Rising Tensions Shrink Space for Dialogue between Serbia, Kosovo, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

SC/12735
27 February 2017
7891st Meeting (AM)

Rising Tensions Shrink Space for Dialogue between Serbia, Kosovo, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tells Security Council

Heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo had reduced the space for political dialogue, a process that was as fragile as it was essential, the senior United Nations official in the Balkans region told the Security Council today.

Pressing authorities in Belgrade and Pristina to maintain their commitment to implementing agreements already reached, Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said each side had different perceptions of the reduced quality of communications between them.  While Pristina viewed Belgrade’s actions as calculated to undermine Kosovo’s outreach to northern Serb-majority municipalities, Belgrade perceived those of Pristina as attempts to side-step processes based in the dialogue facilitated by the European Union.

“Any tension or potential crisis between Belgrade and Pristina cannot be seen in isolation from the challenges that the region already faces,” he said, emphasizing that the threat of violent extremism and terrorism remained real.  There was need for good-neighbourly relations, dedication to a common future within a unified European space, and a commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

He said UNMIK had brought a newly calibrated focus to its work, providing support where it was most suited and ensuring that parties, the European Union-centred political processes and international partners all benefited from partnership on the ground.  “I hope this Council will help to hold leaders to their words,” he asserted.

For its own part, Serbia was committed to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue and within a status-neutral framework, President Tomislav Nikolić told the Council.  However, the possible formation of the Kosovo Security Force into the “Kosovo Armed Forces” would be in violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that it would threaten efforts to stabilize Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the wider western Balkans region.  Serbia’s efforts for compromise had not been reciprocated, which often stalled implementation of its commitments, he said.

Almost four years had elapsed since the signing of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations, a key segment of which dealt with the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, he noted.  Demanding that Kosovo honour its own commitments in that regard, and that the international community offer a powerful voice on the matter, he said the Association/Community had been created as a precondition for the survival of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.  However, Serbia would never recognize Kosovo, he stressed, calling upon like-minded States to resist the “shameless pressures of the mighty and powerful”.

Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo noted that Kosovars had celebrated their ninth anniversary of independence 10 days ago, adding that they had persevered through years of discrimination, exclusion, mass killings, rape and deportation.  Today, Kosovo was a free, independent and sovereign State, recognized by an overwhelming majority of free nations, she said.  Serbia’s refusal to accept that reality only kept it hostage to its own neocolonial past.

She went on to say that Kosovars faced one-sided provocations by Serbia on a daily basis, she said, citing a January incident in which a train from Serbia had arrived covered in slogans saying “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 different languages.  Kosovo’s institutions had gone to great lengths to accommodate the needs of ethnic Serbs living in the area, through legislative and constitutional measures to guarantee their rights.  It would implement all agreements reached in Brussels, but would not allow Serbia to hold it back, she emphasized.  “We want peace, dialogue and reconciliation, but never, never submission,” she insisted.  The time had come to move on, she added, describing the expenditure of millions to maintain UNMIK, which no longer had a function or a purpose, as unjustified spending of United Nations resources.

Some speakers in the ensuing dialogue agreed, with the representative of the United States saying UNMIK was over-resourced and overstaffed.  Rather than drawing down, the Mission was installing permanent solar panels on its rental building, he noted.  Urging the Mission to return unspent resources to Headquarters, he said it was time to downsize its structure, size and tasks.

In similar vein, the United Kingdom’s representative said the Council should stop holding incendiary briefings marked by lengthy and unproductive statements.  Efficiencies should be found within UNMIK and the Secretariat should offer proposals for restructuring the Mission.

Japan’s representative suggested that a meeting and report on Kosovo every six months was sufficient, because the risk and intensity of the violence there were considerably less than in other regions.

Others took a different view, with the Russian Federation’s representative emphasizing that there were no grounds for reducing the United Nations presence or the frequency of Security Council consideration of the issue.  He warned that any presence of “Kosovo Armed Forces” in areas under the United Nations mandate would be in contravention of resolution 1244 (1999).

More broadly, speakers called upon both sides to set aside political ambitions in a spirit of restraint and responsibility, emphasizing that normalizing relations would be crucial for creating stability in the Balkans.

