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OSCE deploys Kosovo Verification Mission

The OSCE faces its toughest and most high-profile challenge in its history; organizing, deploying and running a 2000 member Kosovo Verification Mission. OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Bronislaw Geremek described the operation as both a "tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity" for the Organization.
The announcement came on 13 October after weeks of diplomatic wrangling between Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and the international community.

On 6 October Mr. Geremek, received a letter from the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Zivadin Jovanovi, in which he invited the OSCE "to witness first hand the positive evolution of the most crucial processes in Kosovo and Metohija."

In reply, Mr. Geremek emphasized that "the best conditions for accepting this invitation will appear when the FRY satisfies the requirements contained in the OSCE Permanent Council Decision 218, as well as United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1160 and 1199."

In a statement issued on 7 October Mr. Geremek recalled "the OSCE's long-standing readiness to give its contribution to the democratic processes in the FRY and to the solution of the crisis in Kosovo, where appalling human suffering is occurring, and where there is the risk of its aggravation in the near future." At the same time, he reiterated the OSCE's long-standing readiness to contribute to a durable solution and to stability in the area. He said that he hoped "conditions will soon allow the OSCE to undertake appropriate initiative" and noted that OSCE monitoring could be an important element of the settlement process of the solution of the crisis in Kosovo.

All the while the situation on the ground deteriorated. With winter approaching, the humanitarian situation worsening and sporadic fighting still raging, a solution to the crisis became increasingly urgent.

While forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) prepared for air strikes, United States special envoy Richard Holbrooke pursued intensive negotiations with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Indications of a possible breakthrough in the crisis came on the night of 12 October when Mr. Holbrooke briefed representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels. Rumours had been circulating throughout the day that Mr. Milosevic would agreed to allow international observers to monitor compliance with the UN resolutions. The possibility of OSCE participation in this verification mission was hinted at by Mr. Holbrooke when he told reporters at a late-night press briefing on 12 October that he was to immediately hold talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office Geremek.

The deal was announced on 13 October. Up to 2,000 OSCE "verifiers" and NATO surveillance aircraft would be deployed to verify compliance with the UN resolutions.

On 15 October US Special Envoy for Kosovo, Ambassador Christopher Hill, briefed the Permanent Council on the negotiations which led to the agreement to establish an OSCE Verification Mission for Kosovo. At the same meeting, the Permanent Council, took a decision that declared the preparedness of the OSCE "to embark upon verification activities related to compliance of all parties in Kosovo with the requirements set forth by the international community with regard to the solution of the crisis in Kosovo". It also supported the Chairman-in-Office's efforts "to arrange with the FRY authorities for the OSCE to make such contribution".

This paved the way for the Chairman-in-Office trip to travel to Belgrade on 16 October where he signed an Agreement with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic on the creation of an OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission.

The agreement, allows for the creation of a Mission of 2000 unarmed verifiers from OSCE participating States "to verify compliance by all parties in Kosovo with UN Security Council Resolution 1199, and report instances of progress and/or non-compliance to the OSCE Permanent Council, the United Nations Security Council and other organizations" (see below). It also gives the OSCE the responsibility of supervising elections in Kosovo "to ensure their openness and fairness in accordance with regulations and procedures agreed".

Endorsement for the OSCE Mission was given by the UN Security Council on 24 October through decision No. 1203. It demanded that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia abide by its agreements and commitments concerning the OSCE Verification Mission is Kosovo and reminded the FRY of its "primary responsibility for the safety and security of all diplomatic personnel accredited to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". It said that all parties should comply "fully and swiftly" with resolutions 1160 and 1199 and "co-operate fully" with the OSCE Mission. It also insisted that the Kosovo Albanian leadership "condemn all terrorist actions", demanded that such actions cease immediately and emphasized that "all elements in the Kosovo Albanian community should pursue their goals by peaceful means only."

On Sunday 25 October the Permanent Council met in a special session to formally establish the Mission. The mandate will be for one year, "with extensions upon the request of either the Chairman-in-Office or the FRY government."

Although this decision authorized immediate start-up deployment of the KVM, contingency preparations had already been going for some time.

On 17 the Chairman-in-Office appointed Ambassador William G. Walker of the United States as Head of the KVM. Ambassador Walker has had a distinguished 37-year career in the Foreign Service, mostly in South America. Most recently he served as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General as head of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) in Croatia.

