Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić at the UN Security Council session on UNMIK’s work:
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
I thank Secretary-General Guterres and Special Representative Tanin for the efforts they invest in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) under United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 (1999).
For almost two years we argued in the Security Council meetings whether to meet two, three or four times a year; all along, however, the situation in Kosovo and Metohija went from bad to worse. Unfortunately, the current situation tells us that the decision to reduce the number of meetings was taken too soon. I do believe, though, that we have left the procedural issues behind and that we shall now be able to address the core issues and make our meetings bear fruit.
Notwithstanding some contentions that our deliberations are often antagonistic and less than constructive, the consideration of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija in this esteemed body is an occasion not to be missed to advise the Security Council and the international community, on a regular basis and in a transparent way, of the situation on the ground and the key political and security challenges that we face in the Province, no matter how difficult they may be and despite the fact that it is evident that our positions are different.
At the outset, let me reiterate my call for a dialogue and the solution of the decades-long problem in Kosovo and Metohija by peaceful means and through compromise. I hope that you all will subscribe to it and, in doing so, state, loud and clear, what we need for a successful dialogue. And what we need are sides which behave rationally and sensibly, which are ready to talk and then implement what they agree upon. In the negotiations conducted in Brussels with the facilitation of the European Union, one side in the dialogue has behaved so since the very beginning. Тhe other one, regrettably, has not. Last week we heard from Priština that it was not planning to implement anything agreed upon six years before, including the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities. This statement by Hashim Thaçi makes us wonder what we have been doing all along. For, if an agreement is reached, then signed and guaranteed also by the European Union, but goes unimplemented by Priština for six years and is plainly rejected eventually, the question posed is: Was it a dialogue at all? This was not the wool over the eyes of Serbia alone that was encouraged by the entire international community to continue the dialogue and called upon to be patient against Priština’s constant prevarications to implement any agreement. This is also a serious dent to the credibility of the European Union which put its signature to the Brussels Agreement, guaranteeing thus its implementation.
Let me recall once again: In August 2013, аs Prime Minister of Serbia at that time, I signed the First agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština, which we have come to know as the Brussels Agreement, alongside Hashim Thaçi and Baroness Ashton. The negotiations which preceded its signing were not easy for Serbia at all; however, a responsible partner, my country has implemented all the obligations it assumed. Serbia signed this Agreement only because it guaranteed the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities.
On the other hand, the representatives of Priština said, without mincing words, that they were not going to implement what had been agreed and, dissatisfied with their treatment, went on to threaten the European Union that they would consider unification with Albania and annex three other municipalities in southern Serbia to boot. Can they be considered a serious and responsible party with which we should continue to negotiate? And who can convince us now that Priština will not behave towards this process in the same way also in the future? In chorus comes also the threatening messages from Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on the unification of Albania and Kosovo; they are let go un-responded and glossed over as not serious.
Two weeks ago the so-called anti-corruption and anti-organized crime operation was carried out in northern Kosovo and Metohija. ROSU, the special Kosovo police unit, arrested over 30 people. Serbia supports the fight against organized crime on its entire territory, but long barrels, use of excessive force and a television spectacle that followed the operation were indicative of a different goal altogether. And the goal was to intimidate the remaining Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. To that end, more than 70 combat vehicles were deployed; Serbs were brutally beaten, while Albanians were apprehended without enforcement measures at all. If this unacceptable act is not widely condemned, including by this esteemed body, its purpose will be served: the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija will continue to be intimidated and terrorized.
