Serbia, Kosovo Leaders Must Show ‘Far-Sighted’ Commitment to Sustain Progress in Normalizing Relations, Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12129
19 November 2015
7563rd Meeting (PM)

Serbia, Kosovo Leaders Must Show ‘Far-Sighted’ Commitment to Sustain Progress in Normalizing Relations, Special Representative Tells Security Council

Leaders in Serbia and Kosovo must continue to show “far-sighted” commitment to overcome fresh political turbulence that threatened to set back recent hard-won agreements aimed at normalizing relations, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

“It is clear to me that strong leadership from both Pristina and Belgrade, and equally, cohesive actions among the international presences are required if progress is to be sustained,” Zahir Tanin said in his first address to the Council since assuming his post.

Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2015/833), Mr. Tanin, who is also the Head of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), said genuine progress had been achieved at the European Union-facilitated meeting in Brussels on 25 August, which had led to a package of agreements, including on the “general principles/main elements” of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities.

Describing the implementation of terms agreed upon, he said that on 17 October, work had begun on the revitalization of the Mitrovica bridge, while on 30 October, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga had submitted the agreement to the Constitutional Court, which issued a temporary suspension of implementation, pending its opinion within 60 days.  He urged all involved to ensure that the commitments agreed to were reviewed “in short order” and fulfilled on schedule.

The political challenges were serious, he said.  Violent tactics had impeded proceedings of Kosovo’s Assembly — the core of the democratic process — while clashes between opposition supporters and Kosovo police had damaged public and private property.  Although UNMIK would continue to work to reduce tensions, the onus was on political leaders to set a tone that advanced reconciliation.  The protection and preservation of cultural and religious heritage should remain the topic of intensive communication between Belgrade and Pristina, including through the Brussels dialogue.

Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the decision by the Constitutional Court of Kosovo to suspend the accord on the establishment of the Community of Serb-majority municipalities had flouted the agreements reached in facilitated dialogue.  Further, its announcement had been made immediately after Kosovo’s 27 October signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.  Pristina did not respect agreements and did not intend to improve the lives of Serbs in the province.

Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo said her country was an independent State, recognized by a majority of the free nations of the world.  The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union had made clear that its European future was irreversible and unstoppable.  Changing the nature and format of its relationship with the United Nations was long overdue.  From this point on, Kosovo would be represented in the Council at the ambassadorial level.  “Kosovo is free and independent, and we will never negotiate our right to exist as an equal member of the family of the free world,” she emphasized.

In the ensuing debate, many speakers welcomed the continued progress in the European Union-facilitated dialogue and the agreements reached between Belgrade and Pristina, with some calling the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities an essential step towards improving the lives of Kosovo’s population.  Several emphasized that the time had come for those agreements to be implemented.

In that context, the representative of the Russian Federation pointed out dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had been “bogged down” by Kosovo’s halting of the agreement on the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities achieved in August.  Puzzled by the lack of reaction in Brussels, he said it was difficult to reconcile the European Union’s respect for Kosovo’s Constitution with its disregard of Serbian law.  Resolution 1244 (1999) was fully in force as the international legal basis for a legal settlement in Kosovo.

Other speakers welcomed moves to establish a special court outside of Kosovo to handle war crimes, with Malaysia’s representative noting that it reflected leaders’ political will to ensure accountability, and France’s representative stressing that it should be quickly put in place.  Nigeria’s representative called it a positive development in the administration of justice.

The United States’ representative praised Belgrade and Pristina for reaching agreements on energy, telecommunications and freedom of movement on the Mitrovica bridge.  He urged Kosovo to address the concerning situation in its Parliament and not to tolerate any criminal activities within its democratic institutions.  He also asked the Council to extend the reporting period for UNMIK to every six months.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Chile, Spain, Lithuania, New Zealand, China, Venezuela, Jordan, Chad, Angola and the United Kingdom

The representatives of Serbia and Kosovo addressed the Council a second time.