Also speaking today were representatives of Uruguay, Italy, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Egypt, France, Ethiopia, Sweden, Senegal, China and Ukraine.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.

Briefing

ZAHIR TANIN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said recent months had been characterized by inconsistent progress and heightened tensions between Serbia and Kosovo, as had been seen in reactions and counter-reactions accompanied by threatening rhetoric.  Events and political posturing had reduced the space for progress within the top-level political dialogue, a process that remained as fragile as it was essential.  In recent discussions in Pristina and Belgrade, each side had expressed differing perceptions of the reasons behind the reduced quality of communications, he noted.  While Pristina leaders perceived various actions and words on Belgrade’s part as calculated to undermine its outreach towards northern Serb-majority municipalities, Belgrade leaders viewed Pristina’s actions as attempts to side-step processes based in the dialogue facilitated by the European Union.

He said that a number of events outlined in the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2017/95/Rev.1), had combined to push the situation close to renewed instability.   At the start of February, leaders from Belgrade and Pristina had met at the highest political level in Brussels, under the auspices of the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, he said, describing that as an essential step towards charting a path out of the deteriorating situation.  Days later, the Mayor of North Mitrovica and Kosovo’s Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning had signed an agreement to remove a wall built as part of a plan to redevelop the northern ends of the Mitrovica bridge.  The wall had been removed without incident on 5 February, he recalled, adding that construction had begun on a newly agreed park space plan.  Most recently, Pristina had renewed calls for the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into the “Kosovo Armed Forces”, he noted.

In the short term, recent stresses had affected trust and confidence between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians, he continued, but with the resumption of the top-level dialogue, there were signs that they were being rebuilt.  Discussing implementation of the future Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, he said they would help Kosovo Serbs re-engage with Government activities from which they had removed themselves over the past three months.  “There is no alternative to dialogue,” he emphasized cautioning that one-sided approaches aimed at resolving issues affecting both sides were more likely to lead to confrontation than positive results.  International prescriptions opposing confrontation and favouring dialogue, and prioritizing improvements in peoples’ lives over limited calculations remained categorical imperatives, he stressed.  “I hope this Council will help to hold leaders to their words.”

Kosovo’s institutions faced daunting challenges, he said, citing persisting political infighting and acrimonious disputes between the government and opposition.  Dissent was also visible among the governing parties.  Major stakeholders felt pressure to position themselves for election cycles, too often at the expense of energy that could be devoted to governance.  Success in normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina would be linked to long-term reconciliation among Kosovo’s various communities, he emphasized, adding that efforts to establish a truth and reconciliation commission should be lauded and supported as part of the greater whole that also included the European Union-facilitated dialogue and efforts to provide for victims of the conflict in Kosovo.

He went on to call for efforts to address unemployment, make progress in restoring the rule of law and fighting corruption, underlining the fact that the threat of violent extremism and terrorism remained real in Kosovo and the wider region.  Through the five-year plan coordinated by the office of the Prime Minister, the Kosovo authorities were focused on a holistic approach to the issue.  “Any tension or potential crisis between Belgrade and Pristina cannot be seen in isolation from the challenges that the region already faces,” he said.  There was need for good relations, dedication to a common future within a unified European space, commitment to human rights and the rule of law, and an ability to resolve disputes through peaceful dialogue.  UNMIK, for its part, had brought a newly calibrated focus to its work, providing support where it was most suited and ensuring that the parties concerned, as well as European Union-centred political processes and international partners all benefited from partnership on the ground.

Statements

TOMISLAV NIKOLIĆ, President of Serbia, emphasized the importance of convening regular quarterly Council meetings on the question of Kosovo, agreeing that UNMIK should be appropriately resourced to address current and emerging challenges, including the threat of violent extremism.  Serbia was committed to resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue and within a status-neutral framework, he said.  Concerning statements about the possible formation of a Kosovo national army, that would be a gross violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999) and a threat to the efforts invested in stabilizing Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the rest of the western Balkans, he stressed, noting that Serbia’s own proposals, submitted within the dialogue framework, had always been constructive and realistic.  However, its efforts at compromise had not been reciprocated by the other side, which often stalled implementation of its commitments, he said.

