Political Impasse on Kosovo, Rising Tensions between Pristina, Belgrade Can Only Be Overcome by Compromise, Mission Head Tells Security Council
Amid the current political impasse and rising tensions between Pristina and Belgrade, which have resulted in violence, the international community must urge both sides to foster purposeful and concerted actions towards peaceful resolution, the United Nations top official in Kosovo said today, as representatives asserted differing opinions about the cause of regional instability and the lack of implementation of relevant agreements.
Caroline Ziadeh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said the 24 September security incident in the north of the province, which resulted in four deaths and several arrests, exacerbated an already deteriorating security environment. Other setbacks, including the 29 May violence that led to serious injuries of 93 Kosovo Force (KFOR) personnel, as well as civilians, represent grave dangers to achieving long-term peace and stability, she added.
“The current political impasse, with its impact on the security and well-being of the population, can only be overcome through compromise that should be worked out in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina,” she stressed, calling on the international community to urge both parties to foster purposeful and concerted actions towards peace, prosperity, progress, sustainability and connectivity. She voiced hope that the outcome of the European Union and United States-led meetings, held separately in Pristina and Belgrade on 21 October, will place the dialogue back on track.
Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of Serbia, pointing to the Priština administration’s three key messages for Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, as implied by the situation on the ground, said that Serbs who left after 1999, or during the ethnic cleansing of 2004, should not come back. Another message being sent to Serbs in “brutal ways” is that those who still live in Kosovo and Metohija should leave, she said, noting that the lives of Serbs and non-Albanians have turned into a “nightmare of insecurity”.
Agreements, including the Brussels Agreement, were not being implemented, and Priština has openly stated that it has no interest in implementing any further agreements, she added, calling for the implementation of all past agreements, the guaranteed security of Serbs and non-Albanians and the holding of new local elections in the north of Kosovo and Metohija as soon as possible.
Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu of Kosovo, countering that assertion, said Prishtinë has offered to have dialogue with Belgrade to peacefully resolve remaining differences. Meanwhile, Serbia expected on 24 September to annex the north of Kosovo but was surprised by the response of the Kosovo police forces, she said, noting that the “terrorist groups and paramilitary forces have been financed, trained, armed and have received support and shelter from one source: the Serb State authorities”.
The events on 24 September were a plan to destabilize the entire Western Balkans, in an attack against democracy and freedom, she stressed. Kosovo is committed to creating an inclusive and diverse society with rights for all protected, she said, calling for international partners’ determined actions to prevent further acts of aggression by Serbia. She also called for, among others, substantial security guarantees for Kosovo within the Euro-Atlantic security framework and a focus on halting Serbia’s support for terrorist activities against Kosovo.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members’ statements of support or the contrary to UNMIK, Belgrade or Pristina, highlighted the divisions within the 15-member organ. They were largely united, however, in voicing concern about the deteriorating security situation in northern Kosovo and called on the parties to urgently de-escalate and return swiftly to the European Union-facilitated dialogue.
Switzerland’s representative, stressing that inflammatory rhetoric must give way to constructive behaviour to implement political solutions, called on the parties to engage in the dialogue facilitated by the European Union. In support of the European Union-led normalization process, Switzerland offers an informal framework in which high-level representatives of political parties from Kosovo and Serbia can discuss concrete steps to that end, he said.
Ecuador’s representative voiced regret that, despite efforts made during the high-level meeting facilitated by the High Representative of the European Union in September, the parties have failed to reach consensus on the sequencing modalities for the implementation of the “Agreement on the path towards normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia”. Implementation of the Agreement and its annexes includes starting the work to establish a community association of Kosovo Serb majority municipalities as established in the first Brussels Agreement, he added.
Japan’s representative noted that UNMIK since its establishment in 1999 has played a critical role in supporting Kosovo. He pointed out, however, that the situation there is different from when UNMIK was established and stressed that the Mission’s role should be reviewed and adapted to the current situation.
