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Flare-up over License Plates Threatens Progress between Serbia, Kosovo, Special Representative Tells Security Council amid Debate on Future of Interim Mission

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SC/14663

SECURITY COUNCIL
8880TH MEETING (AM)

Officials from Pristina, Belgrade Trade Barbs over Tariffs, Efforts to Implement 2013 Brussels Accord on Normalizing Relations

Senior officials from Kosovo and Serbia traded accusations of each other’s non-compliance of agreements today as the Security Council considered the recent escalation of tensions between the two sides, trust-building measures and whether the presence of the United Nations special political mission in Kosovo is still necessary.

“Trust continues to be the element in shortest supply”, said Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as he presented the latest report on the Mission’s work (document S/2021/861).

Noting that the enforcement of a new licence plate validity regime in northern Kosovo had sparked the flare‑up, he warned: “History in the region has tragically and repeatedly shown that ostensibly small incidents, misreading of intentions and outright mistakes can trigger an unstable security escalation that puts lives at risk and benefits no one”.

He said dealing maturely and responsibly with the past is a precondition for stability, and he cautioned against engaging in divisive ethno‑nationalist themes for political advantage. For its part, UNMIK continues to engage on the ground, across multiple sectors and areas of work, anchored by an agenda that promotes trust-building among Kosovo’s diverse communities.

Nikola Selaković, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, expressed deep regret that the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija has been increasingly marked by ethnically motivated attacks and incidents targeting Serbs, persistent institutional discrimination against Serbs and attacks on the Serbian Orthodox Church. Moreover, the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina refuse to implement the Brussels Agreement, reached in 2013, on the principles governing the normalization of relations.

Noting that Pristina’s imposition of duties on products from central Serbia in November 2018 resulted in a trade blockade and stalled dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, he said that Serbia, by contrast, is working to liberalize the flow of people, goods, services and capital, as part of its “Open Balkan” initiative. Against all this backdrop, it is evident that the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija set out by Security Council resolution 244 (1999) is still necessary, he said.

Vjosa Osmani‑Sadriu, of Kosovo, recalled that 22 years ago she was listening to United Nations meetings on the fate of her nation while seeking refuge in the mountains to avoid the shelling and grenades of the Serbian Army. “Today, 22 years later, as the newly elected President of the Republic of Kosovo, I have the privilege of representing my people, all the people of Kosovo,” she said.

On the Brussels Agreement, she noted that Kosovo has implemented over 90 per cent of all its provisions. By “significant contrast”, she stressed, “Serbia has not implemented two‑thirds” of them. UNMIK was established “under extremely different circumstances” 22 years ago, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened to halt war crimes and the Council authorized an international civilian presence to provide an interim administration. Today, Kosovo’s independence and prosperity provide “sufficient evidence” that UNMIK has “overstayed” its mandate, she stated.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed the 30 September agreement to end the dispute, following frictions over Pristina’s policy banning the entry of vehicles with Serbian license plates. Delegates agreed that dialogue offers the only possibility for resolving outstanding issues and normalizing relations, with Estonia’s representative urging both sides to fully respect all agreements reached in the European Union‑facilitated process.

On that point, France’s representative said Serbia and Kosovo have a shared European future. Normalization of their relations is vital for achieving stability in the Western Balkans and for realizing a European rapprochement between the two countries.

Ireland’s delegate said now that the people of Kosovo have voted for change, the new Government must deliver on the European Union reform agenda, including the rule of law. Authorities in Kosovo also must adhere to their commitments to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, she said, emphasizing that countering impunity for past crimes is essential to prevent violations.

Some Council members, however, differed on the role of UNMIK, with the representative of the United States pointing out that the Mission did not play a critical role in resolving tensions over the license plate issue. The temporary support provided by the NATO‑led Kosovo Force is proof that other organizations serve this role to better effect. UNMIK has fulfilled its purpose and should move towards closure, he stressed, urging the Council to redirect resources where they are needed most.

His counterpart from the Russian Federation argued that UNMIK is in great demand, and therefore Moscow favours maintaining the Mission’s budget and personnel at the current levels, as well as the agreed frequency and format for open Council briefings on the situation in Kosovo. He also objected to the admission of Kosovo to international organizations.

Also speaking today were representatives of Niger, India, United Kingdom, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, China, Viet Nam, Norway, Mexico, Tunisia and Kenya.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:55 p.m.