More than 200,000 internally displaced persons continued to live in central Serbia, without any hope for returning home, he continued, pointing out that all of Belgrade’s commitments to dialogue on that issue continued to be undercut by violations of agreements and aggressive actions by the Pristina authorities aimed at provoking conflict.  Serbia was also concerned about the dispatch — without the mandatory agreement of the local Serb community’s — of ethnically pure special police units armed with offensive weapons to the north of Kosovo and Metohija, an area populated largely by ethnic Serbs.  Almost four years had elapsed, he noted, since the signing of the First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations — a key segment of which concerned establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities — and Serbia regretted that no such municipalities had been formed.  Demanding that Pristina honour its commitments in that regard, and that the international community contribute a united and powerful voice on the matter, he said they would be a precondition for a normal life and for the sustainable survival of Serbian people in the province, emphasizing that the matter deserved greater attention in the Secretary-General’s report.

He went on to declare:  “A truly democratic society cannot be developed in an atmosphere in which the crimes committed against the Serbs and other non-Albanians, their property and historical, cultural and religious heritage and identity go unpunished.”  Serbia had never questioned the need to try all those who had committed crimes, but it was of utmost importance not to resort to the manipulation and abuse employed so often by Pristina for political purposes.  There was significant evidence of Pristina’s lack of readiness to confront responsibility within its own ranks for war crimes, which should be considered in the context of the upcoming launch of the specialist court established to try crimes committed in Kosovo and Metohija.  Outlining incidents that confirmed the continuing instability in Kosovo and Metohija, he said there was a latent danger of an escalation of violence, noting that the restitution of private property, in particular, remained an unresolved problem and the source of one of the most frequent human rights violations against internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija.  The number of returnees also remained small, despite the fact that creating the conditions for safe return remained one of UNMIK’s main tasks.  In that regard, he requested that the Secretary-General’s reports accord greater attention to the question of minority rights.

Turning to radicalization, he said the strengthening of political, ethnic and religious intolerance amplified the instability of the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija.  Indeed, a drastic rise in religious extremism, including elements of terrorism, was evident in the province, as were the activities of radicalized extremists returning from battlefields in the Middle East.  Those issues, alongside the increased political polarization of Kosovo Albanians themselves, required heightened international attention.  In order for the dialogue process to be truly purposeful, it must be grounded in the genuine desire for compromise, he said, stressing that it must not be abused as a platform for imposing the interests of one party alone — especially the promotion of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence.  Underlining that Serbia would never recognize Kosovo, he said that, although some countries had done so, more than 70 per cent of humankind did not share their view.  Serbia called on States that had not recognized Kosovo to resist the “shameless pressures of the mighty and powerful”, and to remain true to their principled respect for international law, the United Nations Charter and the supreme authority of the Security Council.

VLORA ÇITAKU of Kosovo recalled the celebration of the ninth anniversary of independence 10 days ago, noting that Kosovars had persevered through years of discrimination, exclusion, mass killings, rape and deportation.  “And we succeeded,” she said.  “You can win if you are right, if the cause is just, even if you are not the powerful one.”  However, the time had come to move on, she said, describing the millions spent on maintaining a mission that no longer had a function or a purpose in Kosovo as unjustified expenditure of United Nations resources that could be put to better use.

She said the Secretary-General’s report failed, in its description of the Gjakova incident, to mention that 1,665 civilians, or 13 per cent of Kosovo’s population, had been killed from 1998 until 1999.  In Meje, 373 civilians had been killed in less than one hour, 3,000 women had been raped and hundreds had gone missing.  The Mayor of Gjakova had been working to accommodate minority communities in the municipality, which itself had invested in the reconstruction of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which had never been attacked, she pointed out.  The incident outlined in the report was about people involved in war crimes who had visited the site, she said, emphasizing that the report failed to provide context.