The delegate of the United States, on that note, said that recent events in Kosovo indicate that while the United Nations has a role to play, it does not require a Chapter VII mandate. UNMIK was not involved in responding to or investigating the 24 September attack, he added, renewing his call on the Council to sunset the Mission.
On the other hand, the representative of the Russian Federation said the work of UNMIK is essential, adding that the September incident proves that a regular discussion of the situation in Kosovo should remain on the Council’s agenda. Since the ultra-nationalist self-determination movement came to power in 2021, there have been 420 ethnically motivated attacks on Serbs, he said, voicing concern about the transformation of Kosovo’s security forces into an illegitimate quasi-army.
Albania’s representative, however, pointing to Kosovo as a functioning and ever-strengthening democracy, said that none of the three elements in the Serbian Prime Minister’s analysis of the situation there, is reflected as she said in the Secretary-General’s report, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report or the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo report.
For the first time in its long and troubled history, there is a clear path to a common future as confirmed in Tirana during the tenth European Union-Western Balkans Summit, which was the first organized outside the bloc, he underscored. Next year will mark a quarter of a century since Kosovo and Serbia parted ways for good, he said, voicing hope that they will be good neighbours despite an arduous and complex reconciliation process.
SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS 1160 (1998), 1199 (1998), 1203 (1998), 1239 (1999) AND 1244 (1999)
CAROLINE ZIADEH, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), briefing the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s report for the period from 19 March through 18 September, first drew attention to a 24 September security incident near the Banjska/Banjskë village of Zvečan/Zveçan Municipality in northern Kosovo, wherein Kosovo police and heavily armed elements engaged in gunfire exchanges, resulting in four deaths and several arrests. Those events exacerbated an already deteriorating security environment, characterized by an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and contradictory perceptions touching much of the population, especially in northern Kosovo and among Kosovo-Serb communities elsewhere in the province, she said. In that regard, she pointed to the steady rise in political and security tensions in northern Kosovo even in the months leading up to 24 September in the absence of tangible progress in the European Union-facilitated dialogue.
The 14 September high-level meeting in Brussels produced no consensus on the sequencing for the implementation of prior agreements, she reported, stressing: “This was yet again an opportunity missed to engage constructively towards a programme for the implementation of the parties’ respective commitments under the agreements made in Brussels and Ohrid earlier this year.” Continuing, she said: “Both sides have exchanged inflammatory public allegations, damaging the fragile communication channels between the communities in Kosovo, and between political leaders in Belgrade and Pristina.” Setbacks like the boycott by the Kosovo-Serbs of the 23 April local elections in northern Kosovo, ensuing questions of adequate political representation and the 29 May violence that led to serious injuries of 93 Kosovo Force (KFOR) personnel as well as civilians, represent grave dangers to achieving long term peace and stability, she added.
“The current political impasse, with its impact on the security and well-being of the population, can only be overcome through compromise that should be worked out in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina,” she stressed, voicing hope that the outcome of the European Union and United States-led meetings, held separately in Pristina and Belgrade on 21 October, will place the dialogue back on a forward path, with a firm commitment by both sides to implement de-escalatory measures and the proposals set forth during the meetings. This includes a recommitment by both parties to fully implement all previous dialogue agreements, she added. Delays in the implementation of dialogue agreements led to the postponement of a European Union donor conference envisaged in the Implementation Annex of the February Agreement, she said, warning that tension, isolation and a growing lack of trust in political leaders to address peoples’ most immediate interests and legitimate grievances, and the resort to violence and intimidation by those of ill-will threaten the hard-won gains achieved through the European Union-facilitated dialogue.