The meeting began at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 5:17 p.m.

Briefing

Addressing the Council for the first time since his appointment, ZAHIR TANIN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said he arrived to his post amid renewed political turbulence in Kosovo.  Developments over the last week had produced additional potential setbacks in the implementation of the European Union-led Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.  “Strong leadership from both Pristina and Belgrade, and equally, cohesive actions among international presences are required if progress is to be sustained,” he said.

Headway had been made at the European Union-facilitated meeting in Brussels on 25 August, he said, which had led to a package of agreements, including on the “general principles/main elements” of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities.  While he had seen leaders’ resolve to overcome some of the most difficult issues affecting mutual relations, gains made were facing various challenges that would affect the agreements’ implementation. 

Describing recent progress, he said that on 17 October, work had begun on the revitalization of the Mitrovica bridge, and on 30 October, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga had submitted the agreement to the Constitutional Court.  Subsequently, the Court issued a temporary suspension of implementation, pending issuance of its opinion within 60 days.  Kosovo had taken a major step forward on 27 October with the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, which had not only demonstrated its commitment to the European path, but equally, the European commitment to Kosovo. 

At the same time, the political challenges were serious, he said.  Violent tactics and disruptive behavior had impeded proceedings of the Assembly of Kosovo — the core of the democratic process — while clashes between opposition supporters and Kosovo police had damaged public and private property.  Deploring those actions, he stressed that debate belonged in Kosovo’s democratically elected Assembly; force and intimidation did not.  Anyone who resorted to violence must be held to account.  While UNMIK would continue to work to reduce tensions, the onus was on political leaders to set a tone that advanced reconciliation.

Regarding Kosovo’s application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he said diplomatic struggles had blurred the underlying issues.  The protection and preservation of cultural and religious heritage should remain the topic of intensive communication between Belgrade and Pristina, including through the Brussels dialogue.  Reconciliation also required further efforts to determine the fate of missing persons, with more than 1,600 persons still unaccounted for.  The number of displaced persons returning to Kosovo in 2015 would be the lowest since 2000, he added, noting that no more than 427 individuals had returned as of October.  He called on all stakeholders to increase resources in that regard.

More broadly, he said, the region’s stability was being tested by the influx of refugees and migrants transiting through the Western Balkans in unprecedented numbers.  There had been more than 650,000 arrivals in Greece by sea since the start of the year, and more than 210,000 people had been recorded in October alone.  UNMIK was monitoring the situation, in close coordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Finally, he said, Kosovo’s recent adoption of a strategy to prevent violent extremism and radicalization was an important step.  UNMIK would continue to facilitate the work of Kosovo’s institutions in that regard, within its mandate and in cooperation with its international partners.  “Above all,” he said, “these risks demand improved information-sharing and cooperation among all regional actors and their agencies.”

Statements

IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the role of UNMIK in the process of coordinating the activities of the international presences and stabilizing the situation in Kosovo and Metohija was irreplaceable.  In view of the overall political and security situation, as well as the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, UNMIK must remain actively engaged, undiminished in scope and unchanged in mandate.  Belgrade had been motivated to conclude the Brussels Agreement by the lack of substantial progress in the realization of basic human rights of the members of the Serbian and other non-Albanian communities. 

The establishment of the Community of Serb-majority municipalities would articulate the interests of the Serbian population, he continued.  The decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo to suspend the agreement on the establishment of that institutions flouted agreements reached in the facilitated dialogue.  The announcement was made immediately after the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union.  The message sent by Pristina was clear: it did not respect agreements and did not intend to make the life of the Serbs in the Province any better.

He said he regretted to note that Kosovo and Metohija continued to be devoid of the basic conditions for an unhindered and sustainable return of internally displaced persons; Serbia continued to top the list of European countries by the number of those persons.  Any support that Serbia might render to potential returnees would be insufficient if not attended to by the proper engagement of the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Pristina. 