Describing Kosovo as a free, independent and sovereign State, recognized by an overwhelming majority of free nations, she said that, just today, Bangladesh had recognized it as an independent country, while Singapore had recognized it as such in December.  A member of more than 50 regional and international organizations, Kosovo was on a path to becoming a member of the European Union, and hopefully, of the United Nations, she said.  Simply because Serbia had refused to accept Kosovo as a State did not make it any less of a State.  “That only makes Serbia a neighbour that is still a hostage of its own hegemonic and neocolonial past.”  Its detention of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who had twice been acquitted in The Hague, had been a desperate act to reverse history, she said, expressing confidence that he would be returned to Kosovo.

Kosovars faced daily one-sided provocations by Serbia, she said, noting that people had been commuted across the border until one day in January, when Serbia had sent a train covered in the slogan “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 languages, including Albanian.  “These kinds of games should end,” she stressed.  Serbs living in Kosovo should not be held hostage by Serbia or used as pawns to create leverage.  Kosovo’s institutions had gone to great lengths to accommodate their needs, putting unprecedented legislative and constitutional measures in place to guarantee their rights, she recalled.  Kosovo would implement all agreements reached in Brussels, but would not allow Serbia to hold it back.   Recalling that the President of Serbia had called Kosovo's creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission a call to war in January, she stressed that while there would be no war, the absence of war was not enough.  “We want peace, dialogue and reconciliation, but never, never submission,” she insisted.

VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV (Russian Federation) said the serious problems outlined in the Secretary-General’s report had existed for many years and continued to demand urgent attention.  Emphasizing that offensive unilateral insults against Serbia were categorically unacceptable, he said tensions were rising over a number of unresolved issues, especially the need to ensure the rights of the Serb communities.  Decrying the non-impartial attitude of the European Union as moderator of the peace talks, which was now threatening to derail them, he said the bloc had failed to exert the proper influence on the Albanian side.  In particular, the creation of Serb-majority municipalities had not been properly addressed, he noted.  Indeed, unilateral pressure always seemed to be on the Serbs, but never on the other party.

Expressing outrage at the lack of due international reaction to Pristina’s attempts to take over various mining and energy-generation facilities, he pointed out that Serbia had fulfilled its own various international commitments and worked to avoid conflict.  He also outlined violations of the freedom of movement in northern Kosovo, largely populated by Serbs, as well as several other provocative and violent incidents.  Emphasizing that it was unacceptable to allow the presence of Kosovo’s armed forces into areas under the United Nations mandate, which would be contrary to Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said the protection of Serbian religious and cultural heritage also remained a critical problem, as did the rise of violent extremism.  There were, therefore, no grounds for reducing the United Nations presence in Kosovo or the frequency of the Council’s consideration of the question, he said, stressing that there could be no unilateral change to Council resolution 1244 (1999).

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) expressed respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, noting that they included the right to alter borders through peaceful means.  Voicing concern over reports of increasing tensions between Belgrade and Pristina, he called for a committed dialogue and for placing human rights at the core of any reconciliation process.  “We must heal the wounds of the past” in order to lay the groundwork for a peaceful future, he said.  Resolving the situation of internally displaced persons and ensuring the conditions for their safe return was critical, as was the imperative of respect for the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) called on both Belgrade and Pristina to abstain from inflammatory statements and to seek pragmatic and mutually acceptable solutions.  Normalizing relations would have a crucial impact on the regional balance, he added, emphasizing that the path towards the European Union was the key to lasting peace and prosperity in the western Balkans.  Losing momentum now could open the way for a counterproductive backlash, to the detriment of both parties and the entire region, he warned, emphasizing that it was critical that Pristina step up its efforts in the fight against corruption and organized crime, and ratify its border agreement with Montenegro.  International assistance to Kosovo must be grounded in the principles of sustainability and ownership, he stressed.  While supporting UNMIK’s role, Italy stood ready to discuss reconfiguring the Mission for current needs on the ground, he said, adding that he recognized the European Union’s role in normalizing relations between the two sides.

