8025th Security Council Meeting: Report on UNMIK

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16-Aug-2017 02:56:27
Welcoming Kosovo’s recent free and fair elections, the head of the United Nations mission there stressed today the need to form a new government without delay, at 8025th meeting.

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Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was briefing the Security Council while presenting the Secretary-General’s latest quarterly report on UNMIK (document S/2017/640). He said June’s parliamentary elections had resulted in a significant shift in the configuration of Kosovo’s political landscape. While the elections had themselves been deemed inclusive and impartial by international monitors, the ensuing political transition had proven challenging.

Women’s participation, in voting and on the ballot, had remained low to non-existent, he said. The greatest concern, however, was that the election process itself consumed institutional energy and that major social and economic opportunities had been missed. Recalling President Aleksandar Vučić’s internal dialogue initiative, he emphasized the Serbian leader’s warning that the historical conflict between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians remained unresolved. However, the long-standing opposition had gained significantly in the elections, he said, pointing out that voter turnout had been highest in Kosovo Serb areas, signifying that group’s shift from boycotting Kosovo elections to active participation.

He went on to highlight the role of UNMIK in strengthening the participation of missing persons’ family representatives in determining the fate of the 1,658 people for whom there was still no accounting. The Mission had hosted and participated in several initiatives and events, including a youth assembly that demonstrated the vibrancy of Kosovo civil society. Last month, the Mission had facilitated a meeting with local leaders in south-eastern Kosovo, he said, adding that such meetings helped to build trust and address the concerns of local communities.

Ivica Dačić, Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, said UNMIK’s recent strengthening sent a powerful message that the United Nations provided the “roof” of the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija. It would have a positive influence in resolving a range of problems facing ethnic Serb and other non-Albanian Kosovo communities. However, pressure had been exerted to break the unity of the ethnic-Serb voting bloc, a practice that the Secretary-General’s report covered only inadequately, he noted.

He said the stalled formation of Kosovo’s institutions was of concern for the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, as was the statement by a candidate for Prime Minister, who had mentioned an “enemy Serbia”. Judicial institutions in Kosovo and Metohija must not remain silent in the face of hate speech, he emphasized, pointing out that Kosovo had refused to implement the agreement on the Association/Community of Serbian Municipalities. Its unilateral ban on Serbian passports was further evidence that it lacked the political will to normalize relations, he added.

Noting that the United States, United Kingdom and France had all aligned themselves with Kosovo on the question of terminating UNMIK, he asked the representatives of those countries whether they believed it was enough merely to assert that the Council no longer needed to discuss Kosovo. He reminded them of the 200,000 Serbs executed and the mere 1.9 per cent who had returned, recalling that he had presented data from 1981, when protests and Kosovo’s quest for independence had begun. That had been the time of Communist Yugoslavia, he said, asking where the 43,000 Serbs living in Kosovo at that time had gone. Why had the United States, in particular, not granted visas to 41 per cent of those people? “You forgot the history and everything you did in the Balkans over the last 100 years,” he said, expressing hope that what France and the United Kingdom had done in Serbia would not befall them in turn.

Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo emphasized that the Council was not the venue in which to discuss how national, ethnic or civic identities intertwined, who had arrived in the Balkans first and from where. Historians could discuss such issues in a seminar, she said, adding that, as an ethnic Albanian and proud citizen, she understood that her identity, and others, coexisted well in Kosovo. Independence had not been the result of a secessionist movement, but rather, a consensual dissolution of Yugoslavia, from which Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had emerged. Furthermore, there had been no secessionist movement, she said, recalling that [former Special Envoy for Kosovo] Martti Ahtisaari had proposed that Kosovo declare independence. The International Court of Justice ruling, requested by Serbia, had verified that declaration, she said, reaffirming that Kosovo had been within its rights to declare independence.

Pristina would do everything in its power to convince its Kosovo Serb citizens that the local army would be theirs too, adding that “there is absolutely nothing to fear”. Already there were Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Montenegrins in the security forces, she said. The cause of greatest concern, however, was Serbia’s “duality” in pretending to implement agreements while simultaneously continuing to support parallel structures in Kosovo, including illegal municipalities. Normalization could not be achieved at the expense of truth and justice, she emphasized, adding that acknowledging the truth about war crime in Kosovo was the only way in which both societies could move forward. “We are free, we are independent and that will never change,” she said. Serbia must deal with its own past for the sake of its children. “Let’s keep it real and let’s bring UNMIK to an end,” she said, adding that the Mission no longer had role nor function, and that more than $400 million had been spent on maintaining it since 2009.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United States said that UNMIK, while a success story, had outlived its reason for existing, reiterating calls for the Mission’s termination, as well as for expanding the reporting period from the current three to six months.

The Russian Federation’s representative said there was no reason to reduce the United Nations presence in Kosovo because UNMIK remained essential to normalizing relations. It was unacceptable for the Council to be guided exclusively by financial reasons, he emphasized, warning members against putting “positive spin” on a deteriorating situation. The reality was that the Kosovo project continued to fail, he said, noting the dysfunction of the Pristina authorities and the sense of total impunity in which Kosovo politicians operated as they rejected the slightest progress on the Brussels agreements. Attacks against Kosovo Serbs continued, as did the appropriation of property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, he added. He described Pristina’s pronouncement that the Russian Federation intended to redraw Kosovo’s borders as a blatant lie. It seemed to have become trendy to accuse the Russian Federation without evidence, he added, while stressing: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is called defamation.”

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Italy, Senegal, China, Ukraine, Bolivia, Japan, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom, France and Egypt.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:59 p.m.
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