7940th Security Council Meeting: Report on UNMIK

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SIX OFFICIAL 16-May-2017 02:16:34
Kosovo needs leadership that transcends ethno-national divisions, special representative tells Security Council at 7940th meeting.
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The situation in Kosovo was “generally stable” although fluctuating tensions remained in the Balkans region, the senior United Nations official there told the Security Council today.

Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said that Kosovo required leadership that transcended ethno-national divisions. Instead, the holding of frequent electoral cycles was a distraction that did not help to advance the European Union-led dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

Inflammatory and irresponsible statements had led to an erosion of trust between the two sides, he said, noting that public communications had descended into ethno-nationalist slogans outside the realm of civil political discourse. He reiterated the remarks of various leaders on regional and subregional unions, including the Prime Minister of Albania, who said that while a large union was hoped for, “smaller unions may happen”. He also quoted Serbian cabinet Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who said that Greater Albania “can only be accomplished by a great Balkan war”. Comments such as those might only serve to fuel fears, he said.

On a more positive note, he highlighted that evidence of constructive engagement continued. He had met and spoken with municipal mayors and witnessed real commitment to resolve issues in Gjilan/Gnjilane, Pristina, and North and South Mitrovica. In that vein, he hoped that the leaders in Belgrade and Pristina would proceed with far-sighted dialogue in the interest of their people.

The Minister of Justice of Serbia, Nela Kuburović, highlighted Belgrade’s dialogue with Pristina, which it continued to participate in, she said, despite the process of normalization of relations as a means to “blackmail” the Serbian side. In addition, no significant progress had been made on the establishment in Kosovo of a Community of Serbian Municipalities, part of the First Agreement on Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations. There had also been ethnically motivated attacks against Serbs, and not a single killer of any of the 1,000 Serbs killed since the end of the conflict had been convicted under a sentence that was legally effective. In particular, the decision by the French court of Colmar to refuse to extradite Ramush Haradinaj, the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was “shameful, illegal and scandalous”.

The human rights of non-Albanians across Kosovo and Metohija continued to be under threat, and the rate of return for internally displaced persons in those areas remained lower than in most traumatic post-conflict areas around the world, she emphasized. As such, Serbia opposed the establishment of a Kosovo army, which was an attempt to raise tensions and was in violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade should not be used as a platform for the imposition of the interests of one side, but should instead find solutions that were mutually acceptable.

“I invite you all to come to Kosovo, and see the reality, because trust me, the conversations in this chamber do not match it,” said Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo, noting that even though the it was not yet a United Nations Member, that did not make it any less of a State. She said it was cynical to come to the Security Council Chamber every three months for political reasons.

Citing a report by the Centre for Human Rights in Serbia, she said that State had failed to deal with its past crimes. Meanwhile, Kosovo had issued more than 20 indictments for war crimes, and was working to become a responsible member of the world’s free nations. It had also initiated the establishment of the Kosovo army and would engage in efforts to convince local Serbians to support that project. In addition, it would hold Parliamentary elections in June and had invited international observers to monitor the process.

The Council, she said, first discussed Kosovo in 1993 and adopted seven resolutions between 1998 and 1999, which called for peace and the end of ethnic cleansing. In 2005, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy proposed Kosovo’s independence, and the International Court of Justice had stated that a declaration of independence was not a violation of international law. Today, while Kosovo had its challenges, the Council was not the correct venue to discuss them. UNMIK, she said, had no role in Kosovo, and it was unnecessary for the Organization to continue to spend its resources there.

Several delegates expressed similar views on the subject of UNMIK, including the representative of the United States, who said that the Mission risked being remembered as a programme that lingered beyond its relevance. It was overresourced and overstaffed, she said, and had requested additional resources for programming that was largely redundant, particularly given the presence of the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).

The time was ripe for a review of UNMIK, the representative of Japan said, noting that the Council should have clear priorities in the face of serious conflicts and crises in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. The delegate of Italy also encouraged the Council to review the presence of UNMIK, and perhaps reconfigure it in line with the reform of peacekeeping operations by the United Nations.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the request to close the Mission was counterproductive, and that efforts to normalize the situation should be made instead. He cited the weakness of Kosovo’s institutions, Pristina’s moves to appropriate Serbian State properties, and attempts to prevent the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, as reasons for UNMIK to remain.

The representative of Bolivia also raised the subject of internally displaced persons, raising his objection to obstacles put in the place of their safe return. The representative of Uruguay similarly noted those obstacles, and appealed for progress with regard to “disappeared” persons after four cases were reopened. Their families should have information on their fate, he said.

Other representatives raised the proposal to transform the Kosovo Security Force into an army. The representative of the United Kingdom said that he welcomed its withdrawal, while the representative of Ukraine called the proposal irresponsible, as it could lead to heightened regional tensions and be an “explosive cocktail” when linked with ethno-nationalist sentiments.

Speakers generally called upon both Kosovo and Serbia to resume their participation in the European Union-led dialogue, which was widely seen to offer the best path to future peace and cooperation.

Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt, Senegal, Sweden, China, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and France.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:25 p.m.
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