Secretary-General’s Representative Stresses Need for Strong Security Council Support amid New Phase of ‘Genuine Dialogue’ in Kosovo

27 November 2012
SC/10835

Secretary-General’s Representative Stresses Need for Strong Security Council Support amid New Phase of ‘Genuine Dialogue’ in Kosovo

27 November 2012
Security Council
SC/10835
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6872nd Meeting (PM)

Secretary-General’s Representative Stresses Need for Strong Security Council

Support amid New Phase of ‘Genuine Dialogue’ in Kosovo

 

Delegates Welcome Readiness to Talk while Highlighting Persisting Challenges

Strong Security Council support for a new phase of genuine dialogue in Kosovo was needed in order to ensure that both sides could firmly seize the opportunity to build a stable future, the top United Nations official there said today as he delivered a briefing on recent events.

“Doing so promises real hope, not only to begin to overcome long-standing problems, but also to achieve fundamental progress toward meeting the aspirations of the people for a more secure and more prosperous future,” said Farid Zarif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) via a video link from Pristina.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on developments occurring between July and October, Mr. Zarif provided a snapshot of the current situation, saying it showed signs of commitment on the part of both Belgrade and Pristina to move forward with European Union-mediated talks aimed at resolving their differences.  “Both parties showed that they are looking to the future rather than to the past,” he said.  “Given the complexity of the issues, which have continued to inhibit progress for both sides, it would be unreasonable to expect solutions to emerge easily,” he noted.  Nonetheless, the initiative to tackle the issues in a more forthright manner, and at a higher level of dialogue, was a development to which all Council members would provide concrete support.

However, challenges would inevitably face both parties, he cautioned, pointing to on-the-ground incidents and a fragile security situation in northern Kosovo.  Indeed, in the few weeks since the launch of talks, increased tension in sensitive areas had become a concern, he said, citing recent public reactions to court decisions involving high-profile war crimes defendants as an example of abiding sensitivity on matters of reconciliation and justice.  To prevent such incidents from escalating, close coordination should continue among UNMIK, the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Special Representative of Kosovo, he said.

Ivan Mrkić, Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, emphasized that reconciliation between Kosovo’s ethnic Serbs and Albanians would necessitate tough decisions on both sides.  Agreeing that dialogue was the only way to arrive at sustainable solutions, he said his country was determined to implement fully the arrangements reached thus far, and was open to discussions on all issues, except the dismantling of Serbia’s institutions in Kosovo and Metohija.

While reiterating his country’s commitment to reconciliation, he pointed to a number of troubling areas, including the lack of significant improvements on the ground concerning ethnic Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo, as well as recent overturning by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia of the conviction on war crimes charges of two Croatian generals.

Enver Hoxhaj of Kosovo reported “incredible progress” over the past three months, but emphasized that “the dialogue cannot continue endlessly”.  Most importantly, Serbia had a responsibility to stop misusing its security apparatus to keep the ethnic Serb community from integrating into Kosovar institutions, and to fulfil the conditions set by the European Council in 2011.

Acknowledging that the situation in three municipalities in the north remained tense and challenging, he called on Serbia to dismantle illegal structures there.  An integrated system of life was needed in that part of Kosovo, in accordance with the Martti Ahtisaari plan, which designated it as a multi-ethnic society, he said.

All speakers condemned the violence in northern Kosovo and called for continued dialogue to address outstanding issues.  Reflecting a unanimous sentiment, the Russian Federation’s representative said dialogue was the only way to resolve outstanding problems.

The representative of the United States called on all parties to ensure an end to attacks on international personnel, limitations on freedom of movement and opposition to construction for returnees.  She also called on all stakeholders to cooperate with investigations of violations, particularly those relating to organ trafficking.

India’s representative said in regard to pressing security issues, that UNMIK should continue to encourage the Kosovo authorities to ensure the security of ethnic Serbs and their religious heritage as it continued to exercise its full mandate, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

Also speaking today were representatives of Germany, Pakistan, France, Morocco, Colombia, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Togo, United Kingdom, China, South Africa and Guatemala.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 5:12 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2012/818).  Dated 8 November 2012, it provides updates on the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) between 16 July and 15 October 2012.

During the reporting period, the report says, encouraging signals emerged of commitment by the parties to engage peacefully with one another in resolving differences, including through technical discussions on the implementation of agreements.  Yet challenges and tensions remain in relations between Pristina and northern Kosovo.  Examples include a late July incident in which Kosovo Serbs blocked the official crossing at Gate 1 for several days to protest the presence of Kosovo police and customs officers.  In addition, there were reports from a municipality in the south concerning the burning of three private vehicles and the intimidation of staff working for the Mitrovica North administrative office.