The international community must urge both Pristina and Belgrade to foster purposeful and concerted actions towards peace, prosperity, progress, sustainability and connectivity, she stressed, emphasizing the need for clear and continuous communication with the public on issues affecting their livelihoods, health and human rights. Highlighting the adoption of a law regulating the application process for the status of conflict-related sexual violence survivors by the Assembly of Kosovo, she encouraged authorities to consider the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence. She also welcomed the Constitutional Court’s 1 August decision that paves the way for the inclusion of international human rights norms on the rights of persons with disabilities within the Kosovo legal framework. Noting that 2023 marks the fifth anniversary of UNMIK’s trust-building agenda, she said the Mission remains committed to continue to work with its partners from all communities in Kosovo to foster communication and understanding among people.
She highlighted that the “Barabar Centre” was launched six months ago with support from the Mission and the Pristina Municipality, noting that “Barabar”, which is used in both official languages in Kosovo, Albanian and Serbian, means equality and fairness. The Centre is a safe space in the heart of Pristina, where people from all walks of life and all communities, can meet to freely deliberate and transcend divisive narratives. Further detailing UNMIK’s work, including to advance the women and youth, peace and security agendas and ensure equal access to justice, she commended the tireless work of local actors to bring more understanding between their communities. Reiterating UNMIK’s support for the European Union-facilitated dialogue, she stressed: “Dialogue is the only way forward.”
ANA BRNABIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, stating that she would “abstain from overly bureaucratic language”, said that, regrettably, the situation on the ground implied that the administration in Priština had three key messages for Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija. The first of them was that Serbs who left after 1999, or during the ethnic cleansing of 2004, should not come back, she said, noting that only 2 per cent of displaced persons had returned to the territory. Returnees find their private property illegally seized, and are arrested when they go to the authorities, she said, citing the cases of Dušan Arsić from Matica; Časlav Jolić and Gavrilo Milosavljević from Istok; and Milorad Đoković from Vitomirac, who were arrested for war crimes when they asked for their private property to be returned to them. “Hence the humiliating fact,” she stressed, “Kosovo and Metohija remains world champion in the least number of returnees of all of the post-conflict territories worldwide.”
The second message being sent to Serbs in “brutal ways”, she continued, is that those who still live in Kosovo and Metohija should leave. The lives of Serbs and non-Albanians have turned into a “nightmare of insecurity”, with people arbitrarily taken into custody, beaten up and kept in prisons for unknown periods of time, she said, noting that Priština has managed to generate a dangerous security crisis through such actions. On that, she spotlighted that Azem Kurtaj, from “the so-called Kosovo Security Forces” was released after shooting and wounding an 11-year-old child, Stefan Stojanović, in a Christmas procession in Gotovuša, near Štrpce. In the past two and half years, there were 434 ethnically motivated attacks on Serbs and their property, representing a 50 per cent increase compared to the period before [Albin] Kurti’s administration, she said, adding that 11 per cent of Serbs have since left northern Kosovo and Metohija.
Agreements, including the Brussels Agreement, were not being implemented, she continued. The implementation of any further agreements rests on the Community of Serb Municipalities, she said, pointing out that, however, Priština has openly stated that it has no interest in doing so. The present destabilization began with sham local elections held in April in four municipalities of northern Kosovo and Metohija, she said. On 24 September, events tragically and predictably escalated, through a conflict between armed Serbs and police and paramilitary formations from Priština in Banjska village, she said, adding that, while investigations are ongoing, two Serbs appeared to have been executed after they surrendered. Belgrade had nothing to do with this event, she stressed. In conclusion, she called for the implementation of all past agreements; for the security of Serbs and non-Albanians to be ensured; and for new local elections to be held in the north of Kosovo and Metohija as soon as possible.
VJOSA OSMANI-SADRIU, of Kosovo, said Prishtinë has offered to have dialogue with Belgrade to peacefully resolve remaining differences, despite Serbia never having shown a sign of repentance for the crimes committed by the [Slobodan] Milošević regime. Instead, Serbia remains in a state of denial and makes every possible effort to take the region back to the 1990s, she said, adding, “I am here to say that we will not let that happen.” Serbia expected on 24 September to annex the north of Kosovo but was surprised by the response of the Kosovo police forces. She said of those involved, the “terrorist groups and paramilitary forces have been financed, trained, armed and have received support and shelter from one source: the Serb State authorities.” The events on 24 September were a plan to destabilize the entire Western Balkans, in an attack against democracy and freedom. “While [Serbia President Aleksandar] Vučić aims to cover his true intentions, his acts reveal his underlying motives. He wants more territory. It’s that simple.”
