|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6713th Meeting (AM)
Thorough Re-Examination, Greater International Cohesion Needed in Kosovo,
despite Fragile Calm, Security Council Told
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Briefs Members
Fragile calm had been restored in Kosovo following the 2011 clashes over crossing points and other issues, but real political progress demanded a thorough re-examination and better cohesion among all international efforts as the European Union stepped forward in a leadership role, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today.
“Optimistic assumptions that a durable solution will simply evolve — even without a clear vision from a more united engagement of the international community — are belied by dynamics on the ground,” said Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, in a briefing that was followed by a debate in which Council members and representatives from Serbia and Kosovo participated.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Mr. Mulet said that clashes in northern Mitrovica had marked a very tense start to the reporting period, but all sides had renewed efforts to stabilize the situation after the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue facilitated by the European Union. Agreements had been reached on crossing points and the President of Serbia had called for the dismantling of all roadblocks mounted by Kosovo Serbs in the north, he said, noting, however, that tensions remained and challenges included plans by local ethnic Serb leaders to conduct a “referendum” on acceptance of Kosovo institutions, despite opposition from Belgrade and some Kosovo Serb leaders in the south.
Recalling that the Head of UNMIK had recently conveyed to northern Kosovo Serb leaders that they must seek legitimacy through elections, in conformity with the applicable laws, he stressed that ensuring legitimate municipal representation in the north must be a joint and immediate priority of the international community, alongside ensuring that recent positive gestures by all parties were translated into concrete actions.
He said that given the cost of the current international engagement in Kosovo — including UNMIK, the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) — amounting to half a billion dollars annually, the question must be asked whether those expenditures were contributing in a coordinated fashion towards a solution by which they could soon be reduced. This year could be the time to re-examine assumptions and seek fresh approaches, he added.
Following Mr. Mulet’s briefing, Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs called for continued support to UNMIK, stressing the continuing applicability of resolution 1244 (1999), under which the Mission was established. He concurred that conditions in northern Kosovo had slowly improved, but noted that, for the ethnic Serb community in the south, the trend of violence continued apace while the number of returnees remained “very low” and efforts to privatize property were a cause of great concern. In addition, he cast doubt on the ability of EULEX to carry out a comprehensive investigation of alleged illicit organ-trafficking, which, he maintained, only an inquiry under Security Council auspices could accomplish. However, he pledged Serbia’s commitment to the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and said that Serbia’s “measured” reaction to the violation of its Constitution by Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence had ensured the maintenance of peace. However, a negotiated, comprehensive settlement must safeguard Belgrade’s interests through a realistic solution for north Kosovo and enclaves in the south, the preservation of Serbian identity and the settlement of all property claims.
Enver Hoxhaj of Kosovo, also avowing commitment to dialogue, said, however, that it was time for Serbia to allow integration of the north and to implement agreements already reached between the parties. Unless those conditions were met, approval of Serbia’s candidature by the European Council would allow northern Kosovo to remain a “black hole” in Europe, he said. Despite that problem, he maintained that, in the four years since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, it had achieved great progress in State-building, social justice, the economy, and the creation of multi-ethnic institutions. Kosovo had also offered its full cooperation to the EULEX Task Force investigation of all allegations of organ trafficking, he added.
Following those presentations, Council members expressed different positions on status issues, but agreed that Belgrade and Pristina should continue a constructive dialogue to resolve practical matters and reduce tensions. Most speakers also welcomed the reduction in tensions following the 2011 clashes, and called for more progress in the integration of Kosovo Serbs, the return of displaced persons and the resolution of missing-persons cases. Some speakers pointed to European integration as the ultimate goal for Serbia and Kosovo, and urged leaders to focus on creating the necessary conditions and reforms.
On the investigation of alleged organ trafficking, the Russian Federation’s representative advocated its transfer to the Security Council, as other members voiced their confidence in the EULEX inquiry, objecting to “aspersions” cast on it and urging all parties to continue their cooperation with it.