On 7 September, the report continues, an armoured vehicle belonging to the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and a Kosovo police escort vehicle came under automatic gunfire on their way to the police station in Zubin Potok, resulting in the injury of an ethnic Serb female Kosovo police officer.  EULEX has partially suspended its mentoring and monitoring activities in Zubin Potok while pursuing further dialogue with the municipality.

There were encouraging efforts by leaders on both sides to soften the rhetoric and mistrust between communities north and south of the Ibër/Ibar River, according to the report.  UNMIK continued to monitor activities and exercise some responsibilities in the rule-of-law area.

The report also covers issues concerning returns and communities, cultural and religious heritage and human rights.  Annexed to the document is the report of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the Secretary-General on the activities of EULEX, including updates on ongoing war crimes cases, judgements and security.  Another annex contains a table and map outlining the composition and strength of UNMIK’s police and military liaison components.

Briefing

FARID ZARIF, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, said by video teleconference that, while the situation during the reporting period had been predominantly calm, the most significant developments had occurred over the last few weeks.  Recalling that he had underlined in his last briefing the urgent need for a renewed political process, he said he was pleased to report that new sessions of the European Union-mediated dialogue had recently resulted in strong signs of commitment by Belgrade and Pristina to move forward.

“In doing so, both parties showed that they are looking to the future rather than to the past,” he continued.  “Given the complexity of the issues, which have continued to inhibit progress for both sides, it would be unreasonable to expect solutions to emerge easily.”  Nonetheless, the initiative to tackle the issues more forthrightly, in a higher-level dialogue, was a development that all Council members would hopefully not simply commend, but to which they would also provide concrete support.  With that in mind, the international community should be well prepared to provide appropriate resources and political support to encourage and endorse sustainable agreements achieved through a genuine dialogue.

Yet, both parties would face challenges, he cautioned, recalling that in the few weeks since the launch of the talks, increased tension in sensitive areas had become a concern.  Referring to recent public reactions to court decisions involving high-profile war crimes defendants as an example of sensitivity on matters of reconciliation and justice, he said a united front among the international presences on the ground was essential to prevent such developments from generating further obstacles.  Indeed, there was “great unity” of purpose and commitment among the mandated international presences, he said, noting that UNMIK was fulfilling its mandate as part of a genuine team encompassing EULEX, the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Special Representative for Kosovo.  Close coordination had already helped to inhibit recent flare-ups, he added.

However, the situation in northern Kosovo remained fragile, and the Mission continued to place a priority on working with partners to maintain stability, he said.  EULEX continued to implement the reconfiguration of its structure as UNMIK continued to monitor the situation relating to minority communities, he said, expressing concern about recurring incidents of vandalism, theft and occasional violence against minority returnee communities and their property.  At the same time, he welcomed the renewed efforts by the Kosovo Police and other public institutions to engage affected communities and to tackle those problems.  He requested the Council’s active support for the new phase of European Union-mediated dialogue, and its encouragement to both Belgrade and Pristina to seize the opportunity now presented.  “Doing so promises real hope, not only to begin to overcome long-standing problems, but also to achieve fundamental progress towards meeting the aspirations of the people for a more secure and more prosperous future.”

Statements

IVAN MRKIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the Secretary-General’s report was factual for the most part, affirming that his country’s efforts were aimed at a peaceful resolution to the question of Kosovo and Metohija, as mandated in Council resolution 1244 (1999).  Serbia continued to oppose unilateral actions by any party, including Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, he emphasized, thanking the majority of Member States that had not recognized the self-proclaimed republic.  Dialogue was the only way to arrive at sustainable solutions, he added.

Recounting the last round of Belgrade/Pristina talks, held in Brussels, he said his country was determined to implement fully the arrangements reached thus far and remained open to discussions on all issues, except the dismantling of Serbia’s institutions in Kosovo and Metohija.  UNMIK should have an important role in complementing the dialogue, particularly by ensuring the effective exchange of information with the Security Council, which remained indispensable in securing the legitimacy of a comprehensive settlement.  The mandates of UNMIK and EULEX should remain unchanged, both should remain active on the ground in a status-neutral way under United Nations auspices, and there should be more cooperation between the two and KFOR.