Briefing

ZAHIR TANIN, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that since his last briefing in April, the lack of political understanding and communication remains a vector for the escalation of tensions. On 20 September, Pristina launched a police operation in northern Kosovo to enforce a new licence plate validity regime. Given the history of sensitive discussions on freedom of movement, conducted over years through the European Union-facilitated dialogue, it would have been natural to expect early and clear communication with those affected.

However, he said no such communication was attempted by the authorities. Nor was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)‑led Kosovo Force — or KFOR — given prior notification. As a result, a stand‑off developed as protesters in the north blockaded traffic at the northern gates along the Administrative Boundary Line. Special units of the Kosovo police deployed to the northern crossing points in armoured vehicles, and in one instance, used tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse the protesters. Serbia’s Army meanwhile deployed a platoon‑strength reaction force in the vicinity, north of the Administrative Boundary Line, and conducted military overflights in the same area.

This avoidable yet potentially dangerous escalation lasted for 10 days, he reported, adding that through the good offices of the European Union High Representative, supported by the United States, an agreement was achieved to de-escalate tensions, providing for the withdrawal of Kosovo Special Police Units from the north, and an increased KFOR presence to establish a safe and secure environment. An interim solution was agreed on licence plate validity, with discussions to continue over the next six months. The volatility of the situation can also be understood by the direct personal interventions with the Pristina and Belgrade by NATO Secretary‑General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. UNMIK played a tempering role, making use of its presence in the north to reduce the likelihood of an accidental or uncontrolled confrontation between Special Police and the public. The Special Representative himself also raised his voice against unilateral actions.

Then, on 13 October, he said Kosovo’s Special Police Units were again deployed into the north, as part of what was described as an anti-smuggling operation, conducted in several locations. It is questionable whether KFOR was properly informed in advance of the deployment. Throughout the day, this operation provoked protests and clashes that resulted in a significant number of injuries among protestors, police and uninvolved civilians. As the European Union High Representative observed afterward, “unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable […] issues must be addressed through the EU‑facilitated dialogue”. The latest actions deepened the mistrust felt among the Serb population in the north, and led to strong reactions in Belgrade, making a responsible recommitment to dialogue more imperative now.

For his part, Mr. Tanin said he has spoken about the 20‑30 September events and other issues with the leaders of both sides, with diplomats from the United States, the Russian Federation and China, as well as with the KFOR Commander and European Union officials. “History in the region has tragically and repeatedly shown that ostensibly small incidents, misreading of intentions and outright mistakes can trigger an unstable security escalation that puts lives at risk and benefits no one”, he warned. It is important to support all initiatives that promote responsible relations among all the neighbours in the Western Balkans. “Trust continues to be the element in shortest supply”, he said.

He said that if the vast majority of people from the communities do not feel part of political discussions and negotiations, then all efforts to change relations and resolve long-term tensions are destined to remain elusive. A facilitated agreement on paper is a vital objective. However, having a paper in hand does not equate to a solution. Stressing that those who could exert more influence on negotiating parties are “worn out by tired arguments” and nationalist political sloganeering, he said “this is true in Kosovo, it is true in Serbia and it is true across the entire region”.

Going forward, he said that as Kosovo approaches another local election in two days, the focus at central and municipal levels must be on meeting the high expectations for change. Voters clearly want public institutions to work for the welfare of the people, in contrast to the past. They want greater equality of economic and social opportunity, fairness, accountability and reliable recourse to the rule of law. Rebuilding trust demands a sincere approach to the Belgrade‑Pristina dialogue process, as well as to building a conducive atmosphere among the communities within Kosovo. Dealing maturely and responsibly with the past is a precondition for stability, and he cautioned against engaging in divisive ethno‑nationalist themes for political advantage. For its part, UNMIK continues to engage on the ground, across multiple sectors and areas of work, anchored by an agenda that promotes trust-building among Kosovo’s diverse communities.

Statements

NIKOLA SELAKOVIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, expressed deep regret that the security situation in Kosovo and Metohija has been marked by an increasing number of ethnically motivated attacks and incidents targeting Serbs, persistent institutional discrimination against Serbs, and attacks on the Serbian Orthodox Church, adding that the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina refuse to implement the agreements reached in the Brussels dialogue.