In the wake of the signing of the Brussels Agreement, I attended, alongside Aleksandar Vučić, Baroness Ashton and Hashim Thaçi, a meeting in NATO Brussels Headquarters; it was agreed at the meeting that no Kosovo security force will come to the North until two conditions have been complied with: one, notification to KFOR and, two, advice to the representatives of the Serb Communities in northern Kosovo and Metohija. These conditions were not fulfilled on this occasion. Moreover, two UN staff members were not spared the brutality and arrest, either; they rendered no resistance nor were they armed. I spoke with Special Representative Tanin who officially informed me that the two members were on duty. Mikhail Krasnoshchokov was beaten and arrested unlawfully and was subsequently declared a persona non grata contrary to the relevant United Nations convention. Well, even the members of the United Nations mission are no longer safe in Kosovo. How do we expect the Mission to carry out its assignment if its members can be attacked and declared unwanted at will if they do not happen to be to Priština’s liking? What is next – expulsion of the entire Mission? And, unashamed, Priština is now offering to the Secretary-General to negotiate UNMIK’s future presence in northern Kosovo with him. I recall: the mandate of the Mission is determined by this esteemed body and UNMIK’s mandate has been established by UNSCR 1244 (1999).
The developments in Kosovo and Metohija in the last several weeks, and in the last several months, are telling evidence that the international community should be much more alert and invest much more effort and that the international organizations in Kosovo and Metohija should be much more active. We’ve been witness of late that some members of the Security Council call for the so-called strategic review of the UNMIK mandate, its reduction, even its recall. At this moment in time, though, it is difficult even to think, let alone to act in the direction of any change whatsoever. Surely, we all understand now how far we are from a stable and secure situation in Kosovo and Metohija today, the situation that would no longer warrant the attention of this body. The risk of the worsening of the situation on the ground could prove costly and I am sure that, in the context of the recent developments, nobody wants to run that risk.
Unfortunately, the authorities in Priština turn a deaf ear to arguments; they think that they can reduce the Mission by beating and expelling its members.
This very day, twenty years ago, the illegal bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the aggression by NATO, carried out without a decision of this esteemed body, came to an end. We are all aware of the negative effects of this precedent on international relations and various events that took place in the world in the last twenty years.
This occasion, though, I must not let go by without mentioning numerous civilian victims, their sorry fate and a Serbia ravaged in the 78-day bombardment with depleted uranium. I must make mention of 666 victims in Kosovo and Metohija after 10 June 1999, 562 of them Serbs, as well as 8 134 attacks, 7 391 of them on Serbs.
Twenty years later, the only thing that we can say with certainty is that the greatest victims of the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija and the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were innocent civilians, either killed or expelled, irrespective of whether they were Serbs, Albanians or members of some other national belonging. Despite differences in positions, it cannot be denied that all sides committed crimes and that victims were on all sides. The victims, regrettably, we cannot bring back, but we can learn from our mistakes and make sure that they are not repeated. It is therefore important to condemn all crimes, empathize with all victims, exclude war as a means of resolving conflicts and embark upon a road of lasting reconciliation and economic and political stability by way of reaching a compromise and sustainable solution.
Twenty years ago to a day UNSCR 1244 (1999) was adopted. In my Statement, I shall strive to recapitulate the way in which its provisions dovetail with the facts on the ground. And the way in which they do speaks volumes of the Resolution’s and UNMIK’s validity and relevance, as well as of the task ahead of us.
In crafting the mandate of the international presence in Kosovo and Metohija, the Security Council reaffirmed ‘the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [ … ], as set out in the Helsinki Final Act.’ [UNSCR 1244 (1999)]. However, the provision of the Resolution has been sledgehammered by many in order to conceal the fact that an ethnic minority, the Albanian minority which has its mother country of Albania, tried to secede from, and take away a part of the territory of, a sovereign country.
In Annex 2, point 5., of the Resolution, the Security Council calls, among others, for the ‘[e]stablishment of an interim administration […] to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants in Kosovo.’ In other instances, UNSCR 1244 (1999) goes on to call for the establishment of ‘a secure environment in which refugees and displaced persons can return home in safety’. Efforts have been made in this regard and, indeed, certain refugees and displaced persons did return. Yet, only 1.9 per cent of Serbs made a sustainable return; 200 000 of them have remained away from home for 20 long years and it is not likely that they will go home any time soon. And don’t we all know why? Tell me what those people can expect if, year in, year out, they are met with organized attacks with sticks and stones even when they come visiting … to pay respects to their dead on Christian holy days.