Kosovo, she said, is committed to creating an inclusive and diverse society with rights for all being protected. The constitution and legislation provide for strong protections on the rights of the Kosovo Serb community in terms of language, education in Serbian, and special protection for the Orthodox Church, she said. Yet, ethnic cleansing through administrative means is ongoing in Serbia, she added, more precisely in the Preshevë [Preševo] Valley. Through the “passivation of residence addresses”, the Serbian Government is “tracelessly” — that is, without issuing any written notice or documents — wiping out Albanians from the civil registry of Serbia, and as a result, denying them all of their basic rights, she said.
The International Court of Justice unequivocally found that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate any applicable rule of international law, she said. In the face of an ever-growing bond between the world’s autocrats, democracies must stand firm on their principles and values. In the face of such hybrid actions through the act of aggression and terrorist activities sponsored by Serbia, she said that Kosovo asks its international partners for strategic clarity and determined actions to prevent acts of aggression by Serbia from happening again. She called for substantial security guarantees for Kosovo within the Euro-Atlantic security framework; a focus on halting Serbia’s support for terrorist activities against Kosovo; cooperation by Belgrade in the investigation of the recent terrorist attack and for it hand over the terrorists involved; an increase in security around Kosovo’s border with Serbia; and adoption of clear measures against Serbia’s leadership as a deterrence. A resolute message at this point would underscore a commitment to safeguarding peace and security in the region, and the entire European continent, she said.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) said that the close relationship between the Western Balkans and his country draws its strength from a shared history of more than 30 years and from the current personal ties. Calling for urgent de-escalation, he recalled that since the last meeting 90 KFOR soldiers were injured during demonstrations, including during the attack on 24 September. He stressed that inflammatory rhetoric must give way to constructive behaviour to implement political solutions, adding: “Leaders must set an example. They are responsible for the language they use and the actions they take.” Calling on the parties to engage in the dialogue facilitated by the European Union, he said that, in support of that normalization process, Switzerland offers an informal framework in which high-level representatives of political parties from Kosovo and Serbia can discuss concrete steps to that end. “The future of the Western Balkans lies in peaceful, multi-ethnic and prosperous societies. We will remain committed to this path,” he stressed.
GENG SHUANG (China), stressing that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia should be fully respected, said the unilateral actions of Kosovo’s authorities have raised tensions. Calling upon them to return to dialogue and consultation, he said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-Kosovo force should do what is conducive to regional peace and stability. Noting that mutual trust among the communities in Kosovo has always been fragile, he said the lack of Serb representation in municipal institutions is not conducive to the harmonious coexistence of the various ethnic groups. The Kosovo authorities must take positive measures to reduce ethnic tensions and guarantee the legitimate rights of all communities, he said. Noting the high-level meetings that have taken place since the beginning of 2023, with European Union facilitation, to discuss a political settlement, he expressed appreciation for the mediation efforts of the Union. The establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities is an important component of the Brussels Agreement, he underscored, highlighting the key role of UNMIK.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) called on all parties to always behave responsibly and to abstain from any action or rhetoric, which could result in increased tensions, or promote conflict. He voiced regret that, despite efforts made during the high-level meeting facilitated by the High Representative of the European Union in September, the parties have failed to reach consensus on the sequencing modalities for the implementation of the “Agreement on the path to normalization between Kosovo and Serbia”. Parties must commit to the European Union-facilitated dialogue to finalize a sustainable solution to the situation in the north of the region, which will smooth the way to the implementation of the Agreement and its annexes. This includes starting the work to establish a community association of Kosovo Serb majority municipalities as established in the first Brussels Agreement. He also called for all necessary measures to be adopted to implement the declaration on disappeared persons, stressing that establishing their whereabouts is a priority and would contribute to the reconciliation process and to strengthening confidence-building measures.