He went on to outline “dangerous provocations by Pristina”, which violate the agreements, including a “violent incursion” by a special unit of Kosovo police into northern Kosovska Mitrovica on 13 October, and an attack with firearms and chemicals which claimed the life of a 71‑year‑old, as well as injured 10 unarmed civilians. Serbia is against organized crime and smuggling, which was used “cynically” to attack civilians four days before local elections in Kosovo and Metohija “in order to gain votes in an irresponsible and inhumane way, fully motivated by separatist goals”.

He emphasized that the sole source of destabilization is the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina, which are undertaking such actions as part of a campaign of ethnically motivated violence against Serbs. “After the events of 13 October, it is clear that it can and needs to be stopped by urgent and decisive action of the international community,” he stressed. The imposition of tariffs on products from central Serbia is likewise concerning, he said, recalling that Pristina’s imposition of duties on products from central Serbia in November 2018 resulted in a trade blockade and stalled dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

By contrast, Serbia is working to liberalize the flow of people, goods, services and capital, as part of its "Open Balkan" initiative, in which North Macedonia and Albania have elected to take part, although Pristina has not. On the topic of the return of internally displaced Serbs and other non‑Albanians to Kosovo and Metohija, he noted that since 1999, only 1.9 per cent of them have been able to return, and he called for more attention to be paid to the issue, which is an important part of the UNMIK mandate.

On Serbian churches and monasteries, of which more than 1,300 are found in Kosovo and Metohija, which are inadequately protected, he welcomed the assessment of the report — which stated that no progress has been made in this regard — as well as the call on the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina to ensure implementation of legislation on the protection of religious sites. Against this backdrop, he said, it is evident that the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), is still necessary.

VJOSA OSMANI-SADRIU of Kosovo recalled that 22 years ago she was listening to United Nations meetings on the fate of her nation while seeking refuge in the mountains to avoid the shelling and grenades of the Serbian Army. “Today, 22 years later, as the newly elected President of the Republic of Kosovo, I have the privilege of representing my people, all the people of Kosovo,” she said.

Noting that Kosovo has gone from a war‑torn country to one of the most vibrant democracies in the region, on the cusp of achieving double‑digit growth in gross domestic product (GDP), she painted a picture of a young and optimistic country, where taxes are extremely competitive, Internet penetration is high and there is a completely new legal infrastructure compatible with European Union legislation. Moreover, Kosovo is thriving “in an era of unprecedented institutional stability”, which has seen legal reforms conducted “at record level”, and has a Parliament composed of more women than the European Union average.

She pointed out that the International Court of Justice confirmed that the legal regime of resolution 1244 (1999) only needed to be in place until the final status of Kosovo was determined, which occurred in 2008, with Kosovo’s declaration of independence following the proposal of the United Nations Special Envoy. That Kosovo is still not a member of the United Nations is a “painful irony”, she emphasized, adding that the people of Kosovo are “true internationalists at heart”, and the biggest champions of peace and security in the world.

On the Brussels agreement, she noted that Kosovo has implemented over 90 per cent of all its provisions. By “significant contrast”, she stressed, “Serbia has not implemented two‑thirds” of the agreements signed. Further, despite an agreement in 2013, Serbia has not dissolved illegal criminal structures in north Kosovo, which intimidate Kosovo Serbs in the region. On the police action to tackle smuggling and organized crime, she noted that all those engaged in the case, including in investigating it, were primarily Serbs. While this type of crime has always been multi‑ethnic, the “crucial difference” now is that the fight against it is also multi‑ethnic.

Recalling that UNMIK was established “under extremely different circumstances” 22 years ago, when a NATO intervention forced a halt to war crimes and the Council authorized an international civilian presence to provide an interim administration, she stated that, today, the independence and prosperity of Kosovo provide “sufficient evidence” that UNMIK has overstayed its mandate. “While we thank them for their work, we urge you to put your budget to better use,” she advised.

NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger) said normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina will require constructive engagement in the dialogue process, marked by political will and resolve to make mutual concessions. Expressing deep concern about the renewed tensions and incidents affecting religious and cultural sites, he drew attention to hostility towards the voluntary return of internally displaced persons. He called on Kosovo to ensure women’s full and effective participation in political processes and in all aspects of sociopolitical life, while also encouraging the adoption of measures to strengthen the rule of law, human rights and social inclusion related to the implementation of Government reforms. Belgrade and Pristina must step up their efforts to prevent any stalling of dialogue, he said, welcoming the commitment of regional and international actors to accompany both sides towards a lasting peaceful settlement.