Yet, we hope that justice is attainable. The Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office have commenced their work recently and they have a massive workload to carry: some of those to become the focus of their attention are suspected of the commission of the most heinous crimes, including the abduction and killing of Serbs, as well as Albanians they considered disloyal, in order to harvest their organs. Ample evidence in this regard is presented in the Report of Dick Marty. We want to believe that they will be brought to justice despite the lapse of time, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses and their families, despite even the killing of protected witnesses, which, regrettably, has happened in the past.
UNSCR 1244 (1999) sets forth that the international military presence will provide security to all inhabitants in Kosovo and Metohija. However, last December Priština ran afoul of the Resoltion once again by deciding unilaterally to establish the ‘Ministry of Defence’ and commence the process of transforming the ‘Kosovo Security Force’ into the ‘Kosovo Army’ notwithstanding the admonitions of the United Nations, European Union and NATO. This dangerous manoeuvre threatens the security in the Province and beyond and aggravates even more the situation of the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija.
From the rostrum of the highest body of the world Organization I want to warn that, according to our knowledge, the authorities in Priština are planning an attack on northern Kosovo and Metohija. All of you should take note of it and stop Priština’s war machine before it causes a new bloodshed. Let me also remind you that KFOR’s task is to safeguard peace and security of all, including the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. I ask you if you are going to do it or not. Because I am sure you can do it. My warning, ladies and gentlemen, is very serious indeed.Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
It is evident that, because of the failure to fulfil the Resolution and/or because of its outright violations by Priština, the continuation of the UNMIK mandate is of crucial importance for the fate of many in Kosovo and Metohija. Serbia is convinced that the Mission must remain fully engaged in all issues important for a consistent implementation of its goals and objectives, undiminished in scope and unchanged in mandate. Otherwise, a red flag would be raised for the Serbs living in Kosovo and Metohija that they will not be able to stay and continue to live in their ancestral land and a message would be sent to the Serbs displaced from Kosovo and Metohija that they are not welcome back. Much in line, Mr. President, with Priština’s intentions and goals.
If allowed, it would be tantamount to the admission by the international community, United Nations and the Security Council that they are powerless and that they have no mechanism to implement their decisions taken to preserve peace and create an environment conducive to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We trust and believe that this is not the case and that UNMIK will remain in Kosovo and Metohija in its full capacity.
Serbia has done everything to normalize the situation in Kosovo and Metohija and we firmly believe that negotiations are the only way forward to address all outstanding issues. However, the commitment to dialogue and a constructive approach to the quest for a sustainable and compromise solution to the question of Kosovo and Metohija by us alone is not enough for negotiations to continue at this moment. As I said, we have no partner for a serious and responsible dialogue. And, yet, both sides, Belgrade and Priština, are called upon to resume negotiations; by implication, the responsibility for the impasse in the negotiations is relativized even though Priština alone is responsible for it. For, how are we to negotiate if, instead of removing obstacles, the other side is doing everything to erect new ones?
Frustrated by the failure to be voted a member of INTERPOL and the revocation of the recognition of its UDI by 13 countries, Priština imposed tariffs on goods from central Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by one hundred percent last November, which is unrecorded anywhere else in the world. Six months later and despite condemnation by almost all international actors and calls to take back this senseless decision, Priština is not in the mood to do so at all. Not only is it dismissive of the calls; it piles on provocations and unilateral acts, which leads us to one conclusion only: Priština takes systematic steps to make no dialogue possible. How else are we to understand the adoption of its so-called Platform for Dialogue last March? In it, Priština determines that the only goal and outcome of the dialogue is the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Serbia.
In the light of Priština’s and some of the Security Council members’ open protestations of the 13 countries’ revocation of the recognition of Kosovo and their accusations of Serbia for undermining the dialogue by its activities, let me remind you that 23 countries recognized the UDI of Kosovo since the beginning of the Brussels dialogue following an intense lobbying by Priština and the pressure exerted by some of the Security Council members. In addition, Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj, otherwise born in Kosovo and Metohija, said that Albania had set up a special team to lobby for new recognitions and Kosovo’s membership in international organizations. Ladies and gentlemen, I have taken part in the Security Council meetings for seven years now and heard vocal calls by some of you, in my face, as it were, to all countries to recognize Kosovo and vote in favour of its admission to INTERPOL, UNESCO and other international organizations. How come you have the right to make the calls and we don’t? How come it irritates Priština, Tirana and some of you whereas you did not care a bit when Serbia felt aggrieved? Apparently, you thought it normal.