CHRISTOPHER KLEIN (United States) expressed surprise that the Secretary-General’s report noted the importance of ensuring that UNMIK was appropriately resourced, declaring:  “We believe UNMIK is over-resourced and overstaffed.”  The Mission should return unspent resources to Headquarters, he said, adding that, instead of drawing down, it was putting permanent solar panels on a building that it rented.  It would be unfortunate for UNMIK to be remembered for lingering past its relevance, he said, emphasizing that it was time to downsize the Mission’s structure, size and tasks, in accordance with realities on the ground.

He went on to note that recent frictions had been resolved calmly, and urged both Kosovo and Serbia to continue their relations through the European Union-facilitated dialogue.  The United States called on both sides to implement the dialogue agreements and work more actively towards normalizing relations.  Expressing his delegation’s support for full international recognition of Kosovo, and for its membership in the United Nations, he called upon those who had not done so to recognize it as an independent State, while underlining that Kosovo must make more progress towards strengthening its judiciary.  He urged the Council to adjust the period for reporting and briefing on Kosovo from three to six months, saying the Council had more pressing business to address.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) voiced his delegation’s full support for normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia.  With its economy growing and having made efforts to combat corruption, Kosovo had recently secured recognition from Singapore and Bangladesh, he noted.  The United Kingdom was concerned about heightened tensions with Serbia at a time when both sides should be looking towards a prosperous future, he emphasized.  Narrow-minded politics and the stirring of nationalist sentiments lay at the heart of their issues, distracting from implementation of the dialogue agreements.  Advocating the spirit of dialogue, that both Serbia and Kosovo had claimed to support during discussions in Brussels, he voiced disappointment that another Council meeting had descended into lengthy and unproductive statements.  It was time for the Council to stop holding such incendiary briefings, he said, stressing the necessity of reducing the number of briefings and reports on Kosovo, and the need to find efficiencies within UNMIK.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) emphasized that the Council should prioritize the continuing promotion of dialogue by launching confidence-building measures, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), together with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which must also provide security.  While there was still peaceful dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, difficult issues remained unresolved, notably those relating to the integration of the judiciary and laying the foundations for good governance and the rule of law.  He emphasized that social stability would only be achieved through efforts by civil society and others working towards peacebuilding.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said the risk and intensity of violence in Kosovo were considerably less than in other regions often taken up by the Security Council.  A Council meeting and report every six months was sufficient.  Recalling his time in Kosovo, he emphasized the business opportunities afforded by the Trepča mines — a potential source of large tax revenues — and tourism.  A Japanese company operated a farm and factory in Mitrovica, producing eight tons of shiitake mushrooms a day and exporting to a dozen countries, he said.  Reconciliation between Kosovar Albanians and Kosovar Serbs must be accelerated before all memories of a more harmonious time were lost, he said, stressing that Japan valued the high-level commitment of both sides to resolving issues, even after incidents that heightened tensions.

LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNÁNDEZ (Bolivia), emphasizing the need to implement resolution 1244 (1999) with full respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he urged both parties to remain open to permanent dialogue, noting that despite having reached agreement, they seemed unable to implement them in practice.  Urging them to demonstrate greater commitment in that regard, he welcomed the agreement reached on a telecommunications code for Kosovo, stressing that the parties must step up their efforts on a number of other outstanding issues, including helping internally displaced persons return to their homes.  Bolivia was concerned about the clear threat posed by the rising numbers of extremists in the region, including those who supported Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said.

SEIF ALLA YOUSSEF KANDEEL (Egypt), while welcoming Kosovo’s progress in terms of the economy and the area of rule of law, also expressed concern over reports of increased tensions.  “There is no alternative to dialogue to resolve disputes,” he emphasized, warning against incitement and unilateral actions that could lead to escalation.  Urging the parties to reinvigorate negotiations without delay, he expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in implementing some areas of the agreement, in particular those relating to Serb-majority municipalities.  Egypt also emphasized the need for the parliament to adopt an agreement on the demarcation of Kosovo’s border with Montenegro, and for the authorities to continue to confront terrorism in the region, with international support.