SHERAZ GASRI (France) said recent tensions in northern Kosovo are a reminder that settlement of the dispute between Belgrade and Pristina is a European security issue. She called on both sides to find a lasting solution within the dialogue framework facilitated by the European Union, and to avoid any unilateral action that could weaken this process. Recalling that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and UNMIK work to promote security, the rule of law and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region, he expressed France firm belief that Serbia and Kosovo have a shared European future. He noted in that context that the European Union is the biggest commercial and trading partner, investor and donor in both countries. Normalization of their relations is vital for achieving stability in the Western Balkans and for realizing a European rapprochement of the two countries.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) reiterated support for Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, adding that all outstanding issues should be resolved through peaceful negotiations. Noting that recent meetings between Serbia and authorities in Pristina resulted in no outcomes, he underlined the need for all such meetings to be held without preconditions and in good faith. Both sides must implement already signed agreements, including on the establishment of the Association of Serb‑majority Municipalities and find common ground to overcome political, ethnic and other issues. Calling for efforts to de-escalate tensions, he said the voluntary and safe return of internally displaced persons from other countries in the region is also essential in terms of confidence building measures. He also noted positive contributions by UNMIK and EULEX to overall safety and security on the ground.

Ms. FARREY (United Kingdom) noted the “overall positive trajectory” in the situation in Kosovo as set out in the report. However, she expressed concern over reports of intimidation of Kosovo‑Serb voters ahead of local elections which are set to begin on 17 October, as well as the intimidation of Kosovo‑Serb non-governmental organizations working with Kosovo institutions. She also expressed concern over attacks on religious sites, which have thankfully reduced, according to the report. Welcoming steps taken by Kosovo authorities to strengthen the rule of law and make progress towards its target of vaccinating 60 per cent of its population against COVID‑19, she also highlighted news of the first successful conflict-related sexual violence prosecution in July. Kosovo has made enormous progress since 1999, she noted, adding that the time is right for a review of the role and responsibilities of UNMIK to help it address contemporary challenges.

HALIMAH AMIRAH FARIDAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) commended the many contributions of UNMIK, including its initiatives to promote trust-building and tackle gender‑based violence. Taking note of the resumed European Union‑facilitated dialogue, she underlined the crucial importance of normalizing relations and building on progress achieved so far. She went on to express regret about the recent uptick in tension, including disputes over license plates, and condemned the vandalization of cultural sites. Calling for unified action to tackle these issues, she went on to reaffirm support for UNMIK’s critical work to promote stability and the respect for human rights.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), emphasizing that peacebuilding takes time and ongoing communication, urged both sides to commit to a concerted and sincere effort to progress the European Union‑facilitated dialogue. Leaders in both Serbia and Kosovo must refrain from divisive rhetoric or actions, and all agreements reached since the dialogue began 10 years ago must be implemented without delay. She underscored UNMIK’s support for Kosovo’s COVID‑19 response and its work on missing persons, adding however that more must be done to address gender‑based violence. Barriers preventing women’s full participation in political life and peacebuilding must be dismantled without delay. Now that the people of Kosovo have voted for change, the new Government must deliver on the European Union reform agenda, including as related to the rule of law. Authorities in Kosovo also must adhere to their commitments to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, she said, emphasizing that countering impunity for past crimes is essential to prevent violations.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) welcomed Kosovo’s strategic commitment to its European path and encouraged reforms on the rule of law, combating corruption and organized crime, and advancing development. Stressing that the European Union‑facilitated dialogue is the only way for Kosovo and Serbia to resolve all open issues, he said to normalize relations, it is crucial that both sides fully respect and implement all agreements reached in the dialogue. He expressed hope that the 17 October municipal elections will be inclusive, credible and transparent, and help to advance electoral reforms. He also called on Serbia and Kosovo to refrain from unilateral actions or divisive rhetoric and to reach a comprehensive agreement on the normalization of relations.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) pressed Kosovo and Serbia to implement the 30 September agreement brokered by the European Union, uphold prior agreements, refrain from provocations and recommit to finding solutions through the European Union‑facilitated dialogue, which is the best platform for resolving outstanding issues and normalizing relations, with a view to reaching agreement on mutual recognition. Clarifying that UNMIK did not play a critical role in resolving tensions over the license plate issue, he said the temporary support provided by KFOR is proof that other organizations can serve this role to better effect. UNMIK has fulfilled its purpose and should move towards closure, he said, urging the Council to redirect resources where they are needed most. Prior calls from Council members to review — and take steps to end — UNMIK’s work have gone unheeded and he called for the development of such plans so that the Council can sunset the Mission and help transition to a more effective United Nations presence.

VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) called Ms. Osmani‑Sadriu’s version of events “propaganda”, stressing that her “fiery words” do not change the truth. Expressing regret that Western colleagues shy away from a genuine assessment of the situation, he said Pristina twice — on 15 June and 19 July — disrupted the high‑level dialogue with Belgrade held under European Union auspices. There is no doubt that the new tactic — forceful provocation — aims to undermine the negotiations, especially as the next round is devoted to the establishment of the Community of Serbian Municipalities of Kosovo, a commitment by Pristina that has not been realized since 2013. He expressed hope that Brussels and Washington, D.C. will help Pristina realize that there is only one way to resolve the Kosovo problem: negotiation. The Russian Federation strongly advocates for the achievement of a viable, mutually acceptable solution by Belgrade and Pristina on the basis of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). He voiced opposition to the admission of Kosovo to international organizations, stressing that the right to represent the region belongs exclusively to UNMIK. He went on to note that the judicial system in Kosovo is malfunctioning, and that the situation of the Serb minority as “extremely worrying”, noting that in these conditions, UNMIK is in great demand. He expressed support for maintaining the Mission’s budget and personnel at the current levels, as well as the agreed frequency and format for open Council briefings on the situation in Kosovo.

GENG SHUANG (China) reiterated his respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and commended it for working towards a peaceful solution. He expressed concern about recent unilateral actions by Kosovo, stating that they are not in anyone’s interest. He welcomed the European Union‑facilitated dialogue but noted with regret that it has not yielded any results. He commended Serbia’s willingness to engage in dialogue and expressed hope the international community will foster a favourable atmosphere for such efforts to continue. He noted that implementing the Brussels agreement can inject momentum towards resolving issues, adding that Kosovo must follow through. He expressed concern over the uptick in targeting of ethnic minorities, and called for the safety of Kosovo Serbs to be ensured. The issue represents a security risk in the Balkans, he observed, stating that the role of UNMIK is still important and expressing support for its mandate.

HAI ANH PHAM (Viet Nam) welcomed the resumption of high-level dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade under European Union auspices, and the readiness by the two parties to continue discussions at the technical level to explore opportunities for high-level talks. He urged them to build on recent commitments and implement the Brussels Agreements. He also expressed concern about border tensions over the issue of license plates in late September and took note of the subsequent agreement on temporary measures. While beyond the reporting period, “these developments are worth mentioning because of their underlying causes and the way the two sides deal with similar issues,” he pointed out, acknowledging UNMIK’s crucial role in the promotion of security and stability in the area, and efforts to build trust among the communities in Kosovo in the response to COVID‑19.

MEENA ASIYA SYED (Norway) urged Kosovo’s leaders to capitalize on the momentum from this year’s election and consolidate the rule of law, combat corruption, and protect human rights. All actors must fully engage in the European Union-facilitated dialogue with Serbia, for which there is no alternative. She encouraged the parties to strengthen dialogue, engage constructively on the basis of the Brussels Agreements, exercise pragmatism in finding mutually acceptable compromises and respect the commitments they have made. “An agreement between Kosovo and Serbia on full normalization of relations is key to avoiding a frozen conflict and to achieving economic development,” she stressed. Progress to fight gender-based violence, ensure property rights and ease the pandemic’s impact on women and girls is also essential. She called on the parties to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of dialogue and peacebuilding. Turning to UNMIK, she said that while the Mission has adopted well to new challenges, including the pandemic, Norway supports looking at possible efficiency improvements, she said.

JUAN GÓMEZ ROBLEDO VERDUZCO (Mexico), concerned about the events in north Kosovo, which highlight the importance of the work on the ground by KFOR to ensure a safe environment for all communities, welcomed recent constructive steps taken, including the formation of a working group to resolve the issue of vehicle license plates. However, such tensions are symptomatic of larger-scale issues that can only be resolved through dialogue. In that context, he called on all parties to interact constructively in the European Union‑facilitated dialogue, and to work towards a lasting solution on the definitive status of Kosovo. He went on to reiterate the importance of upholding the rights of all returnees returning to their place of origin, and urged authorities to work with local communities and civil society to safely facilitate such returns. UNMIK continues to help in strengthening the rule of law, in cooperation with KFOR and EULEX, he added.