Also speaking today were representatives of China, Morocco, Germany, Azerbaijan, India, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Pakistan, South Africa, Colombia, Guatemala, United States and Togo.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 12:46 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) dated 31 January 2012 and covering the period from 16 October 2011 to 15 January 2012. According to the report (document S/2012/72), by the end of that time tensions flaring in 2011 over crossing points and other issues in the ethnic Serb-dominated north of Kosovo had subsided, although the Secretary-General remains concerned about the volatile situation, saying that it carries a “continued risk of provocations and of an escalation of inter-ethnic tensions”. (See Press Release SC/10462 of 29 November.)
At the same time, the report says, the European Union-facilitated dialogue in Brussels, for which the Secretary-General pledges continuing United Nations support, shows that practical agreements to alleviate Kosovo’s daily problems are achievable. Welcoming positive results coming out of intensive sessions held in November and early December, as well as visible progress in implementing previous accords, he says the agreement on the integrated management of crossing points, while not yet implemented, represents an important breakthrough that can lead to full normalization of the situation at the northern gates and the restoration of full freedom of movement throughout northern Kosovo.
The Secretary-General also welcomes recent public pronouncements by leaders in Pristina reflecting the need for better communication with the population and leaders in northern Kosovo municipalities, the report says, noting also the recent statements by leaders in Belgrade, stressing the need for a comprehensive, lasting settlement on Kosovo, while ruling out the possibility of its division along ethnic lines. The Secretary-General calls on the international community to support efforts to overcome barriers to communication and inter-ethnic trust, but notes with concern the slowed progress in voluntary returns of displaced people and in determining the fate of missing ones.
According to the report, the Secretary-General goes on to emphasize the need for redoubled political will and cooperation in both areas, not simply improved technical resources. “It is time to muster the boldness, the courage and the pragmatism necessary to achieve genuine progress towards lasting peace and stability,” he says. Expressing hope that the Council will continue its support for UNMIK’s role in facilitating engagement among all stakeholders and containing tensions and confrontations on the ground, he says that the Mission’s priorities — promoting security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region — remain unchanged, but cautions that the possibility of increased challenges to their fulfilment may merit heightened attention in 2012.
Meanwhile, the report notes, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) continue to perform their roles within the framework of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), under which UNMIK was established, and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), which operates under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations. Those organizations, in addition to United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, continue to cooperate and coordinate closely with UNMIK, and it is critical that they continue to do so, the report stresses.
On the investigation into allegations of organ trafficking, contained in the Council of Europe report of December 2010, the report notes that the lead prosecutor of the EULEX Special Investigative Task Force formally assumed his duties on 17 October, and made his first consultative visits to Pristina, Belgrade and Tirana, Albania, where the respective authorities reconfirmed official support for and full cooperation with the Task Force.
EDMOND MULET, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presented the Secretary-General’s report and said that, while the situation on the ground had calmed since the last briefing, it remained fragile. Clashes in northern Mitrovica had marked a very tense start to the reporting period, but all sides had renewed efforts to stabilize the situation after the resumption of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue in Brussels following a three-month hiatus.
Recalling that President Boris Tadić of Serbia had called publicly on 29 November for the dismantling of all Kosovo Serb roadblocks in the north, he said that, although some leaders in the north had disregarded that message, discussions involving international missions had resulted in a relative stabilization. Northern Kosovo Serbs had continued to protest against EULEX helicopters transporting Kosovo officials, but they had recently begun to allow that Mission greater freedom of movement, including as part of KFOR convoys.
He said emerging political challenges included plans by northern leaders to conduct a “referendum” on Kosovo Serb acceptance of Kosovo institutions, despite opposition from Belgrade and some Kosovo Serb leaders in the south. As in other cases, “close cooperation between all stakeholders on the ground will be crucial in ensuring that potential tensions are kept under control and common messages are conveyed”. He recalled that Farid Zarif, Head of UNMIK, had recently conveyed to local leaders in the north that they must seek legitimacy through elections, in conformity with applicable laws, and noted that, while the Mission was no longer in a position to administer such elections, it would be ready to facilitate them alongside international partners as long as fitting modalities were agreed. “Ensuring legitimate municipal representation in the north must be a joint and immediate priority of the international community,” Mr. Mulet emphasized.
