbs had applied for and been granted positions there. She also praised Kosovo police efforts to protect the local population, and noted the cooperation by EULEX in investigating the recent double murder of the Kosovo Serb couple. She underlined her country’s support for the crucial work of the EULEX task force, especially that relating to organ trafficking, but expressed concern about the violence experienced by returnees, stressing that stoning was unacceptable and stymied reintegration. While commending the Kosovo government’s handling of returnees, she said more must be done to improve conditions.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said UNMIK continued to play a vital role, but stressed that all international players must remain neutral. Although the overall situation remained stable, much of the north was fragile. The violent incidents there could have a regressive effect on the political process, he said, stressing the need to address deficiencies in the training and discipline of the Kosovo police. Pakistan looked forward to the resumption of dialogue following the formation of the new Serbian Government, and stressed the need to implement existing agreements. Issues pertaining to freedom of movement and integrated border management must be resolved, he emphasized, adding that implementation of agreements required political will and flexibility on both sides. He said he was worried about the decline in voluntary returns, and stressed that the targeting of minorities should be investigated. Similarly, acts of vandalism against cultural and religious sites were unacceptable.
JUAN JOSÉ QUINTANA ( Colombia) said he supported UNMIK’s important role, which must continue to promote stability, security and respect for human rights, in cooperation with the parties concerned, as well as regional and international agencies. UNMIK’s work was critical in persuading the parties to show moderation in their statements and promote dialogue that would allow sustainable solutions to disputes. Colombia supported the EULEX mission to impose the rule of law and reduce impunity, as well as measures to reduce tensions, avoid a new crisis and work towards a political solution based on previously agreed commitments. Condemning violent acts aimed at intimidating communities, as had been done against ethnic Serbs in Drenovc/Drenovac, he called on the leaders of all communities to promote peaceful coexistence among all Kosovo inhabitants. He commended the initiative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN-Women to support gender equality by proposing to design an action plan for implementing Council resolution 1325 (2000). Colombia also encouraged outreach activities by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help displaced persons inside and outside Kosovo, and condemned all attacks against sites and personnel of international organizations, particularly EULEX.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) said that, while the situation in Kosovo was somewhat stable, incidents brought to the Council’s attention showed the persistence of fault lines. South Africa was pleased that the new Serbian Government had reaffirmed its commitment to the negotiation process and to honour all agreements reached thus far, he said, encouraging all sides to strengthen that process. The importance of the successful elections in Kosovo should not be underestimated as they showed the existence of the political will to resolve issues peacefully. While the security situation remained fragile, outbreaks of violence and ethnic strife were not conducive to the creation of the conditions for peace, he said, urging both sides to exercise restraint. He welcomed the progress made in indentifying the remains of some of the missing persons, noting that, with the support of UNMIK and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), more could be achieved in that regard. Pointing out that the lack of protection measures impeded progress, and that the number of returnees was much lower now than in previous years, he emphasized that it was essential to show the necessary flexibility and cooperate in finding solutions. Concerned that cultural and religious sites continued to face security risks, he called on Pristina to reinforce security measures. On the issue of human-organ trafficking, he called for a credible, thorough and impartial independent inquiry.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala), referring to the fragile situation in northern Kosovo, called on the parties to act in a moderate manner to reduce the possibility of a political setback or outbreak of instability. He added that he shared the Secretary-General’s concern over Pristina’s intentions in reassigning UNMIK funds to a local administrative office in Mitrovica that did not enjoy the public’s trust. Noting that the Secretary-General’s report highlighted ongoing challenges facing minority communities, he recalled that, since the last report, there had been an increase in criminal activity impacting minorities in comparison to the same period a year ago. It was alarming that the intensity of such incidents was worsening. It was necessary to improve the rate of voluntary returns to Kosovo. Stressing the need to consolidate the rule of law and the judiciary, he expressed hope that every complaint to the police would be investigated and the perpetrators of crimes tried. He also noted the work of a special investigative task force mandated to study allegations of inhumane treatment of persons and human-organ trafficking.
TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said his country’s position on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence remained unchanged. Resolution 1244 (1999) was the binding international basis for a comprehensive settlement. Both sides had expressed their willingness to resume consultations, and now their good-faith commitment would lead to further tangible progress. Although the overall security situation remained generally calm, the series of incidents in the north and increased tensions elsewhere were troubling, he said, condemning the double murder of 6 July while stressing that such crimes must not go unsolved or unpunished.
Only strengthened political will would reverse the declining trend of returnees, he said. There was also a need to improve responses by public institutions, particularly the police, in addressing the myriad challenges facing minority communities. As for important developments pertaining to organized crime and organ trafficking, he said that establishing the truth would motivate adherence to justice and the rule of law, in addition to contributing to a lasting political settlement. Describing the question of missing persons as a major obstacle to reconciliation, he encouraged UNMIK’s direct support for addressing that human rights matter, adding that the protection of religious and cultural heritage sites should also remain a priority for the Mission.
KODJO MENAN ( Togo) recalled that the last briefing on Kosovo had foreshadowed a “shaky future”, and while he was pleased with the “electoral calm”, that bright spot should nevertheless not create blind optimism. Despite progress to shore up achievements, much remained to be done to guarantee security for all Kosovo communities. Acts of violence had been recorded during the reporting period and freedom of movement had been undermined. The parties must act responsibility to enable the government to meet the population’s priority needs. Meanwhile, Togo remained concerned about the human rights situation and urged that everything be done to ensure that no crime was justified under the pretext of freedom of religion or belief.
Council President GÉRARD ARAUD (France), speaking in his national capacity, said the end of Kosovo’s supervised independence on 17 September was an opportunity that should not lead to a review of the legal controversies of the past, but to a peaceful, multi-ethnic Kosovo. While statements by the new Serbian authorities indicating their resolve to make rapid progress were encouraging, Pristina must also convince Kosovo Serbs that they and the ethnic Albanians shared a common interest, including in the north. In that context, Belgrade must be convinced to dismantle parallel structures, he stressed, adding that minority rights must be consolidated and good conditions guaranteed for returnees.
The desire for European integration should enable Kosovo and Serbia to turn the page on past conflict, he continued, adding that their future lay within the European Union. Dialogue between them had borne fruit, and the international community should focus its efforts on lending support for that exercise while ensuring compliance with existing agreements. EULEX would support a peaceful transition, the rule of law, and free movement in northern Kosovo, and had restructured its presence accordingly. It should be noted that an international presence was “not for an indefinite period” as the Kosovo institutions were becoming more mature.
Meanwhile, he said, the region should and could rise above violence and conflict, he said, pointing out that the situation on the ground was “headed in the right direction”. However, it remained fragile, and soldiers and other individuals deployed under EULEX and KFOR must be assured of free movement, he said, emphasizing that any impediment should be unambiguously condemned. The lack of an international consensus should not be a pretext for lack of action. Kosovo Serbs had been able to participate peacefully in elections, and both political authorities had been able to reach agreement, all of which showed that future accords were possible, even on an expedited basis, he concluded.
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* The 6821st Meeting was closed.