He called on the United Nations to see to it that problems impeding the returns of internally displaced persons be overcome, as such people faced repeated security incidents, including attacks on their property and a climate of impunity for crimes committed against Serbs.  As there might be a false impression that the situation of human rights of the members of the Serbian and other non-Albanian communities south of the Ibar River was satisfactory, he asked that an extensive review of the situation of those people be included in the next report.

He also called on the international community to step up its engagement in the physical and legal protection of monuments of Serbian religious and cultural heritage, as attacks on those monuments had never ceased.  The talks on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the status and protection of the Serbian cultural heritage within the Brussels Agreement had yet to follow.  Underscoring that Serbia was firmly committed to dialogue with the representatives of Pristina, he noted that the dialogue was one of the rare successful examples of a pacific solution of conflicts.

Serbia had demonstrated in the dialogue its constructiveness and readiness to compromise, he went on to say.  His country had contributed to having complex issues, such as legislation, energy and telecommunications, resolved in a mutually acceptable manner.  He expected the international community to continue to provide assistance on the road of confidence building.  Unilateral attempts such as the request for Kosovo’s admission to UNESCO were steps in the wrong direction and testified to the flouting of reached agreements.  Dialogue as a way of solving all outstanding issues had not, and must not have, an alternative.

VLORA ÇITAKU of Kosovo, reflecting on the events over the last 16 years, said that today, Kosovo was an independent State, recognized by a majority of the free nations of the world.  The young State had gone through great lengths to accommodate its minority communities.  “While political debate back home sometimes might be fierce, let no one have any doubts about our collective aspirations and commitment to Euro-Atlantic values and ideals,” she said.  The signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union in October was a clear act that Kosovo’s European future was irreversible and unstoppable.

As well, the time was long overdue to change the nature and the format of the relationship between Kosovo and the United Nations in general, and the format of the debate in the Council in particular, she said.  Kosovo would, from this point on, be represented in the Chamber at the level of ambassador.  There was also no need to meet every three months to repeat the same old positions.  The Council was being misused by Kosovo’s northern neighbour with desperate attempts to project a picture that did not match reality — that of Kosovo’s independence being temporary and unfinished business.  “Now, let me be very clear.  Kosovo is free and independent, and we will never negotiate our right to exist as an equal member of the family of the free world,’ she emphasized.

She said that while Kosovo had waged a positive and moderate campaign to join UNESCO, it was faced with a “very brutal, dishonest, factually incorrect and ultimately a racist campaign” against it from Serbia, in direct violation of the spirit of dialogue.  The Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and its protection and preservation was a constitutional category, as foreseen within the Ahtisaari Plan [Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement], and that subject would no longer be opened and would not be a topic for discussion in the Brussels dialogue.  Kosovo would also not ask for Serbia’s permission or consent to join international organizations.  She assured the Council that Kosovo would continue to be pro-active and committed to the inter-State dialogue in Brussels.  “But we also need to be honest and speak in earnest on what the normalization of relations with Serbia means,” she said.  There was no room for ambiguity.

Yesterday, Kosovo’s Minister of Finance had not been able to visit customs offices in the northern part of Kosovo, despite the agreement that Serbia would dismantle its parallel structures, she continued.  There was a bridge in Kosovo that did not serve to connect people, but to divide, despite the agreement for freedom of movement.  That dualism must end.  There were a lot of questions from the Kosovo people and political parties on the value of the dialogue. The best and only way to prove the sceptics wrong was to implement what had been agreed upon in Brussels.