The Assistant Secretary-General noted that the agreement on the integrated management of crossing points had been a most notable breakthrough in the European Union-facilitated dialogue that had resumed in November, although it still awaited the finalization of detailed implementation modalities. It was crucial that the sides maintain their commitment to engage in a constructive dialogue, and that the international community continue to help ensure that peaceful conditions were maintained. The Council’s active assistance in encouraging both parties to move more resolutely towards viable solutions on the issues dividing them was, therefore, extremely important, he stressed.
Renewing Mr. Zarif’s call, during his last briefing to the Council, for the parties to show goodwill, pragmatism and courage, he pointed out that there had been some tentative, yet encouraging, signs of readiness by the political leadership, both in Belgrade and Pristina, to elevate the quality of their public discourse and use more conciliatory language. However, “optimistic assumptions that a durable solution will simply evolve — even without a clear vision from a more united engagement of the international community — are belied by dynamics on the ground”, he added, acknowledging that the international community was seized of other acute crises.
Maintaining that political progress demanded better cohesion in the efforts of all engaged international actors as the European Union stepped forward in a leadership role, he urged all stakeholders to take stock of their current engagement in Kosovo. The high financial cost of maintaining the international presence included: some $47 million annually for UNMIK, around €140 million for EULEX and some €23 million for OSCE, in addition to combined annual operational costs to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to countries contributing troops to KFOR, which brought the total cost to about half a billion dollars, he said. It must be asked whether those expenditures were contributing in a coordinated fashion towards a solution under which they could be reduced soon, Mr. Mulet emphasized. The year 2012 could be the time to re-examine assumptions and seek fresh approaches, he suggested.
VUK JEREMIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, appealed to the Council to continue to refrain from recognizing any solution to the Kosovo problem that was not the product of agreement between the parties, and concurred with the Secretary-General’s call to support UNMIK, especially in facilitating engagement among all stakeholders. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he said conditions in north Kosovo had slowly improved, but for the Kosovo Serb community in the south, the trend of violence continued apace and the number of returnees remained “very low”.
EULUX had made positive contributions to the administration of justice in Kosovo, having brought high-profile cases to trial in the areas of organized crime and corruption, he observed. Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina had also resumed, but “north Kosovo remains volatile” due to unilateral attempts to alter the reality on the ground, in violation of resolution 1244 (1999). In early December, the situation had begun to de-escalate, thanks in part to UNMIK, which had facilitated a “new security coordination forum” for north Kosovo, involving local ethnic Serb leaders, KFOR, EULUX and OSCE.
Outlining crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in South Kosovo, he said the gravest one had taken place in Dobruša, a majority-ethnic Albanian village in the south Kosovo municipality of Istok. A Kosovo Albanian had opened fire on three Kosovo Serb internally displaced persons attempting to visit their abandoned property, killing one and injuring two, he recalled. “Such hate crimes severely hamper reconciliation efforts.”
He went on to state that recent developments regarding privatization were cause for great concern, citing the Kosovo Privatization Agency’s forcible takeover of some functions of the Kosovo Trust Agency. According to the report, recent months had seen a significant weakening in the protection of privatization funds, with international oversight acutely curtailed, he said, noting that a quarter of a billion euros were being held in the banks of various Member States, and that it was likely that the Kosovo Privatization Agency would try to gain access to those resources. “The financial institutions that hold these deposits must not release them until an agreement is reached between the stakeholders,” he emphasized, adding that his country’s Government would not refrain from using all juridical mechanisms at its disposal to protect its property rights. That was a matter requiring the Council’s urgent attention, he said.
Turning to the “Medicus case”, involving an organized criminal conspiracy to source human organs for illicit transplant in a Pristina clinic, he said two foreign suspects had fled Kosovo and could not be extradited. Others had been mentioned in a “deeply disturbing” report by the Council of Europe, containing charges of harvesting and smuggling human organs before, during and after the 1999 conflict, he said. If proven true, that would constitute a new category of war crime.
