8176th Security Council Meeting: Briefing on Kosovo

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07-Feb-2018 02:09:32
Attempts to repeal law on Kosovo chambers a grave concern, special representative tells Security Council amid calls for continued high-level dialogue, at 8176th meeting.

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The establishment of the Specialist Chambers in Kosovo had been a major achievement, and recent attempts to abrogate the 2015 law supporting its work were cause for grave concern, the senior United Nations official in the Balkans told the Security Council today, adding that the assassination of a Kosovo-Serb politician in January had shaken the region.

Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), briefed the Council via video conference from Pristina, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest quarterly report on the Mission (document S/2018/76). The new European enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, launched on 6 February, had paved the way for expansion, as well as political and socioeconomic reform, he affirmed.

He said, however, attempts by members of the ruling coalition in the Kosovo Assembly to repeal the law on those Chambers had raised concerns about Kosovo’s commitment to an impartial application of the rule of law. Such actions would damage Kosovo’s aspirations, as nearly all regional and international partners had made clear.

Further, the 16 January assassination of Kosovo-Serb politician Oliver Ivanović had sent shockwaves across the region, and he urged all parties to work together to ensure the perpetrators were brought to justice. Leaders in Belgrade and Pristina had reacted to that event in a prompt and responsible manner. But while Belgrade was cooperating with the investigation, concerns remained about the efficiency of information exchange.

Ivica Dačič, Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, called the assassination a “senseless terrorist act” that risked destabilizing the region. While Pristina had intimated that local mafia were involved and that the crime had not been ethnically motivated, he said such statements obscured Kosovo’s inability to investigate the matter.

On the Specialist Chambers, he said they had been established to try the alleged crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army, and that political parties sought to revoke the law governing them. The international community stood behind the Chambers from a belief that such heinous crimes committed against Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo should not go unpunished.

To those comments, Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo said 80 Parliamentarians had voted to establish the Specialized Chambers, and 43 signatures in favour of a debate about it would not change that fact. The people of Kosovo wanted justice for all victims, regardless of ethnicity. Kosovo, she said, had an exemplary record of cooperation with both international and local war crimes tribunals.

She said the new European Union strategy for the Western Balkans had made clear that Kosovo and Serbia must normalize their relations and enter into a legally binding agreement. Normalization could only be achieved by Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo. The sooner that happened, she said, the better it would be for the region.

When the floor opened for debate, the representative of the Russian Federation said the sponsors of the dubious Kosovo project should realize that there were no clear prospects for settling that situation. His country had cautioned against the 2008 unilateral proclamation of independence. Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity were being trampled in a breach of international law. Kosovo was also a comfortable zone for recruiting radicals, which carried a high cost for the region. The murder of Oliver Ivanović had signalled the low level of security in Kosovo and the risks to Serb communities.

The representative of the United States, underscoring her country’s focus on peacekeeping reform, said conditions in Kosovo had changed for the better. It was past time to wind down UNMIK in order to preserve United Nations resources. The leaders of Kosovo and Serbia should now take the matter into their own hands and come together to normalize relations to the benefit of both parties, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Kazakhstan, France, China, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Côte d'Ivoire, Bolivia, Peru and Kuwait.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:17 p.m.
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