Of particular significance was the continued financing of the United Nations administration in Mitrovica, he said, stressing that it must not be limited by lack of finances, and that UNMIK’s responsibilities must not be taken over through the creation of a parallel body based in Pristina.  The Mission was the only legitimate international presence in which people in northern Kosovo still had full confidence.  There had been no significant improvement on the ground, where the lives, property and religious heritage of ethnic Serbs and others of non-Albanian ethnicity continued to be threatened by ethnic Albanian separatists.  No major infrastructure facilities had been rebuilt, he added.

Emphasizing that reduced inter-ethnic violence was only due to the growing isolation of the Serb population, he said that, even so, more than 70 ethnically motivated attacks had occurred between July and October, and there had been more unexplained arrests of members of the ethnic Serb community.  Houses deserted by those of non-Albanian ethnicity continued to be forcefully seized and demolished, particularly in the historic parts of such towns as Pec and Djakovica.  The numbers of returning displaced persons continued to decrease, with a mere 285 counted in 2012 so far, he said, describing the privatization of enterprises in ethnic Serb communities as alarming.

Noting that technical changes in police escorts had further limited freedom of movement, particularly for Serbian officials, he said the renaming of Serbian cultural sites continued despite the recommendations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  Allegations of organ trafficking, contained in the report of the Council of Europe, must be effectively investigated in a professional and serious manner, bearing in mind information gathered by UNMIK on the destruction of evidence, he stressed.  Reiterating his country’s commitment to reconciliation, he noted, however, that the latest verdict by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, overturning the war crimes convictions of two imprisoned Croatian generals, had stunned not only Serbia, but many legal experts around the world.  A similar injustice must never happen again, he said, underlining also that reconciliation between ethnic Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo would necessitate tough decisions on both sides.

ENVER HOXHAJ of Kosovo said there had been “incredible progress” in Kosovo over the past three months, including the end of supervised independence.  That had been decided by all 25 members of the International Steering Group following the approval of constitutional amendments in September by Kosovo’s parliament, which had removed references to the Status Settlement.  The parliamentary decision showed that Kosovo was a functioning multi-ethnic independent State.  By exercising sovereignty, it had ended the international mandate, while remaining committed to working closely with international technical missions.  Now, however, the people of Kosovo remained the most important supervisors of independence, he emphasized.

Kosovo was committed to the rule of law, and cooperation between its institutions and EULEX had resulted in significant progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime, he said.  The parliament had ratified an agreement extending the mandate of EULEX for two more years, and Kosovo had maintained macro-financial stability in close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  Pensions had been increased, and the World Bank had, in that regard, ranked Kosovo 28 places higher for 2013 than it had done for 2012 in its “Doing Business” index, as a result of long-term reforms that had improved the business environment.  The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development had accepted Kosovo as a member, and international political recognition of Kosovo continued to accelerate, with more than 100 bilateral and multilateral agreements signed to date.  In addition, the European Commission had confirmed last month that Kosovo was ready to start official negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement.

Acknowledging that the situation in Kosovo’s three northern municipalities remained tense and challenging, he said Serbia was leading, controlling and financing illegal police and paramilitary units there.  That situation must be stopped, he emphasized, calling upon Serbia to dismantle “these illegal structures”, which were a grave threat to stability and to opposing the return of Kosovo Albanians to their homes.  “We condemn this provocation and we are determined to reconstruct the destroyed and burned houses,” he said, adding that an integrated system of life was needed in that part of Kosovo, in accordance with the Martti Ahtisaari plan.

Turning to the dialogue facilitated by the European Union, he stressed that its outcome must be in compliance with Kosovo’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, international personality and constitution.  There had been promising developments in the dialogue, with both sides deciding to start implementing all agreements reached in their Technical Dialogue.  Issues under discussion included border management, the establishment of liaison offices in Belgrade and Pristina, and transparency in Serbia’s funding of the ethnic Serb community in Kosovo.  On the latter, he demanded that Serbia change its present approach, saying it was closely related to the illegal structures in the northern municipalities.

He went on to describe progress in the protection of the Serbian religious and cultural heritage, also listing other topics under discussion between the two sides, but emphasized:  “The dialogue cannot continue endlessly.”  Most importantly, Serbia had a responsibility to stop misusing its security apparatus as a tool for keeping the ethnic Serb community from integrating into Kosovar institutions, and to fulfil the conditions set by the European Council in 2011.  Kosovo had no territorial claims against its neighbours, but it expected Serbia to reciprocate.  “The independence of Kosovo is a closed chapter as a geopolitical fact,” he said, emphasizing that he expected Serbia to refrain from a campaign against recognition of Kosovo, which was dedicated to building a future of peace and harmony with its neighbour.