He went on to recall that he had assured the lead prosecutor of the EULUX Special Investigative Task Force of Belgrade’s assistance. However, since EULEX could not operate at full capacity outside Kosovo, it had neither an adequate mandate nor sufficient temporal and territorial jurisdiction to carry out a comprehensive investigation. Only an investigation under the Council’s auspices could ensure that, he said, adding that Serbia would seek another round of consultations on that issue.
Regarding technical dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, he said Serbia remained committed to that process, and Pristina’s participation in regional meetings would be addressed in the next round. “We have never sought to prevent any voice in our part of the world from being heard, including the one of Pristina,” he said, stressing, however, that that position must stay in unequivocal accord with resolution 1244 (1999). Belgrade’s “measured” reaction to the blatant violation of Serbia’s Constitution through the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government in Kosovo had ensured the maintenance of peace, he said, while underscoring that a comprehensive settlement to the underlying dispute had not been found.
He recalled that President Tadić had said repeatedly that such a peace must provide for internationally guaranteed assurances to safeguard Belgrade’s interests inside the province by securing a realistic solution for north Kosovo, protecting its enclaves in south Kosovo, preserving Serbian identity and religious heritage, and settling private and commercial property claims. In sum, he said pursuing outcomes outside the framework of negotiations, including through new recognitions of the unilateral declaration of independence, attempts to “force one’s way into international organizations” and other plans to achieve narrowly conceived objectives, was futile.
ENVER HOXHAJ of Kosovo, noting that his country would celebrate its fourth anniversary of independence next week, said it had made great progress in State-building, including through dynamic implementation of a legislative agenda, active national and international representation, and effective reform. Fundamental reforms — strongly recommended by the European Commission’s progress report — were being undertaken to overcome weaknesses in public administration, he said, adding that serious efforts were under way to reform the justice system and strengthen the rule of law. Important steps had also been made in building new institutions, adopting necessary legislation and regulations, and in increasing the professional capacities and the number of judges in Kosovo, which had adopted a Strategic Action Plan against Corruption and established a Special Prosecution and Anti-Corruption Task Force.
He went on to state that Kosovo had offered its full cooperation to the EULEX Task Force investigation of all allegations contained in the report of the Council of Europe. It was actively tackling unemployment and providing social justice, improving the business investment environment and reforming the energy and education sectors. An active and dynamic civil society was helping to shape politics and policies, he said, adding that numerous institutions, organizations and associations had been formed and were playing an active role in public life. With the support of the international community, Kosovo had successfully overcome separation along ethnic lines, advancing the interest of all communities through participation in democratic and multi-ethnic institutions.
Indeed, Kosovo was entering a “new phase of statehood” in 2012, he continued, noting that the International Steering Group formed in 2008 had appointed Pieter Feith as the International Civilian Representative to lead the International Civilian Office (ICO), the mandate of which was to monitor and facilitate implementation of United Nations Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Settlement Proposal. In the last four years, due to close cooperation between the ICO and the government of Kosovo, fundamental progress had been made in implementing the Ahtisaari Plan.
He said a package of constitutional amendments and primary legislation embodying the Plan’s key provisions would be adopted, thereby facilitating the formal end of the ICO’s mandate and, with it, supervised independence. To date, 95 per cent of the Ahtisaari Plan had been implemented, but that did not include the creation of the new municipality of Northern Mitrovica, which had been prevented by illegal Serbian security, paramilitary and police structures still controlled by Belgrade, in flagrant violation of resolution 1244 (1999).
Kosovo and Serbia had been taking part in a technical dialogue since March 2011, he said, which was a way not only to solve technical issues but also to build trust and overcome the difficult past, he said. On 9 December 2011, the European Council had asked Serbia to engage seriously and fully in the technical dialogue, to implement all agreements reached with Kosovo in Brussels, and to respect resolution 1244 (1999). However, it had failed to meet those obligations, he said, adding that “agreements are not worth anything if they are not implemented in practice”. The situation on the ground remained tense as a result of roadblocks put up by Serb extremists and Serbian State structures.
