Positions on Kosovo settlement proposal remain far apart, UN Security Council told by head of fact-finding mission

Security Council
5672nd Meeting (PM)

Johan C. Verbeke Says Phased Independence Recommendation Clearly Supported by Kosovo Albanians; Firmly Rejected by Kosovo Serbs, Serbia

The positions of the sides on the settlement proposal for Kosovo remained far apart, the head of the Security Council's six-day mission to the province told Council members today.

Briefing the Council, Johan C. Verbeke ( Belgium), said that the Belgrade authorities and all Kosovo Serb interlocutors remained firmly opposed to the Kosovo settlement proposal and rejected a solution that would entail any form of independence. Kosovo Albanian representatives, on the other hand, had expressed clear and unambiguous support for that proposal and recommendation on Kosovo's future status. Expectations among the majority Kosovo Albanian population for an early resolution of Kosovo's future status were very high.

The fact-finding mission had been sent so that the Council could have a better understanding of the political, social and economic situation on the ground as it considers the proposal by the Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, to grant independence in a phased process, with initial supervision by the international community.

Mr. Verbeke said that the mission had provided its participants with an opportunity to gain first-hand information on the situation. As a result, it had become clear -- even more than before -- that the "Kosovo issue" was a concrete reality and not an abstract problem. Kosovo's society was still recovering from the wounds inflicted by the conflict. The province's Albanian and Serb communities lived, to a large extent, separately from each other. There were also differences in the way they looked to the future: while the Kosovo Albanian community was confident about the future, the Kosovo Serb community was more apprehensive about its prospects. The commitment and readiness to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo conveyed by Kosovo's political leaders was encouraging, but the creation of such a society would require sustained efforts.

Over the years, the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) had made significant progress in the implementation of standards for Kosovo, for example in establishing Provisional Institutions that were functional and were founded on the principles of ownership and accountability. The Provisional Institutions of Self-Government had expressed their commitment to continue and strengthen the implementation of the standards, in particular those relating to the conditions of life of minority communities.

As for the critical issue of the return of internally displaced persons, the numbers of sustainable returns continued to be very low. Although structures for return were in place, the lack of economic prospects, difficulties associated with freedom of movement and security-related concerns had been mentioned as defining reasons why returns remained limited. Opposing views existed on whether a definition of the status of Kosovo would facilitate or hinder the returns process.

The mission had also noted the importance, stressed by many, of promoting a European perspective for the region, including for Kosovo. European prospects could provide direction for future political and economic development and, thus, contribute to consolidating stability in Kosovo and, by extension, in the region as a whole.

Providing highlights of the visit, he said that the messages of the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jaap de Hoop Sheffer, the European Union's Special Envoy for Status Talks, Stephan Lehne, and European Enlargement Commissioner, Oli Rehn, during the mission's meetings in Brussels on 25 April had been quite similar. For them, the status quo was untenable, expectations in Kosovo were high, and any delay in the determination of the province's status could put Kosovo and the region at risk. They had also stated their full support for Mr. Ahtisaari's recommendations and settlement proposal. It appeared that the European Union and NATO were prepared to assume their responsibilities in the framework of Kosovo's future status. Planning was ongoing, although they insisted that it did not prejudge the final outcome of the status process. Both organizations stressed that the final status decision should be endorsed by a Security Council resolution under Chapter VII.

The mission's main interlocutors in Belgrade on 26 April -- Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica, President Boris Tadi?, members of the negotiating team, the President of the Coordination Centre for Kosovo and almost all members of the party caucuses -- had firmly rejected the settlement proposal and any solution that would entail any form of independence for Kosovo. Instead, they had argued for "substantial autonomy" of Kosovo within Serbia and under international supervision. They had also called for further negotiations. Another recurring theme had been the lack of full implementation of resolution 1244, in particular with regard to the return of internally displaced persons. According to Belgrade authorities, only 2 to 5 per cent of internally displaced persons had been able to return since 1999. The issue of return had been repeatedly raised during the visit, its complex nature further illustrated by field trips to Svinjare and Brestovik

The mission had met with a broad spectrum of actors in Pristina on 27 and 28 April, he continued. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Joachim Rücker, had underlined that, having established the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, rule of law structures and institutions required for a market economy, UNMIK had achieved everything that was achievable. Further progress was dependent on a resolution of Kosovo's status. That assessment was echoed by the representatives of the Kosovo Team of Unity, including President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Çeku. They had expressed their unanimous support for the settlement proposal and status recommendation and stressed their commitment to implement the settlement proposal in its entirety. They had also underlined that Kosovo was committed to a multi-ethnic State, with a goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. A similar message was expressed by the ministers of the Kosovo Government, Assembly leaders and leaders from minority communities. For Kosovo Serb representatives, however, including Bishop Artemije of the Serbian Orthodox Church, independence was clearly not an option. The mission had concluded with an informal exchange on various aspects of the settlement proposal with Special Envoy Ahtisaari in Vienna.

The meeting was called to order at 12.10 p.m. and adjourned at 12.21 p.m.

For information media - not an official record