The decision of the President to address the issue of the association of the Serbian municipalities at the Constitutional Court would give clarity, she said.  The Court should be allowed to do its job and evaluate the conditionality of the agreement, as foreseen in the agreement itself.  Kosovo’s Parliament had adopted constitutional amendments for the establishment of the special court and Kosovo was in the final stage of negotiations with the Netherlands for opening the Special Chamber of Kosovo in The Hague.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) welcomed the Special Representative’s drive to pursue stability in Kosovo, in line with resolution 1244 (1999), the fundamental document for settlement of that issue.  In the Special Representative’s statement, rhetoric had prevailed over facts, he said, recalling that representatives from the region had addressed the Council in a personal capacity.  Emphasizing that UNMIK must enjoy all necessary financial and personnel resources, he noted that dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had been “bogged down” due to Kosovo’s halting of an agreement on the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities achieved in August.  Describing the lack of reaction in Brussels “puzzling”, he cautioned that such an approach could sabotage other agreements.  The European Union studied Serb legislation “with a magnifying glass” and it was difficult to reconcile the bloc’s respect for Kosovo’s constitution with its disregard of Serbian law, he said.

He went on to point out that the decision to halt the agreement on the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities had been taken after UNESCO had turned down Kosovo’s request for membership, meaning that the “halt” had been an act of revenge against Serbians.  Expressing concern about the chaotic political situation, he said socioeconomic problems remained unaddressed and internal political disagreement was spilling into the streets, with protesters using Molotov cocktails against police in Pristina.  The Russian Federation was also concerned about attempts to seize land belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, he added.  Stressing the necessity to punish the guilty in order to restore mutual trust, he said that was an issue that UNMIK must monitor.  Expressing his delegation’s concern over the absence of results in investigating an incursion by fighters from Kosovo into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia earlier in 2015, he said the Russian Federation’s position on Kosovo remained unchanged, underlining that resolution 1244 (1999) was fully in force as the international legal basis for a legal settlement in Kosovo.

PHILIPPE BERTOUX (France) said his delegation would follow up in January with the Constitutional Court’s reporting on the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, an essential mechanism that would allow Serbs to embrace their citizenship as Kosovars.  Its creation would not call into question Kosovo’s unitary status.  He called upon all political actors to refrain from violence, noting that parliament had adopted constitutional amendments for special chambers to follow up on war crimes, which must be put in place quickly.  Commending Kosovo’s efforts to fight violent extremism, he welcomed the 27 October signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, describing it as an economic, commercial and political lever that must be implemented.  Serbia, for its part, had made significant strides in its efforts for rapprochement with the European Union, he said, encouraging Belgrade’s full implementation of agreements reached with Pristina.  France reiterated its desire to see Kosovo integrated into the European Union when the relevant conditions were met, he added.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) welcomed the progress made on the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities, a key element in the agreement governing the normalization of relations.  Expressing concern over attacks against political leaders in Kosovo, he called for an end to divisive rhetoric, emphasizing that it was imperative to deepen conditions for coexistence and prevent actions that divided communities.  Describing Kosovo’s 16 September strategy for the prevention of violent extremism an important step, he noted that an effective strategy required the recognition of contributing factors.  He highlighted the importance of addressing socioeconomic factors in that regard, as well as UNMIK’s coordination with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in addressing issues relating to the financing of terrorism.  Emphasizing that knowing the whereabouts of the 1,600 people who had disappeared during the Kosovo conflict must be a priority, he urged Pristina to strengthen the relevant working group, declaring:  “This is fundamental to heal the wounds of war.”  Resolution 1244 (1999) was in full force as the internationally accepted legal basis for settling the situation in Kosovo, including respect for sovereignty, he said.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia), welcoming the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, said she hoped it would bring stability and prosperity to the people of Kosovo.  She also welcomed the agreements between Serbia and Kosovo as well as the agreement on the delineation of borders with Montenegro.  However, noting her concern regarding the protests against those agreements, she called for dialogue instead of violence.  The Assembly had adopted constitutional amendments and legislation enabling the establishment of the special court which reflected the political will by leaders to ensure accountability.  She also applauded the adoption in September of the five-year strategy for the prevention of extremism.  As for Kosovo’s application to UNESCO, which her country supported, she said she was encouraged by the overwhelming support.  Despite that setback, she urged Kosovo to preserve and protect cultural and heritage sites.  There was a need for all parties to intensify efforts for reconciliation between all communities and to respect human rights.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) said he was concerned at the atmosphere in Kosovo that had deteriorated over the year, including the resorting to rhetoric of hatred and violence, and the unjustifiable lack of implementation of agreements achieved.  He was also concerned at the untimely return of unilateralism and the deterioration of the security situation in Kosovo as a result of violent protests and incidents in non-majority communities.  He called for a return to high-level dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and a return to good faith and implementation of commitments undertaken.  The agreement to establish the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities and the cases investigated by the Special Investigative Task Force had been important steps in the right direction.  However, impeding or weakening compliance with the agreements were steps backwards and were to the detriment of the interest of the people in Kosovo.  Spain had supported all efforts geared towards obtaining concrete results, such as the Brussels dialogue, he said, adding that he hoped all actors would demonstrate a constructive spirit to continue dialogue and act in respect for the rule of law.