Also in violation of resolution 1244 (1999), Serbia still maintained security and judicial structures in northern Kosovo, including hundreds of police officers, as well as gendarmerie and secret police, he continued. Moreover, two very important actors, the KFOR and EULEX Missions authorized by the Security Council, were unable to carry out their mandates there. Serbia had also failed to fulfil its obligations regarding freedom of movement and trade, telecommunications, energy and regional cooperation, under agreements reached in the 2011 technical dialogue in Brussels. “The north of Kosovo cannot remain a black hole in Europe,” he stressed.
Peace and stability between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as the prosperity of the whole region, would depend on the decision to be made by the European Council in Brussels soon, he said. If Serbia was awarded candidate status without having dismantled the police and security structures in northern Kosovo, removed barricades or implemented agreements reached under the technical dialogue, the consequences would be both short- and long-term in nature, he said. The situation in the north would become a “frozen conflict”, and normalization would have no future, he warned, adding that there was also a risk of other negative developments in the next weeks and months.
He went on to warn that on 15 February, the illegal Serbian structures aimed to organize a referendum in the Kosovo’s northern provinces, opposing its institutions and calling for partition, as well as their incorporation into Serbia. Also this year, pending elections slated to take place in Serbia, Belgrade aimed to organize elections inside Kosovo’s territory as well, he said. That was a “massive violation” of resolution 1244 (1999) and Kosovo’s sovereignty, and a potentially “very dangerous” situation for stability. It called the whole architecture of regional security into question, and Kosovo, therefore, called upon Serbia to refrain from violence, destabilizing actions and provocative rhetoric. It was time for Serbia finally to withdraw its police and security forces from the northern provinces and to implement the Ahtisaari Plan, he stressed.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) noted that Mr. Hoxhaj had begun his statement with references to “ancient history”, while he could have said that the movement of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo had resulted from NATO bombardments. The Russian Federation remained opposed to the unilateral declaration of independence as resolution 1244 (1999) remained fully in force and binding on settlement of the Kosovo issue. Trends in the province, as cited in the report, were correct but “toned down” as the report distanced itself from matters relating to minorities and preserving Serbian cultural heritage, key issues for the province’s security. Expressing doubts about the “status-neutral approach” of KFOR and EULEX, he emphasized that force must not be used, and that the Council must ensure that a political settlement to emerging problems was found.
He then turned to the situation relating to EULEX and the Russian humanitarian aid convoy, saying his country would decide the recipient of its assistance. Describing the situation in Kosovo as “bleak”, he said the breakdown in policy relating to returns of internally displaced persons and the outflow of Serbians was only partially reflected in the report. The Russian Federation would give that issue top priority, he stressed, adding that a solution on Kosovo would only be found through peaceful means and in the framework of dialogue. Despite efforts to repudiate UNMIK’s role, the Mission was the main civilian presence in Kosovo, he said, insisting on full implementation of its mandate, including on the issue of Kosovo’s role in regional consultation mechanisms.
Underscoring his country’s concern over the emerging situation related to the handover of protection for cultural and religious sites, he said that could cause tension in Kosovo. He also requested clarity on the drawdown of EULEX and the conditions under which it was to transfer functions inherited from UNMIK. He also voiced concern about EULEX investigating facts unearthed by the Council of Europe on the illegal trade in human organs, emphasizing that the investigation must be impartial and worthy of trust. Advocating the investigation’s transfer to the Security Council, he said the situation vis-à-vis witness protection was unsatisfactory, asserting that witnesses were being “rubbed out” and calling for the Council to set up a mechanism to guarantee that the investigation would not be “brushed under the carpet”.
WANG MIN ( China) said various parties had made efforts to ease tensions in Kosovo, but the root causes had not been addressed, and there was a risk of the situation escalating. Hopefully, the parties concerned would realize the sensitivity of the situation and settle their differences through dialogue while avoiding unilateral actions. A mutually acceptable solution to the Kosovo question should be sought, within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999), he said, noting the progress made in the recent dialogue held in Serbia and Kosovo. Expressing hope for increased efforts to maintain and further that dialogue, he said it was in the interests of both their peoples and would help the stability of both the Balkans and the wider European region.