ADEL BEN LAGHA (Tunisia) said the unfortunate developments in recent weeks add yet another challenge to the region’s security. Calling for a de-escalation of tensions and avoidance of unilateral actions, he welcomed the resumption of the European Union‑facilitated dialogue between the two sides. The next round should bring about tangible progress on the implementation of outstanding agreements, economic cooperation, the return of displaced minorities and the fate of missing persons. Promoting coexistence is key to maintaining peace, as diversity can foster integration and unity, he said, expressing support for various regional and international efforts to find a solution.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, commended UNMIK for its efforts to promote security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region. The Mission has had constructive engagement with Pristina and Belgrade, all communities in Kosovo, and regional and international actors. He underscored the importance of meetings held over the summer between Belgrade and Pristina, including the 15 June high-level talks between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić, as it is only through sustained dialogue that the normalization of relations between can be achieved. Welcoming UNMIK’s pilot initiative to monitor incitement to hatred and hate speech on social and online media, he drew attention to an Arria formula meeting that Kenya will convene later this month on addressing and countering hate speech on social media.

Mr. SELAKOVIĆ, of Serbia, making a second intervention, said the person “pretending to be the so-called President of our southern province” has ignored that the “fake State” she represents is based on war crimes and that its founding fathers are in prison. While remaining silent about the 200,000 Serbian internally displaced persons who have waited to return for 22 years, she brags about receiving refugees from distant countries, he said. Holding up a photo of a 36‑year‑old with injuries in hospital, he went on to question her statement about Kosovo being a champion of peace and stability. Further, he continued, “her main arguments are lies, as she represents no one but herself.” While Serbia is devoted to the truth, Kosovo’s unilateralism destroys efforts to reach a solution through dialogue, he said, adding that Pristina’s institutions of self-government refuse to implement their obligations undertaken in Brussels. He registered his protest that Ms. Osmani‑Sadriu is permitted to enter the hall bearing “symbols of a fake State”, stressing that the President of Serbia is also her President.

Ms. OSMANI‑SADRIU, of Kosovo, characterized Mr. Selaković’s statements as “pure propaganda”, stressing that she is “a proud citizen of the independent republic of Kosovo, which is not going anywhere”. She said “it is better if you face this reality.” On the issue of internally displaced persons, she agreed that there is a tragedy behind their stories, as well as those of refugees. “I have been one,” she continued, recalling that she was among the 80 per cent of Kosovars who were forced to flee a genocidal regime, which is currently being rehabilitated by institutions in Serbia. On the incident involving the death of an old woman, she said there are no reports from local or international institutions, nor an autopsy, that confirm that her death is a result of rule‑of‑law actions by the police. Noting that ethnically motivated crimes occurred at a very low rate of 0.03 per cent between 2017 and 2020, she went on to stress, “Serbs are not afraid of me, they are afraid of the parallel criminal illegal structures supported by President Vučić.” She disputed reports of attacks on churches and monasteries, and called on Serbia to stop glorifying and rehabilitating war criminals, and to open its mass graves, where more than 1,600 people remain. “We want our loved ones back,” she stressed.

Mr. SELAKOVIĆ, in a final intervention, repeated that these statements are full of lies, adding that as many as 15 churches have been robbed during the last nine months, and that 19 Serbian Christian Orthodox graveyards have been ruined. He stated that Ms. Osmani‑Sadriu was hiding in the mountains 22 years ago because she was a terrorist with the Kosovo Liberation Army, proclaimed a terrorist organization by the United States Central Intelligence Agency in 1997.

Ms. OSMANI‑SADRIU said she was indeed hiding in the mountains for months after being forced to flee her home alongside hundreds of thousands of others. In 1999, she was finally able to leave, and resided as a refugee in Montenegro for a while. “I know what it is like to be an internally displaced person and a refugee, which is why we opened our hearts and minds to people of Afghanistan,” she said. She went on to state that the current Speaker of Parliament in Serbia threatens to tar as “traitors of the nation” Serbians cooperating with the international community to locate mass graves, and called for Kosovo to be acknowledged as a sovereign nation that has much to contribute to the world.