International Community Should Exploit Assurances by New Serbian Government to Help Settle Unresolved Issues in Kosovo, Security Council Told
6822nd Meeting* (AM)
Members Briefed on Successful Elections, As Concerns over Returnees, Violence against Ethnic Minorities Persist
Assurances that the new Government of Serbia would fully implement previous agreements with Kosovo leaders was a welcome sign that the international community should exploit in order to help settle unresolved issues, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
“My assessments is that a more active and deliberate political international engagement with the parties is needed very soon,” said Farid Zarif, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) during a briefing to the 15-member body. Following May general elections in Serbia, resulting in the formation of a new Government last month, the Secretary-General’s official visit to Kosovo in mid-July had helped set the stage for discussing essential issues such as upholding human rights, establishing the rule of law and ensuring the rights of returnees and minority groups. It was now important that both Belgrade and Pristina speedily implement agreementsreached, andthat the Council encourage and help them adopt a “more creative, bold and forward-looking approach to negotiations, based on compromise and mutual respect”.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the activities of UNMIK, he applauded the increased exchanges and efficiencies among that Mission, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), as well as the Kosovo population’s heightened trust in the United Nations and UNMIK’s efforts to support human rights protection, as well as the return home of internally displaced persons and refugees, while attempting to determine the fate of missing persons. However, more must be done to create enabling conditions for a legitimate, genuine representation of the population in northern Kosovo, he said, expressing hope that pervasive unconstructive patterns and political bluster would not impede that process further.
Prime Minister Ivica Dačić of Serbia said that resolving the final status of Kosovo and Metohija through high-level talks that took into account the legitimate interests of ethnic Albanians, Serbs and all others living there was among the most important priorities of his newly elected Government. “We are ready to do our part, but we are not — nor will we be — ready to accept Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.” He appealed to fellow Member States to refrain from recognizing an independent Kosovo, saying no comprehensive settlement had been accepted by the stakeholders.
He went on to dismiss as invalid Pristina’s so-called “reforms” aimed at removing the executive authority of international organizations in Kosovo, stressing that only the Security Council had the authority to make such changes. The European Union’s engagement in Kosovo remained unchanged and should be deepened, he said, pledging that Serbia would support efforts in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (Budgetary and Administrative) to ensure more funds for UNMIK, if necessary. He also expressed concern over recent violence against ethnic Serbs in north and south Kosovo, including the murder of the elected Kosovo Serb village representative and his wife near the town of Uroševac; threatening letters and pamphlets addressed to returnees; and acts of vandalism and religious intolerance. They were all part of an orchestrated attempt to “ethnically cleanse” Kosovo Serbs, he said, adding that the results were clear: only 45 Serbs had returned to Kosovo during the reporting period, less than half the number returning during the same period in 2011.
But Hashim Thaci retorted that Kosovo was in fact a democratic, multi-ethnic society with an unwavering commitment to minority rights. Three Kosovo Serbs served as ministers, including a Deputy Prime Minister, and 100,000 others were members of local governments. Ethnic Serbs also accounted for 15 per cent of the Kosovo police force. In recent months, the authorities had enacted 21 laws on religious rights, cultural and religious heritage, and reconciliation, he said, adding that, in April, they had signed an accord with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enable ethnic Serbs with dual citizenship to vote in Serbia’s recent elections.
Moreover, he continued, Kosovo leaders had established offices and committed €21 million over the next three years to facilitate returns and community rights. The recently established administrative office in northern Mitrovica would communicate and cooperate with every Serb leader in the north. Already, almost half of all United Nations Member States had recognized Kosovo’s independence, he said, noting that ethnically motivated crimes had declined drastically in post-independence Kosovo, turning Pristina into one of the region’s safest capitals. He urged Serbian leaders to work with, rather than against, their Kosovo partners, and to implement the series of bilateral agreements signed in March 2011, most of which remained only on paper. Normal relations with Serbia were a top priority for Kosovo and vital for maintaining security and stability throughout the Balkans, he said, stressing that the Kosovo State was a political and juridical fact, and that its territorial integrity would not be sacrificed.
Following those statements, Council members called for the early resumption of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue to address key challenges, including in northern Kosovo, in cooperation with EULEX and KFOR. Many of them called for swift implementation of technical agreements on regional cooperation, freedom of movement and border management. Most condemned violence against ethnic minorities and returnees, as well as cultural and religious sites.
However, differences persisted over Kosovo’s creation of an administrative office in northern Mitrovica, with the representative of Guatemala expressing concern over a decision to reassign to it funds intended for UNMIK. While most Council members expressed support for efforts to combat trafficking in human organs, the Russian Federation’s representative criticized the slow pace of the EULEX-led investigation into that matter while supporting Serbia’s proposal that it be transferred to the United Nations.
Also speaking today were representatives of Morocco, United Kingdom, India, Germany, Portugal, China, United States, Pakistan, Colombia, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Togo and France.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:26 p.m.
Before the Security Council today was the latest report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (document S/2012/603). Dated 3 August 2012 and covering the Mission’s activities from 16 April to 15 July, it states that the Mission’s priorities — to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region — remain unchanged.