Voicing grave concern over charges of illegal organ trafficking in Kosovo, he emphasized that no violation of international humanitarian norms and international law should be condoned. China favoured investigation of such allegations by the United Nations, he said. UNMIK had made tireless efforts to facilitate stability and development in Kosovo, while coordinating all interests, he said, adding that his country would continue to support the Mission’s work and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. In sum, it was to be hoped that UNMIK would play an increased role in facilitating dialogue among various parties, he said, stressing that UNMIK, KFOR and others must implement their mandates strictly and help stabilize the situation in Kosovo.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), noting the improvement of security in Kosovo, as well as the continuing tensions in the north, welcomed efforts by UNMIK to stem escalating tensions and violence, as well as the progress made through the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Concerned about reports of trafficking in human organs, he urged a thorough investigation. Morocco would continue to work in the Council for progress on the ground through negotiations to ensure lasting peace and stability in the region, he said.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) deplored acts of violence against KFOR and EULEX, as well as the construction of roadblocks in northern Kosovo. Affirming that international organizations continued to fulfil their mandates to ensure a safe environment in a status-neutral manner, he said the momentum of improvement over the past weeks should be continued through dialogue and positive gestures from the parties, including the Serbian President’s call for the dismantling of roadblocks.
Welcoming recent agreements, he called on the parties to continue their constructive participation in the dialogue and follow-up on commitments, while expressing regret, however, that no date had been set yet for further meetings. He reiterated his support for the investigation of organ-trafficking allegations by EULEX, saying that much had already been achieved and calling for the Council to be provided with updates on progress. Germany welcomed the cooperation of all the parties in that investigation by the Special Task Force, and would continue to promote Serbia’s and Kosovo’s joint European future.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said his country respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and did not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. Resolution 1244 (1999) was the binding international legal basis for resolving the Kosovo question and providing security, including guidelines for a comprehensive settlement in the political process, he said, emphasizing that divergences over its interpretation and the lack of progress in negotiations could not justify unilateral actions. The 2010 advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice did not address the circumstances of the unilateral declaration of independence or clarify whether Kosovo had a right to secede from Serbia, whether that action was in conformity with international law, or whether it had led to the creation of a State. Attempts to impose unilateral solutions to crises, including when such actions were controlled externally or coupled with outside aid, seriously threatened regional peace, security and stability, he said.
The dangerous escalation of tensions showed how elusive were the hopes of those in favour of the unilateral declaration, he said, stressing his country’s deep concern about the violence in northern Kosovo. Calling on all stakeholders to engage in dialogue to restore stability, he said progress in implementing previous agreements was commendable, and it was to be hoped that discussions on the European perspective and Serbia’s candidature would not be further delayed. As for other matters, some legislative measures had departed from the framework established by UNMIK, he said, noting that returns of internally displaced persons required redoubled efforts. Attention should also focus on persons reported missing, issues of religious and cultural heritage, and reports of organ trafficking, he said, stressing that the EULEX investigation must be empowered by the Council.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) commended UMNIK for its efforts to improve the situation in north Kosovo and in providing such services as document certification, mutual legal assistance, determining the fate of missing persons and facilitating Kosovo’s interaction with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). Such services should continue, in line with resolution 1244 (1999). Noting the tense situation in north Kosovo, he urged all United Nations bodies to use persuasion and negotiation rather than force. All sides must try to avoid taking unilateral steps and instead find creative ways to seek compromise on contentious issues. In that context, he applauded the parties and the European Union for holding two rounds of dialogue in Brussels, despite prevailing actions. They had resulted in movement on previously reached agreements, he noted, expressing hope that their implementation would improve lives. He also noted with satisfaction that the lead prosecutor of the EULEX Task Force had started his work, and stressed the need for an impartial investigation under his charge.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) agreed with the Secretary-General’s observations regarding progress in Kosovo and urged negotiators on both sides to remain engaged in their dialogue. However, he expressed concern over the decline in voluntary returns, and noted his country’s contribution to reversing that situation. Welcoming the outreach by the Kosovo authorities to ethnic Serbs in the north, he called on all parties with influence to encourage a reduction in tensions. As for the allegations of organ trafficking, he reiterated his full support for the investigation by the EULEX Task Force and welcomed the cooperation provided by Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. However, it was regrettable that aspersions had been cast upon the impartiality of the investigation by a Council member, he said.
