8427th Security Council Meeting: Letter from Serbia

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17-Dec-2018 02:08:43
Peacekeeping chief urges Serbia, Kosovo to avoid exacerbating tensions after decision to transform security force into national armed forces at 8427th meeting.

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Serbia and Kosovo must avoid steps that could further exacerbate tensions and set back dialogue towards normalizing relations, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, expressed concern over tensions in northern Kosovo in particular, as he briefed the Council on developments unfolding since members heard a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) on 14 November.

Since then, he said, Kosovo increased tariffs on goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 10 per cent to 100 per cent. In response, the mayors of the four ethnic Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo announced their resignations and the decision by their respective municipal assemblies to cease all official communications with the authorities in Pristina, he added.

On 14 December, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted three laws providing for substantial changes to the mandate, role and strength of the Kosovo Security Force, he continued, recalling that the Serbian authorities condemned that action as an act of political aggression and a violation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). He went on to note the Secretary-General’s concern over the Kosovo Assembly’s adoption of the laws, and his affirmation of the standing of Council resolution 1244 (1999) as the sole legal framework for the international security presence, the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR).

He went on to emphasize the crucial need for Serbia and Kosovo to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation, and instead to find ways to re-engage in dialogue to normalize relations. In accordance with Council resolution 1244 (1999), UNMIK is committed to working closely with KFOR, and will continue to focus on building trust, which is essential for the long-term normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, he added.

President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia expressed worry and fear over his country’s future and that of the entire region. He said Serbia entreated Kosovo not to bid for full-fledged membership of international bodies, such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), he noted, recalling that after it failed to win membership, Pristina blamed Belgrade and imposed tariffs against Serbia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina. Noting that UNMIK and KFOR both derive authority from Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), he said the text clearly envisages the demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army and all other armed Kosovo-Albanian groups.

Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo, asserting that “nothing extraordinary” transpired, said that as a sovereign and independent State, Kosovo has taken a natural step in establishing its army. Nothing whatsoever contradicts resolution 1244 (1999), the package proposed by former Special Representative Marrti Ahtisari, the constitution of Kosovo, or international law. He gave assurances that Kosovo will respect every existing international agreement and continue to cooperate closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), stressing that under no circumstances should the establishment of Kosovo’s army be perceived as an attempt to duplicate that alliance’s mission.

Voicing support for Kosovo, the representative of the United States reaffirmed the need for the Kosovo Security Force to have a gradual, transparent transition to a professional, multi-ethnic, NATO-interoperable force that serves and reflects all of Kosovo’s communities. The relevant legislation is fully in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999), he said, adding that it is Kosovo’s sovereign right to establish and maintain an armed force. In that vein, he called upon Kosovo to continue its close coordination with NATO allies and partners and to engage in outreach to minority communities now and throughout the years-long process ahead.

The Russian Federation’s delegate said he shares Serbia’s serious concerns about the situation in Kosovo. Pristina’s decision constitutes a gross violation of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which contains a clear demand for the demilitarization of any armed groups of Kosovo-Albanians. Describing the European Union’s reaction as “toothless”, he stressed that the emergence of the Kosovar army represents an existential threat. Nevertheless, he expressed hope that the European Union will use its presence in Kosovo, as well as the Stabilization and Association Agreement, to prevent a further deterioration of the situation and to reverse Pristina’s tariffs.

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

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:14 p.m.

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