A Technical Assessment Team, dispatched by the Secretariat, arrived in Belgrade on 17 October. The team, made up of representatives of the OSCE Secretariat and assisted by members of the OSCE Missions to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, travelled extensively around Kosovo between 18 and 21 October in order to gain a first hand impression of conditions on the ground (particularly outside Pristina) and to ascertain the availability of office and lodging accommodations.

The Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) has its headquarters in Pristina. It is anticipated that coordination centers will be established in the capital of each opstina in Kosovo. In some opstina there may be other small sub-stations.

Norway, which will assume the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 1999, has taken the lead role in establishing the Mission Headquarters and has set aside US$26 million to cover the expenses incurred in connection with this task.

Lists of verifiers have been forwarded to the Secretariat by many participating States. Their deployment will be phased over the next few weeks. In the short term, the Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission will make up the core of the verification staff. They will be absorbed by the OSCE Mission once it is fully operational.

Security of the verifiers has been a concern. Mr. Geremek raised the issue in Contact Group meetings and in discussions with NATO. While UN Security resolutions 1199 and 1203 stressed that it is up to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to guarantee the safety and security of the Verification Mission, resolution 1203 also affirmed that "in the event of an emergency, action may be needed" to ensure the safety of KVM personnel. Talks are continuing on arrangements concerning the security of the verifiers.

Who are the "Verifiers" and what will they do?

The term "verifiers" has been chosen for these OSCE personnel because they will be seeking to verify compliance with specific terms of a decision. The term has the connotation of being more proactive and intrusive than a more passive observer or monitor.

Personnel of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission are seconded from OSCE participating States. The upper limit of the Mission staff will be 2000.

According to the Specific Terms of Reference of the Agreement, the role of the Verifiers will be the following:

1. The Verification Mission will travel throughout Kosovo to verify the maintenance of the cease-fire by all elements. It will investigate reports of cease-fire violations. Mission personnel will have full freedom of movement and access throughout Kosovo at all times.

2. The Verification Mission will receive weekly information from relevant FRY/Serbian military/police headquarters in Kosovo regarding movements of forces during the preceding week into, out of or within Kosovo. Upon request of the Verification Mission Director, Mission personnel may be invited to accompany police within Kosovo.

3. The Verification Mission will look for and report on roadblocks and other emplacements which influence lines of communication erected for purposes other than traffic or crime control. The Mission Director will contact the relevant authorities upon receipt of such reports. These authorities will explain the reasons for the emplacements or else direct that the emplacements be removed immediately. The Verification Mission will also receive notification should emergent circumstances lead to the establishment of a roadblock for other than traffic or crime control-related reasons. The Mission Director may request the removal of any roadblocks.

4. The Verification Mission will maintain liaison with FRY authorities about border control activities and movements by units with border control responsibilities through areas of Kosovo away from the border. The Verification Mission, when invited by the FRY authorities or upon its request, will visit border control units and accompany them as they perform their normal border control roles.

5. When invited or upon request, the Verification mission will accompany police units in Kosovo as they perform their normal policing roles.

6. The Verification Mission will, to the extent possible, assist UNHCR, ICRC and other international organizations in facilitating the return of displaced persons to their homes, the provision of facilitative and humanitarian assistance to them by the FRY, Serbian and Kosovo authorities as well as the humanitarian organizations and NGOs. The Mission will verify the level of co-operation and support provided by the FRY and its entities to the humanitarian organizations and accredited NGOs in facilitating procedural requirements such as issuance of travel documentation, expedited customs clearance for humanitarian shipments and radio frequencies. The Mission will make such representations as it deems necessary to resolve problems it observes.

7. As the political settlement defining Kosovo=B4s self-government is achieved and implementation begins, the Mission Director will assist, both with his own resources and with augmented OSCE implementation support, in areas such as election supervision, assistance in the establishment of Kosovo institutions and police force development in Kosovo.

8. The Mission Director will receive periodic updates from the relevant authorities concerning eventual allegations of abusive actions by military or police personnel and status of disciplinary or legal actions against individuals implicated in such abuses.

9. The Verification Mission will maintain liaison with FRY, Serbian and, as appropriate, Kosovo authorities and with ICRC regarding ICRC access to detained persons.

10. The Mission Director will, as required, convene representatives of national communities and authorities to exchange information and provide guidance on implementation of the agreement establishing the Verification Mission.

11. The Mission Director will report instances of progress and/or non-compliance or lack of full cooperation from any side to the OSCE and other organizations.