ANNE GUEGUEN MOHSEN (France) reiterated her delegation’s request that the Council revise the frequency of its consideration of the situation in Kosovo, saying it was not comparable to other crises on its increasingly burdensome workload.  Asking the Secretary-General to formulate that recommendation as part of his next report, she said Kosovo’s future should no longer be a matter for the Council, but for the dialogue under European Union auspices, instead.  Both sides must demonstrate commitment to that process at the highest level, and all elements of the dialogue — including Serb-majority municipalities — must be implemented.  Expressing concern over rising tensions and the “regrettable provocations” that had fed them, she said the parties must demonstrate restraint.  Continuing efforts to strengthen the rule of law in Kosovo — including by fighting all forms of radicalization — must continue as a matter of priority, she said, adding that her delegation would continue to support recognition of a State for Kosovo.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said it was critical that both parties remain fully committed to implementation of the European Union-facilitated agreement on integration of the judiciary and free movement and telecommunication, which would promote lasting peace and stability in Kosovo, in addition to building trust.  The tense political situation, particularly the strained relations between the governing and opposition parties, was a matter of concern, she said, adding:  “All parties need to refrain from escalating tension and seek peaceful avenues and dialogue to address any disputes.”  She commended UNMIK’s efforts to engage all parties and communities in promoting security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the wider region.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) emphasized that building peaceful and prosperous societies required vigilance and unwavering commitment.  Concerned about growing tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, he called upon both sides to demonstrated restraint and refrain from provocative actions.  Peace could only be built through dynamic integration processes of the European Union, and their efforts should focus on normalizing relations in the context of the accession process, he stressed.  It was essential that the status issue not hinder Kosovo’s European path or prevent its membership in international organizations, he said.  He urged the Council to support a smooth transfer of responsibility, calling upon Kosovar politicians to overcome differences through dialogue and to refrain from disruptive behaviour.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) described the situation in Kosovo as a frozen conflict and expressed concern that persistent tensions undermined any gains made.  With a view to relaunching a positive dynamic, Senegal encouraged Kosovo’s political actors to maintain a peaceful political climate, adding that the quality of dialogue would also depend on that.  Encouraging the Serbian authorities to enhance their commitment to dialogue with Kosovo, he emphasized that it was essential to implement agreements.  Political actors on both sides should continue the dialogue, which was the only path towards resolving the crisis.  Slowness in establishing the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities, the 4 January arrest of the former Prime Minister, and the diplomatic incident around a train from Serbia underscored the importance for the Council to support dialogue at the highest level, as part of the cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations.  Senegal welcomed the establishment of a local phone code and the agreement to create special chambers to investigate crimes committed during the conflict, he said, while also urging a focus on human rights.  He commended UNMIK’s efforts to foster reconciliation, transitional justice, human rights and the normal relations.

LIU YONG (China) said resolution 1244 (1999) offered the legal foundation for resolving the situation in Kosovo, expressing support for efforts towards a solution that would be acceptable to all and in accordance with the United Nations Charter.  While the situation in Kosovo was now calm, underlying questions still defied solution.  China encouraged all parties to stay the course in seeking a solution, continue the high-level dialogue, settle their differences through dialogue, implement agreements reached and increase mutual trust.  Describing national reconciliation as the basis for resolving the Kosovo question, he urged the parties to work towards improving people’s well-being, strengthening rights and avoiding rhetoric that could escalate tensions.  The Council should persist in the search for a proper solution, he emphasized, expressing support for UNMIK’s cooperation with all parties, in accordance with its mandate.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, expressing concern over recent events that had led to rising tensions in Kosovo.  Welcoming the European Union’s role in defusing those tensions, he called on the political leaders of Serbia and Kosovo actively to avoid provocation, confrontation and escalation into conflict, urging them also to set aside their political ambitions in a spirit of restraint and responsibility.  Ukraine continued to support the important roles played by UNMIK, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and the Kosovo multinational security force, whose peacekeepers helped to preserve peace and stability.  He suggested that it might be more appropriate for the Council to consider reports on UNMIK in a more flexible manner, with regular reports issued twice a year and an option for “spot reports”, depending on the situation on the ground.  Ukraine also advocated reconsidering the United Nations presence on the ground and proposed converting UNMIK into a special political mission, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.