Priština also goes about complaining that Serbia prevented its admission to INTERPOL. At the INTERPOL General Assembly in Dubai last year, however, out of 194 INTERPOL members, only 75 of them voted in favour of Kosovo’s admission. Whatever happened to 116 countries that Priština claims have recognized it? And some of you would have us believe that this little Serbia is so powerful to have influenced the decision of so many INTERPOL members.
The authorities in Priština recently adopted a resolution on Serbia’s alleged genocide in Kosovo as well. Steps like these are nothing else but playing games with international law, they increase tension among communities and make no contribution to reconciliation and a climate of dialogue. Very indicative in this context was also the scandal regarding the allegations by Kosovo MP Flora Brovina, sentenced in Serbia for an intended commission of a terrorist offence, but pardoned in 2001 by an act of good will of my country, who showed a photograph to the media in the so-called Assembly of Kosovo as proof of an alleged rape of an Albanian woman by the Serbian forces. She went on to say that it was a woman of a known identity, still living in Kosovo. Upon investigation by the ‘Specialist Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo’ and an expert analysis by the ‘Kosovo Agency on Forensics’ and on the basis of other evidence a conclusion was made that the photograph was a fake. The media in Priština reported that the photograph had nothing to do with Kosovo and that, instead, it was downloaded from the Internet and that it originated in Iraq. Do you really think that justice for victims and survivors is to be achieved through crude abuses of tragedy and the presentation of false evidence? By this callous act, Ms. Brovina deeply offended the victims and their families. U.S. Ambassador to Priština was explicit when he said that ‘Kosovo leaders should be helping victims heal, not exploiting them for political gain.’
With respect to this sensitive matter, I want to be understood fully: Serbia condemns each and every act of sexual violence in conflicts and calls for justice for all victims. To achieve it, we need a rational documented approach, not politicization, which is a precondition for protecting the right of each individual victim. Let me reiterate: the number of victims does not diminish the horrific effect of this form of violence on each and every victim, but manipulating numbers is detrimental to justice, leads to politicization and slows reconciliation process. Basing its information on the data provided by the Commission for the Verification and Recognition of Sexual Violence Victim Status in Kosovo, the Secretary-General’s Report says that 982 applications have been submitted, out of which 308 have been accepted. Priština’s representatives, however, continue to talk of 20 000 raped Albanians. As if there were no Serbian victims of sexual violence. In this regard, Fatmir Limaj was indicted, among others, on the basis of the testimonies by the Mazreku brothers, Albanian witnesses and accomplices in the crime. The so-called Kosovo Government, though, appointed Fatmir Limaj to head the Priština’s team in the negotiations with Belgrade.
As I said in my Statement to the Council in February, I am not here for rhetorical one-upmanship. I am here to help bring long longed peace and normalcy to the people of Kosovo and Metohija. We must not let them down; we must pursue dialogue and achieve compromise. Our altercations will not bring a better life and prosperity either to Serbs or Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija; they will not provide security to Serbs, enable them to return home, restitute their property, prevent physical attacks on them or let them live in peace and dignity. Bold, forceful and all-inclusive, we must make sure that what is resolved in this body is respected and reflected on the ground. For, it concerns the condition of many and says who we are.
This topic must not be allowed to ‘cool’ or be superseded by some other acute political problem facing the international community, because, contrary to Priština’s assertions otherwise, nothing has been resolved with respect to the question of Kosovo yet.
I therefore call on Priština once again to revoke the senseless tariffs and return to dialogue, which is the only alternative for the Serbian and Albanian peoples. Serbia is ready to achieve a lasting solution through negotiations.
Thank you, Mr. President.