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria) urged both sides to use “crucial” bilateral platforms, such as the framework on the principles governing the normalization of relations, to resolve outstanding issues.  Calling the special court a positive development in administration of justice, he said efforts should be made to support its quest for justice and accountability.  He voiced concern at violence by groups in Serb-dominated territories and urged all concerned to express disagreement in an orderly, constructive and democratic manner.  Kosovo’s strategy to prevent violent extremism was an important first step, with some of its provisions central to addressing the potential threat of foreign terrorist fighters.  Reconciliation was critical for strengthening cohesion, and UNMIK’s confidence-building projects to facilitate dialogue between faiths and cultures had yielded positive results. Expressing concern that the lack of a chair in the Pristina delegation to the Belgrade-Pristina Working Group on Missing Persons was hampering work, he said UNMIK’s role was vital to promotion of stability and security.

DAINIUS BAUBLYS (Lithuania) said Kosovo today was a more prosperous place.  Its signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement was an opportunity for it to access new markets and increase trade and investment.  It was up to Kosovo authorities to make full use of that instrument.  His Government had consistently supported Kosovo’s path towards the European Union and welcomed steps by both sides towards the normalization of relations.  The European Union-facilitated dialogue had brought about agreements on energy, telecoms and the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities.  The time had come to implement the agreements.  He urged Serbia and Kosovo to advance the normalization of relations, noting that Kosovo’s leaders had shown their ability to unite in enabling the special court to try cases brought by the Special Investigative Task Force.  More efforts to pursue an inclusive political dialogue and culture of compromise were essential.  He encouraged Kosovo to do more to foster interfaith and inter-ethnic dialogue.

CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said the conclusion of several agreements between Serbia and Kosovo demonstrated the importance of the European Union-facilitated dialogue in normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina.  She expressed hope that both sides would seize all opportunities to implement what had been agreed.  While disagreement and vigorous debate were part of a healthy democracy, efforts by some political actors to physically disrupt the workings of the Kosovo Assembly were of concern.  She urged all political actors in Kosovo to refrain from such actions and to fully respect democratic principles.  Noting that much remained to be done to fully establish a special court that would address serious allegations arising from the Special Investigative Task Force, she called on all stakeholders to move expeditiously in order to complete that process.  She also urged the Government of Kosovo to implement its agreed action plan for the prevention of violent extremism and radicalization, underscoring the critical importance of addressing such a serious threat before it took hold.

LIU JIEYI (China) expressed his delegation’s respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, emphasizing that Council resolution 1244 (1999) was the legal basis for the solution to the question of Kosovo, which should be established through dialogue and negotiation.  Expressing appreciation of Serbia’s efforts in seeking a solution, he noted that positive results had been achieved in the Brussels dialogue and urged that it continue.  Although the security situation in Kosovo was stable, there were still factors of uncertainty, he said.  All communities in Kosovo should be protected, but they must refrain from actions that might lead to escalation.  China appreciated UNMIK’s work within the continuing mandate given by the Council, and hoped for strengthened coordination among the international presences in Kosovo.

HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said resolution 1244 (1299) remained in effect and was the international legal basis for a solution to the question of Kosovo, bearing in mind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.  Emphasizing the importance of establishing the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities in north Kosovo, he said true national reconciliation should be achieved through respect for human rights and prevention of discrimination against minorities.  Venezuela was concerned about the low numbers of returns.  Calling for protection of cultural and religious heritage, he expressed concern over incidents against non-majority communities.  He welcomed measures taken to establish a special tribunal charged with investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying the application of justice would help promote reconciliation.  Kosovo had taken action against extremism and the recruitment of people for terrorism, he said, stressing that the conditions providing grounds for recruitment, including poverty and interventionism, should also be addressed.

EIHAB OMAISH (Jordan) said there had been concrete successes on the ground, which showed that Kosovars were able to establish a modern, prosperous State.  Welcoming the plan to combat extremism as well as Kosovo’s commitment to cultural and religious diversity, he said all those who had harmed cultural and religious sites must be brought to justice.  He called for progress on the issue of disappeared and internally displaced persons, emphasizing the importance of the activities of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in helping Kosovo to strengthen the rule of law.  He welcomed efforts to forge a relationship of good neighbourliness among States in the region on the basis of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference.  Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia must continue until full normalization of relations was realized, he said, adding that the current momentum should be preserved by implementing agreements already reached.  Jordan supported Kosovo’s efforts to expand international recognition and to join international organizations, including United Nations agencies, he said, urging the international community to support those efforts.  Jordan called upon the Council to ensure that the Secretary-General’s report was represented every six months instead of the current three months because the situation in Kosovo was stabilizing.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States) commended efforts to normalize Belgrade-Pristina relations through the European Union-led dialogue, as well as Kosovo’s strengthening of institutions and signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  Kosovo police had facilitated visits by displaced Kosovo Serbs to pay respects to family members, requiring no interventions by EULEX or the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR), he noted.  Praising Serbia and Kosovo for having reached agreements on energy, telecommunications and freedom of movement on the Mitrovica bridge, he said those accords must be implemented.  He also welcomed the 13-14 November conference held in Pristina by the Chambers of Commerce of both sides, where they had discussed construction opportunities.

Work still to be done included implementation of the strategy for countering violent extremism, as well as the pursuit of an e-procurement law and amendments to ensure the suspension of criminal political appointees, he continued.  The United States urged Kosovo to address the concerning situation in its parliament and not to tolerate any criminal activities within its democratic institutions.  The Kosovo Assembly’s approval to set up a special court outside Kosovo was a critical step, and it must finalize a host State agreement with the Netherlands.  He commended Kosovo for having conducted a dignified campaign for membership in UNESCO, stressing that the United States would support its international integration and recognition.  He asked the Council to extend the reporting period for UNMIK to every six months.

GOMBO TCHOULI (Chad) welcomed progress in the European Union-facilitated dialogue and other agreements reached on 25 August, especially the general principles to establish the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities.  Normalization of relations and the establishment of those municipalities was a historic step on the path towards further implementation of those accords.  Chad welcomed the constitutional amendment to set up a special tribunal, and called upon all stakeholders to finalize steps for its establishment.  Condemning violence and intimidation by opposition parties with the aim of hampering the Assembly, he also condemned attacks against the Prime Minister and other officials.  Calling upon all to refrain from rhetoric and acts that were not in compliance with democratic norms, he urged leaders to respect all points on the issue of cultural and religious heritage, and to refrain from rights violations.  Chad encouraged Pristina to appoint a head of delegation for the Working Group on Missing Persons.