MIGUEL BERGER ( Germany), describing the European Union-led dialogue as an essential step forward, he said its common goal must be the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, as both wished to join the regional bloc.  Dialogue must translate into concrete action on the ground, including implementation of border-management agreements.  However, the existence of Serbian State structures in Kosovo was a crucial issue that must be addressed, he said, describing it as a constant threat to stability.  Both sides should seriously consider proposed liaison arrangements that could facilitate future discussions.  Any solutions to those controversial issues must be fully understood by the populations of Serbia and Kosovo, a task that was the responsibility of both.  On security issues, he condemned the reported sporadic violence, while expressing support for the EULEX Task Force investigations and concurring that publishing confidential testimonies would jeopardize the lives and safety of witnesses.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said the full implementation of agreements on joint management of crossing points and other matters under discussion in the European Union-facilitated dialogue would help to build mutual trust and confidence, paving the way towards addressing outstanding issues.  While the security situation remained stable, tensions prevailed in the north, with the potential to undermine stability.  Dialogue should be the tool for addressing differences, he urged.  There was a need to address recurring incidents against minorities and returnees and to prosecute perpetrators, he stressed, adding that creating the conditions for the peaceful integration of minority communities and for sustainable returns was essential for building the foundation of long-term reconciliation.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said his country’s position on Kosovo’s declaration of independence remained unchanged.  The so-called International Steering Group, which bypassed the Security Council to implement decisions that the latter had not approved, was a mere political instrument.  The United Nations Mission must remain the main international presence in Kosovo, he emphasized, highlighting his country’s concerns about the reduction in the Mission’s funding.  Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade was the only viable way to settle their differences, he said.  As for security issues, there had been no decrease in inter-ethnic violence, he said, pointing out that the opening of new offices in Mitrovica had caused problems.

Concerning returnees, he cited reports about the pillaging of homes, the seizure of property and damage to cultural sites.  Recalling an exchange of fire on 19 November that had occurred after a controversy over housing for ethnic Serbs, he urged the Special Representative to provide updates on that and similar situations.  Oil had also been poured onto the fire with the recent ruling of the judgement against Fatmir Limaj, he said.  Pointing out that KFOR was acting on the basis of the Security Council’s mandate, he said any change in its functions and format must be approved by that organ.  He said Orthodox churches in Kosovo had been vandalized and clergy attacked, and urged the international presences there to look at the situation with resolution 1244 (1999) in mind.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France), welcoming the positive developments in Kosovo, said the establishment of the administrative offices in Mitrovica was a step forward.  Solutions must now be found to the question of Serbian infrastructure in the north.  Yet the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina confirmed the will of both sides to normalize relations, he said, encouraged by progress on integrated border management.  The security situation remained calm, despite a few incidents.  UNMIK must show neutrality in dealing with them, he said, stressing that it was crucial to safeguard human rights and guarantee the safety of returnees.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that, while positive signs had multiplied, differences must be dealt with, and dialogue must lead to progress on substantive issues.  At the same time, incidents of intolerance and ethnic violence must not be ignored, and EULEX should continue its investigations into alleged serious crimes.  All sides must bridge their differences, he emphasized, adding that UNMIK and EULEX remained important in that context and should carry out their mandates in line with resolution 1244 (1999).

NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Colombia) expressed his continuing concern over incidents in northern Kosovo despite other progress.  In order to reduce tensions, there was a need for the parties to make progress through dialogue, he said, affirming the value of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in that regard.  He commended initiatives by the High Commissioner of Human Rights and UN-Women in Kosovo, and condemned attacks against international organizations there.  Colombia supported the investigation into allegations of organ trafficking and hoped that all those who had committed illegal acts would be brought to justice.

JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal), while noting the positive signs, concurred that the situation in the north still required attention.  The parties should cooperate constructively in ensuring freedom of movement there, he said, condemning attempts to damage cultural and religious heritage, and stressing that it was incumbent on the authorities to ensure its protection.  The enormous task of creating secure conditions for the return of displaced persons remained, he said.  Given the critical importance of the rule of law, EULEX was to be commended on its investigations of the alleged crimes committed, he said.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said that his country’s position that resolution 1244 (1999) remained the basis for a comprehensive settlement was unchanged, emphasizing the continuing importance of UNMIK’s presence in that context, with an unchanged budget and mandate.  Azerbaijan encouraged the Mission to continue its activities to promote reconciliation and dialogue.  Expressing concern over security incidents in the north and the lack of increase in the number of returnees, he called for an end to impunity for violations, including religious intolerance.  The preservation of cultural diversity on the basis of tolerance was the key to a peaceful and prosperous future, he said, calling also for the truth regarding allegations of organ trafficking and other crimes.

