8399th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Kosovo

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14-Nov-2018 02:18:59
Talks between Serbia, Kosovo must be backed by previously agreed trust-building measures, special representative tells Security Council at 8399th meeting.

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New momentum in talks between Serbia and Kosovo must be accompanied by the implementation of previous agreements and other measures to build trust between communities in Kosovo, the Secretary—General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.

“Any process of political negotiation requires the full engagement and buy-in from societies, as well as from leaders and political representatives,” said Zahir Tanin, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2018/981) to the 15-member Council.

Mr. Tanin said that prospects for decisive progress in the European Union-facilitated negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina had improved with support from both sides of a new framework for a comprehensive agreement, including the possibility of territorial exchange. At the same time, however, he described the situation on the ground as adversarial, with economic steps and needed reform in economic and rule of law institutions undermined by, and contributing to, ethnic tensions.

In order to build trust and build acceptance for political agreements, he underlined the importance of addressing those issues and implementing earlier agreements that included the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities. Ongoing efforts to deploy a Kosovo Security Force must also be handled with care to ensure a fully inclusive process.

In addition, he highlighted the importance of UNMIK’s priority of long-term reconciliation through trust-building at the grassroots level in Kosovo. Among other strategies, the Mission is promoting the use of innovative communication technologies to support interactions between communities, and addressing issues related to justice, human rights, women’s empowerment and youth.

Speaking after that briefing, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia called on the Council to stay seized of the question of Kosovo and Metohija and support continuation of UNMIK, arguing that the Mission had not fulfilled its mandate, with security maintained by the international structures. As sustainable peace requires a negotiated political solution, he affirmed his country’s interest in achieving compromise toward that end.

He called on Council members to assist in that effort and not to rely on the recognitions of Kosovo that had been made or the push for its membership in international organizations as sustainable answers to the question. He added that the picture of progress and stability was inaccurate as the Association/Community of Serb-majority Municipalities has not been formed, conditions are not present for the return of displaced persons and ethnic violence continued, as did many violations of Council resolutions.

Vlora Citaku of Kosovo said that UNMIK is neither a peacekeeping or an administrative mission. The United Nations’ resources can be put to better use in other parts of the world. She stressed that Kosovo means to stay independent and that it broke no international laws when it declared that status. To help combat transnational crime and contribute to regional and global security, Kosovo must join the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), she added, arguing that Kosovo’s decision to establish its own armed forces is a sovereign prerogative.

She also underscored that Kosovo remains committed to fulfilling all arrangements previously agreed to in Brussels with Serbia, although Serbia is not holding up its end of the bargain. The dialogue must be exclusively about peace and reconciliation, not Kosovo’s right to exist as a free nation. Kosovo is a young republic that is far from perfect, but it will not stop striving to become better for all its citizens, regardless of ethnic or religious background, she said.

Council members paid tribute to the work of UNMIK, as well as that of the International Security Force in Kosovo (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), which is helping to build capacity in justice institutions in Kosovo. Most, while urging both Belgrade and Pristina to accelerate progress in the European-sponsored talks and to implement their agreements, also called on leaders from all sides to refrain from provocative rhetoric and action. Many urged that a range of specific issues be resolved in order to reduce tensions and allow return of refugees.

Along with other speakers, the representative of the United Kingdom said that the changes in the situation of Kosovo must be recognized, with the role of UNMIK as well as the nature of Council meetings adjusted accordingly. She explained that her country had considered the need for a Council meeting in August and had proposed alternatives for a meeting that suited current conditions, all of which were rejected. She stressed the importance of Kosovo’s membership in INTERPOL for regional security.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the stability and progress that is being used as a reason to call for fewer meetings and a change in UNMIK’s mandate did not reflect reality. He pointed to continued ethnic violence, little improvement in justice matters and lack of implementation of agreements. Outbreak of conflict is constantly a possibility. He further emphasized that the push for Kosovo to gain membership in international organizations, particularly INTERPOL, was harmful to the international order. Supporting continued quarterly Council meetings on Kosovo, he stressed that only the Council can change the mandate of UNMIK.

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

The meeting began at 11:17 a.m. and ended at 1:35 p.m.

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