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) condemned the violence perpetrated by armed assailants on 24 September in northern Kosovo, which led to the death of a Kosovo police officer and put NATO and European Union personnel at risk. Perpetrators must be held accountable, with individuals who fled to third countries extradited or prosecuted. The United States is working closely with the European Union and NATO to deter escalatory measures by either party, he said, urging both sides to return to European Union-facilitated dialogue. He welcomed KFOR’s greater visibility of in the north, calling for their presence to be sustained as long as needed. Recent events in Kosovo indicate that while the United Nations has a role to play, it does not require a Chapter VII mandate. UNMIK was not involved in responding to or investigating the 24 September attack, he said, renewing his call on the Council to sunset the Mission.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said her delegation is concerned with the deployment of Serbian military forces at the border with Kosovo and urges both sides to focus all efforts on de-escalating tensions, and refrain from any unilateral action or divisive rhetoric that could undermine recent diplomatic efforts. The holding of local elections in the northern municipalities of Kosovo will be crucial, and she called for the full and unconditional participation of all players in the electoral process. She reiterated her delegation’s full support to the European accession aspirations of both Serbia and Kosovo and underlined that that the path to membership for both parties runs through the European Union-facilitated dialogue. She acknowledged the important role UNMIK plays in promoting security, stability and the preservation and promotion of human rights, gender equality and empowerment of women and youth in Kosovo. The normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia will foster peace in the area and lead to economic and social prosperity in the Western Balkans.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) warned that the political and security situation is deteriorating in northern Kosovo, with the events of 24 September only the latest example. She strongly condemned the unacceptable attack on the Kosovo police, causing one death, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. The increased tension cannot be dissociated from the political dimension of the matter, requiring both Belgrade and Pristina to return rapidly and unconditionally to dialogue facilitated by the European Union to normalize their relations. This includes implementing a Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities association, and the rapid organization of new inclusive elections in north Kosovo. She noted that her Government remains committed to integrating the Western Balkans into the European Union as soon as possible, voicing support for the dialogue facilitated by the bloc and the efforts led by UNMIK, KFOR and the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said that since its establishment in 1999, UNMIK has played a critical role in supporting Kosovo. Expressing condemnation for the series of violent acts, including Banjska in September, he emphasized that the security situation in the north of Kosovo needs to be stabilized to avoid a new crisis on the ground. In this regard, he welcomed the decision to bring reinforcement by KFOR, adding: “Securing the environment for Serbs returning to join the Kosovo police and Kosovo institutions will be helpful.” Calling on the parties to recommit to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue — facilitated by the European Union — he urged them to implement their obligations to normalize relations between the parties. He also noted the situation in Kosovo is different from when UNMIK was established, stressing that the Mission’s role should be reviewed and adapted to the current situation.
MOHAMMAD YOUSUF ABDULLA MOHAMMAD BASTAKI (United Arab Emirates) said that the Ohrid and Brussels Agreements — facilitated by the European Union — followed by the Joint Declaration on Missing Persons endorsed in May, offered the promise of a new chapter for the people of Serbia and Kosovo. Noting that throughout 2023, the situation on the ground in northern Kosovo began to fray, he condemned attacks on law enforcement officials. He further emphasized that “what took place one month ago risked pulling the region back to a darker time in its history.” Commending the steps taken by Kosovo and Serbia to de-escalate, he reiterated his support for the dialogue in resolving the outstanding issues. In this regard, he welcomed the recent high-level meetings as a part of that dialogue, facilitated by the European Union, calling on the parties to avoid engaging in inflammatory rhetoric. “Any hope for peace in the future requires building trust,” he added.