MARTIN BRIENS ( France), welcoming the first steps towards the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, said he looked forward to agreements on Kosovo’s participation in international forums. “The stability of the Balkans at whole is at play,” he stressed, calling for the peaceful integration of northern Kosovo through dialogue among all parties. Describing ethnic nationalism as a negative holdover from the last century, he said it must not determine future issues, and emphasized that the rights of minorities must be protected. Progress on practical issues would reduce tensions and allow further progress, he said, calling on all leaders to cooperate with international security forces, and stressing that attacks on them were not acceptable. He expressed support for the EULEX investigation into organ-trafficking allegations, saying he expected the full weight of the law to fall on those responsible for such crimes if the allegations were confirmed. EULEX must be afforded the information under conditions required for the completion of its investigation, he said.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal), noting that Serbia and the international community had condemned the planned referendum on acceptance of institutions in north Kosovo, said that to entertain such an idea was unhelpful to the improvement of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, and showed the extent to which some were pursuing independent agendas. It also challenged Kosovo’s territorial integrity and strayed from the path to peace articulated in resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that it was meant to disrupt Serbia’s necessary path to European integration. The barricades in northern Kosovo hurt normalization and impeded economic relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and the Council must deplore their continued use, as they also prevented international forces from implementing their mandates. On the EULEX investigation, he said expectations had been raised that the lead prosecutor would soon announce his finding. The allegations must be investigated fully and the perpetrators brought to justice, he added.
SULJUK MUSTANSAR TARAR ( Pakistan) said he was pleased that the seventh and eighth rounds of European Union-facilitated dialogue had been held and agreement reached on the management of crossing points. Hopefully, implementation of that accord at all crossing points would help remove elements of tension, he said, noting progress in the implementation of earlier agreements, on the freedom of movement and acceptance of university diplomas. He expressed appreciation of Pristina’s more conciliatory approach to negotiations, while at the same time voicing concern about the overall security situation in northern Kosovo, which was fragile, as the planned referendum could potentially harden attitudes and positions and should be avoided. Pakistan supported an impartial investigation into organ-trafficking allegations, he said, while urging all parities to pursue dialogue.
BASO SANGQU ( South Africa) reiterated that resolution 1214 (1999) remained in force and all parties should act accordingly. South Africa was pleased with the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and with their agreement on important issues, but remained concerned about tensions, he said, condemning all violence, including attacks against KFOR and EULEX. He also welcomed efforts at reconciliation among ethnic communities, and urged all parties to work together in finding solutions to the low levels of voluntary returns by internally displaced persons and to the problem of missing persons.
NÉSTOR OSORIO ( Columbia) expressed regret over recent violence, vandalism and threats against the press. Regarding allegations of organ trafficking, he noted the positive start to the investigation, and said he hoped for its rapid completion so that justice could prevail. He welcomed progress on practical issues and expressed optimism over the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, stressing the need to build on areas where common ground had been established. It was also necessary to step up efforts to increase the number of voluntary returns and resolve questions of missing persons, he said, adding that UNMIK’s role in promoting dialogue to resolve such long-standing disputes was vital.
GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) encouraged UNMIK to continue implementing its mandate, expressing concern at the security situation in north Kosovo, which created challenges for the United Nations and negatively impacted dialogue among parties. Encouraging Belgrade and Pristina to take responsibility for reducing tensions and to use “positive rhetoric” in their communications, he said that, despite difficulties, the parties were focused on resolving their issues through dialogue. Noting that the European Union-facilitated rounds of dialogue had contributed to resolving practical issues, he expressed hope that the agreements reached would become operational shortly. However, Guatemala was concerned about the planned referendum by municipal authorities in north Kosovo, as it was not possible to delink the situation on the ground from Kosovo’s legal status, he said. “Violence and unilateral acts must be renounced,” he emphasized, adding that the time had come to show pragmatism.