KOKOU NAYO M’BEOU ( Togo), welcoming the resumption of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue, as well as the agreements reached, urged both parties to implement those accords and reach a decision on the permanent status of Kosovo.  Despite the prevailing stability, efforts must be made to reduce tensions in northern Kosovo, he said, expressing concern that ethnic Serb residents there still did not recognize the Kosovo authorities, which lead to violent incidents.  It was crucial that the international community bring Serbia and Kosovo together to end such tensions through the peaceful resolution of differences, he said, encouraging the Kosovo authorities to protect religious sites and commending UNMIK and the other international presences on their work.

MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) said progress had been achieved internally and on the international stage, including recognition of Kosovo by four more Member States.  Kosovo was now moving down the path of accession to the European Union, he said, wishing it well in its efforts.  Welcoming the European Union-mediated dialogue as a vital step, he said he was encouraged by the progress made on border-management issues.  However, the situation in northern Kosovo remained a concern, and Belgrade should remove its remaining infrastructure there, he said, adding that he was also concerned about reports of ethnic unrest and urging safe passage for returnees.  KFOR and EULEX were carefully carrying out their mandates, he said, condemning the recent attack on their vehicles and personnel.  The United Kingdom encouraged efforts to enhance community policing, as it was important that Kosovo undertake visible measures to prevent ethnic unrest, he said.

LI BAODONG ( China) said the calm situation was also fragile, given the situation in the north.  The parties must rely on dialogue to solve problems, and the question of Kosovo must be treated in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).  Welcoming the recent high-level talks, he expressed hope that both parties would bear in mind the well-being of their people and the need to preserve peace and stability in the Balkans and Europe at large.  Commending UNMIK’s work, he expressed support for its continuing efforts to implement its mandate, adding that he hoped KFOR would continue to play an active and constructive role.  Concerned about the alleged smuggling of organs, he said the perpetrators should be held accountable, with the Council ensuring a full investigation.

ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said while the situation remained stable, there were reports of incidents that could threaten stability in the region.  Resolution 1244 (1999) should form the basis for future efforts, he said, calling on both parties to work towards reconciliation.  Noting the positive developments during the reporting period, he said they should lead to agreement on outstanding issues.  While welcoming the signing of the Technical Protocol on the joint management of crossing points, he expressed concern, however, about the situation in the north.  Both sides should exercise restraint and prevent violence, he said.  South Africa was also concerned that the number of returnees remained lower than in previous years.  Urging cooperation to reconstruct church sites, he commended the commitment of both parties to the issue of missing persons, while calling for a fair and impartial investigation into allegations of organ trafficking.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said recent high-level meetings and positive activities to implement agreements were steps forward, but expressed concern about the situation in the north.  Both sides should exercise restraint in light of incidents cited in the Secretary-General’s report.  Expressing support for the Special Representative’s efforts, he said further attention was needed on minorities.  He asked how the Council could help UNMIK implement its mandate, pointing out that its strong presence was still necessary given the situation on the ground.

ROSEMARY DICARLO (United States), commending Kosovo and Serbia for their efforts to bridge their differences through dialogue and to progress on the path of European and Atlantic integration, expressed hope that such positive developments would continue and called for increased cooperation to address outstanding issues and implement agreements already reached.  Concerned about attacks on international personnel, limitations on freedom of movement and opposition to construction to house returnees, she called on all parties to ensure that such incidents ceased, and on all stakeholders to cooperate with investigations into violations, particularly those relating to organ trafficking.  The United States welcomed the end of supervised independence, she said, urging Kosovo to continue its efforts to strengthen its multi-ethnic democracy, and reiterating her country would stand by its side as it made the reforms necessary for progress to regional integration and beyond.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, welcoming the positive developments and expressing hope that the two sides would soon progress to substantive dialogue on the most contentious issues dividing them.  Security incidents must be urgently addressed, and UNMIK should continue to encourage the Kosovo authorities to ensure the security of ethnic Serbs and their religious heritage.  Turning to the trial on the issue of organ trafficking, he said it should take place in a fair and transparent manner and with support from UNMIK, which should continue to play its mandated role in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999).  The other international organizations should continue their cooperation with the Mission, in accordance with their own mandates, he added.

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