ANNETTE ANDRÉE ONANGA (Gabon) said it is clear that, “while the causes of these recurrent episodes of violence persist, de-escalation will remain difficult to reach and security will remain a pipe dream”. She said that a statute needs to be created for the Serbian municipalities in Kosovo, which would be a decisive step in the normalization of relations between the two sides. She noted that various attempts to relaunch dialogue have not been fruitful. Parties should consider the nine-point plan of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to overcome the deadlock. She called for the suppression of hate speech, marginalization, all kinds of violence and any unilateral action. Return solutions must be offered to those who have become internally displaced within Kosovo or refugees abroad. She added that the adoption of a shared declaration is welcome, and parties should effectively implement it. The ongoing war crimes cases linked to the war in Kosovo are crucial to guarantee truth, justice and non-repetition, and for peace to be established, she said.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) reiterated her delegation’s continuing support for UNMIK’s mandate and its initiatives to build trust and social cohesion while expanding intercommunal engagements. Concerned with the violation of Mission offices, she reiterated the inviolability of its premises and assets and urged all necessary measures to ensure its unimpeded operations. She said her delegation believes the February Agreement offers a renewed opportunity for achieving a comprehensive normalization of relations between Pristina and Belgrade. She welcomed the establishment of the Joint Monitoring Committee as an important step. Further efforts are needed to advance the Agreement’s objectives. Her delegation has consistently urged for the non-politicization of the missing persons issues, and welcomes the understanding reached by the two sides to address the issue as a humanitarian concern. This approach will accelerate action to uncover the facts about the 1,600 missing persons unaccounted for during the past twenty-five years.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said that despite numerous challenges, UNMIK continues to constructively engage with Pristina and Belgrade as well as regional and international actors, facilitated by the European Union. His delegation encourages UNMIK’s diplomatic efforts, particularly its active work with partners to sustain peace and support several initiatives, including the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and the region. The deterioration in the security situation has jeopardized the implementation of the Brussels Agreement and threatens the region’s peace, stability and security. He strongly reiterated his call to the Serbian and Kosovan sides to launch the necessary foundations for a genuine dialogue and refrain from acts that instigate violence and tensions. He called on the parties and all relevant actors to remain engaged promoting a constructive dialogue in Kosovo. This a key to the Brussels Agreement’s successful implementation, facilitated by the European Union. Mozambique reiterates its support for the Mission.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), expressing concern about Pristina’s desire to establish full control over the Serb-populated north of Kosovo, drew attention to the boycott of the April “pseudo-vote” elections by the Serb population. Since the ultra-nationalist self-determination movement came to power in 2021, there have been 420 ethnically motivated attacks on Serbs, while the ban on the import of goods from central Serbia to the northern districts of Kosovo comprise a de facto blockade, bringing the situation to a humanitarian catastrophe, he added. His delegation has many questions about what happened on 24 September, he said, also expressing concern about the transformation of Pristina’s “security forces” into an illegitimate quasi-army. Western countries are destroying the international legal basis for a settlement, he said, expressing reservations about the “Agreement on the Path to Normalization” which disregards Serbia’s fundamental interests. Further, Western pandering to Mr. Kurti enables him to sabotage the formation of the Community of Serb Municipalities. The work of UNMIK is essential, he said, adding that the September incident proves that a regular discussion of the situation in Kosovo should remain on the Council’s agenda.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), highlighted that: “In January of next year the people of Kosovo like every other nation in the continent will enjoy freedom of movement in the Shengen area — a process long overdue.” “This is part of the rapprochement with the EU’s [European Union] freedoms and its core values, which Kosovo, a functioning and ever strengthening democracy, has fully embraced,” he added. Over the last two decades, the region has largely succeeded in “overcoming the demons of the past”, he said. He was surprised to listen to the Serbian Prime Minister’s analysis of the situation in Kosovo, he added, noting that none of the three elements she mentioned is reflected as she said in the Secretary-General’s report, the OSCE report or the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo report. For the first time in its long and troubled history, there is a clear path to a common future as confirmed in Tirana during the tenth European Union-Western Balkans Summit, which was the first organized outside the Union. Voicing concern about the 24 September event, he noted that while the Special Representative called it a security incident, the European Parliament qualified it in a resolution as a terrorist act. Next year will mark a quarter of a century since Kosovo and Serbia parted ways for good, he said, voicing hope that they will be good neighbours despite an arduous and complex reconciliation process.