ROSEMARY DICARLO ( United States) expressed support for European efforts to encourage flexibility on issues like border crossings, Kosovo’s participation in regional forums and the implementation of all previous agreements. Renewing the call for unfettered freedom of movement, she urged the northern Kosovo Serb population and the Serbian Government to cooperate with KFOR and EULEX in removing roadblocks and supporting the rule of law, noting that ethnic Serb hardliners were manning barricades that banned judges from accessing the Mitrovica courthouse. The United States rejected all actions seeking to undermine Kosovo’s independence and territorial integrity, she said, commending its outreach to Kosovo Serbs vis-à-vis the trust fund. The constitution afforded Kosovo Serbs rights, including enhanced local self-governance and protection of religious and cultural heritage, she said, noting, however, the difficulty engendered by the presence in the north of illegal parallel Kosovo Serb institutions that exercised a campaign of intimidation against those willing to engage with Pristina institutions.
The United States also took seriously charges of Serbian crimes connected to the 1999 conflict, she said, emphasizing that such allegations must be properly investigated. EULEX had assumed responsibility for the rule of law in 2008, a key point in the Secretary-General’s 2008 report, which the Council had welcomed. The Kosovo authorities had pledged full support in the investigation, as had Albania and Serbia, and the United States expected them to cooperate fully. The assertion that an investigation must take place under Security Council auspices was not correct, she said, pointing out that Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Croatia, had active war-crimes prosecutors’ offices and chambers to deal with massacres of Kosovo Albanian citizens by Serbia. Voicing full confidence in the EULEX Task Force, she categorically rejected efforts to cast aspersions on it. She dismissed attempts to politicize the investigation or conflate it with others like the “Medicus” case as a disservice to the alleged victims that risked the impartiality of any decisions reached.
Council President KODJO MENAN ( Togo), speaking in his national capacity, said international support was needed for Kosovo’s stability. Much more must be done in the area of security, especially in the wake of the July 2011 violence in northern Kosovo, which had polarized positions and heightened separatist trends. Such events were proof that underlying problems threatened regional stability, he said, expressing regret that such events had also placed negotiations on hold, despite “auspicious” beginnings. UNMIK remained an impartial mediator to encourage the Serbian and Kosovo authorities to renew frank, open dialogue.
Mr. JEREMIĆ ( Serbia) said there might be different opinions on certain matters, but the rosy picture of the situation in Kosovo, as presented by some delegations today, could not be allowed to stand. He quoted reports of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to that effect, as well as an OSCE report on the state of the justice system and others on the state of human rights and corruption. “We need to look at things the way they are,” he emphasized, pledging that Serbia would continue to talk with all stakeholders, while calling for a discussion based on realism. Inviting the Council to go and see the situation for themselves, he said Kosovo Serbs comprised the most endangered society in Europe, at least in certain areas. He said he appreciated calls for cooperation towards a European future, but had less appreciation for the call by the Kosovo speaker for the European Union not to assent to Serbia’s candidature at the next opportunity. He also maintained that only 81 States recognized Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.
Mr. HOXHAJ of Kosovo reiterated that Kosovo was a viable State, maintaining the Serbian Minister’s statement had nothing to do with reality. Underscoring that he was not present to cite reports and quotes, he pointed out that the European Commission’s progress report showed significant advances in the political and other spheres that could not be ignored. “Nobody can stop the flow of history,” he emphasized, calling for a politics of reconciliation moving towards European integration. He also maintained that 85 States had officially recognized Kosovo.
Mr. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) also took the floor a second time to suggest that the Council discuss the possibility of organizing a visit to Kosovo. It should also cooperate with the EULEX Task Force as the only existing investigative mechanism. On that body’s impartiality, he recalled the “system of juries” in the United States, in which jury members were sometimes removed over the risk they might not be impartial. Calling the Task Force a “closed” group, he said it had not experienced such a “checking” process because a political agenda involving the United States was at play, he said. Without such a mechanism, any outcome by the panel would not be based on confirmed facts, and the conclusions of the Council of Europe would not be accepted as convincing, he said, adding that he supported Serbia’s initiative to set up a mechanism that would involve the United Nations in the investigation.
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