JULIO HELDER MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said resolution 1244 (1999) was the applicable legal framework for a settlement of the Kosovo situation.  UNMIK played a fundamental role in promoting security, stability and respect for human rights, as well as in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  The situation in Kosovo was generally stable, despite recent illegitimate pressure in the Kosovo Assembly.  He welcomed the European Union-facilitated dialogue, including the conclusion of agreements on energy and telecommunications, the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities, and the freedom of movement in Mitrovica.  Concerned about the contention surrounding the Association/Community, he disapproved of violence by some Kosovo opposition parties over its creation and urged both full integration for and full accordance of citizenship rights to Serbs in the area.  Noting the implementation of the agreement on integration of the judiciary, he expressed hope that the UNMIK advisory panel on human rights violations would close outstanding cases by year’s end.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that despite their bid to join UNESCO falling through, he welcomed Kosovo’s strong commitment to respect the Serbian cultural heritage.  While concerns about attacks against minorities and their heritage were understandable, he stressed that such attacks were not ethnic but criminal in nature.  Kosovo must do more, however, to establish social coherence, something that required political leadership and courage.  That leadership had been shown in the acceptance of constitutional amendments of the establishment of the special courts.  Political leadership had also been shown by Serbia in the identification process of missing persons.  Sadly, more progress must be made in identifying missing persons in Kosovo.

Noting that four agreements vital for the well-being for Kosovo’s people had been reached in the Brussels dialogue, he called on both sides to make the difficult decisions towards implementing them.  Concerned about recent incidents in which even individual members of the Government had been assaulted, he voiced his objection to the use of violence to achieve political ends.  In addition, the frequency of the Council’s sessions on Kosovo should be reduced as the reality on the ground did not warrant it.  It was time to conclude that it was Europe and not the Council that would bring momentum to progress on the issue.

Taking the floor a second time, Mr. DAČIĆ (Serbia) said that, although the debate had been constructive, he had not noted such constructiveness in Pristina’s statement.  Rather it had displayed aggressiveness towards Serbia, among other things, by characterizing Serbia’s efforts as humiliating and racist.  The representative of Kosovo was not an ambassador to the United Nations and Kosovo was not a member of the Organization.  He asked countries that had unilaterally recognized Kosovo to realize that if an act of secession was recognized once, the same could be expected in other countries.  He also requested that Serbia not be insulted.  A decision on the independence of Kosovo would not be reached here.  The Council had reached a decision through resolution 1244 (1999). 

It was racist, he continued, that so many monasteries had been destroyed and damaged.  He had not spoken against Kosovo, but just had noted that the topic of cultural and religious heritage had not been discussed in the Brussels dialogue. The Stabilization and Settlement Agreement was not signed by Kosovo as a State but as a territory.  Although Kosovo might be an independent country in European eyes,that was not the case in the United Nations.  He asked where the returnees were in Kosovo and how tear gas had become the political means in the Kosovo’s Assembly.   Serbia was open for dialogue.  However, dialogue should not be abused; one should be careful in the choice of words.

Ms. ÇITAKU of Kosovo, also taking the floor a second time, said Kosovo was a free, sovereign and independent country.  That would never change.  To Mr. DAČIĆ, she said:  “The sooner you realize that, the better it will be for you.”  She called on Serbia to accept the reality, to accept the facts and to read the opinion of the International Court of Justice.  “After all, it was Serbia that asked for that opinion,” she said.  The war in Kosovo had happened in the twenty-first century in the eyes of the Chamber and the eyes of the world.  No court or fabricated facts could rewrite history.

Kosovo had always cooperated with international justice and it would do so in the future, she went on to say.  Its agreement with the Netherlands was in the pipeline and she voiced hope that the court would be established as soon as possible.  “We will not ask your permission to exercise our right,” she said.  As for her status, she was the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo.  The head of the mission would soon arrive.  While she understood Kosovo was not a United Nations Member, she stated:  “Just because you don’t treat us as such, does not mean we will not act as such.”

For information media. Not an official record.