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said his delegation fully supports the Declaration on Missing Persons, endorsed by both Pristina and Belgrade. This priority issue should not be politicized, and he echoed UNMIK’s call for the Kosovo government to implement the 2016 ruling of the constitutional court of Kosovo regarding the Dečani monastery’s property. This would send a positive signal to minority communities and demonstrate Kosovo’s commitment to an inclusive, multi-ethnic future. Concerned by the immediate security challenges in the north of Kosovo, he said Kosovo must be able to implement the rule of law across the whole of its territory, in close coordination with the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and KFOR. The United Kingdom is proud to have deployed approximately 600 soldiers to Kosovo in response to a request from NATO, to help fulfil KFOR’s mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, voiced regret over the deaths of four people near the Banjska monastery on 24 September, hoping those involved will be held accountable. The incident poses a risk to regional stability, threatening achievements in European Union-mediated dialogue, he said, urging parties to avoid further clashes and urge moderation. Rebuilding trust will involve a solution to the representation crisis in northern Kosovo, he said, noting reasonable concerns behind the boycott of local institutions and the April municipal elections, adding: “It is essential to call new municipal elections to restore the legitimacy of local institutions and representatives.” Brazil calls for the prompt establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, in line with the Brussels Agreements, without preconditions or delay. He commended UNMIK’s role in preventing conflict and combating disinformation and hateful language, noting that it continues to be an important instrument to preserve stability on the ground.
Ms. BRNABIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, taking the floor for a second time, said the Council didn’t hear from Kosovo’s speaker why it did not implement the Brussels Agreement and establish the Community of Serb Municipalities for more than 10 years. “That is how constructive and committed they, in fact, are,” she said, adding that while Belgrade has done everything that was proclaimed by the Brussels Agreement, Priština did nothing. On Serbs having veto rights, she said they do only on paper, as when the so-called Kosovo parliament decided on the establishment of the Kosovo Security Force, Serbs were supposed to vote but didn’t, and still the Kosovo Security Forces were established. “That is how the veto rights of Serbs work in practice.” She said the Council heard that “Orthodox churches” not “Serbian Orthodox churches” enjoy a high level of security — that is how respected they are, she said, that the so-called president of Kosovo cannot even say the word Serbian. She said people were not returning to Kosovo because they end up arrested. The Chamber heard today that Serbia wants Kosovo’s territory and only Serbia thinks it can interpret international law, she added, but those sitting here in the Security Council and the UN recognizes the Republic of Serbia in its entirety and the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija as part of the Republic of Serbia. Kosovo is not a member of the UN, she said.
Also taking the floor a second time, Ms. OSMANI-SADRIU expressed commitment to cooperating with the international community because “democracy is never a finished project”. The biggest difference between Kosovo and Serbia is that “we are not afraid of justice”, she said, adding that being victims of a genocidal war has shaped the people of Kosovo into the strongest defenders of peace and human rights. Rejecting the references made by the delegates of Serbia and the Russian Federation to “Kurti terror”, she said that Mr. Kurti, “the prime minister of Kosovo”, is a war prisoner who was almost tortured to death in their prisons. Even as recently as 22 October, she said, the President of Serbia said they wish that they had never released Mr. Kurti alive. At the negotiating table, led by European Union negotiators, “on one side you have the prime minister of Kosovo, a war prisoner almost tortured to death, and on the other side you have the minister of propaganda of the regime that tortured him,” she said. Reaffirming commitment to dialogue despite this, she said: “Kosovo is a country full of Mandelas, Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings.”