Statement by Mr.Vladimir Safronkov, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council on the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (S/2017/387)
We welcome the participation in today’s meeting of the Minister of Justice of Serbia, Ms. Nela Kuburović, and share the serious concerns she has expressed with regard to the state of affairs in Kosovo. We are also grateful to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Zahir Tanin, and his team for their work, and we thank Mr. Tanin for his objective briefing on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). It shows that there ongoing serious, profound problems in the province that require immediate solution, as well as outside monitoring.
Indeed, the scope of ongoing challenges in the province is not decreasing but assuming new forms. As a result, the goal of creating a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo is further away than ever. The problem lies in the obvious lack of desire on the part of the Kosovo authorities to fulfil the obligations undertaken within the framework of the dialogue with Belgrade. This is taking place against the background of the blatant condoning of the situation by outside actors.
The Brussels mediation process is biased in allowing the Kosovo-Albanians to behave in such a manner. As a result, the relationship between Belgrade and Pristina is deteriorating and trust is losing ground. The dialogue has faced an impasse for many months. There has been no major breakthrough on the main track of the negotiations — the establishment of the association/ community of Serb-majority municipalities — despite the fact that an agreement was drafted more than four years ago.
We consider it unacceptable and destructive to attempt to impose a self-governing system on the Serbs that would reduce their own powers to an absolute minimum. It is obvious that the genuine goal of such dead-end initiatives is to blame the Serbs for the dialogue’s impasse, whereas in fact the situation is exactly the reverse. The lack of pressure from Brussels means that Kosovo’s political leaders feel that they can do anything. They no longer refrain from using the language of open provocation. Very recently, Mr. Thaçi threatened to resign from the post of the so-called President if his initiative to transform the Kosovo Security Force into a fully-fledged army is not implemented. At the same time, we are convinced that the implementation of his proposal would have been a very serious violation of international law, particularly resolution 1244 (1999) and inevitably led to further destabilization in the region and even greater conflict potential.
Of course exerting relevant pressure on Pristina must continue. At the same time, the Kosovo Assembly has adopted a resolution to suspend the dialogue until such a time when France releases someone who is suspected of very serious crimes, namely, the Kosovo Liberation Army fighter Ramush Haradinaj. Moreover, his brother, who is a representative in the Assembly, has threatened ethnic cleansing and issued ultimatums. On 27 April, a French court made an illegitimate and politicized decision to release Mr. Haradinaj, who was apprehended in January by INTERPOL at the request of Serbia. That demonstrates the double standards used in the case of the parties to the Yugoslavian conflict. Once again, we underscore that those who are guilty of carrying out war crimes, regardless of their actual status or position, must be punished.
We are also not surprised by the fact that the investigation of the crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army has been postponed. Allow me to recall that Mr. Marty briefed the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on the crimes he had investigated, including the trafficking of human organs, more than six years ago. We hope in the very near future to see the initial results of the Specialist Chambers in The Hague and that that body will lack the flaws of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It is important to ensure that such actions be as transparent as possible.
The European Union, through the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which plays a key role in organizing the workings of the Specialist Chambers, must ensure an unbiased and professional approach, which the ICTY was lacking at the time. Although it appears that Mr. Haradinaj was acquitted twice, we know that dozens of witnesses in his case were threatened and attacked, which is consistent with the ongoing deterioration we have observed in the region due to provocations made in the name of greater Albania, which is a threat to the security and territorial integrity of a number of States.
Let us try to understand the regional scope of this issue. In Kosovo, Mr. Thaçi stated in an ultimatum that all Albanians will live in the same State unless the European Union fulfils his expectations for integration. A similar sentiment has being expressed by the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Rama. In Macedonia, Albanians are gathering around the infamous Tirana platform, and similar signals are being conveyed by Albanian leaders living in the south of Serbia.
Against this background, let me be candid. We are aware that the former head of the Kosovo Verification Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Mr. Walker, distinguished himself by speaking in favour of the project of bringing together the Albanians in Albania, Kosovo and the diaspora and calling upon Albanians to take the final step towards this goal. We call on the European Union and Western capitals to undertake measures as soon as possible to stop these provocative statements, which must be replaced by expressions of a desire to live as good neighbours with mutual respect.
Other examples of the weakness of the provincial governmental institutions include the political crisis in Kosovo, whose outcome we can easily predict, and the actions of Kosovo law-enforcement bodies in preventing supporters of Mr. Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party from attending an electoral rally in the municipality of Leposavić, thereby violating principles that seemed inviolable in Europe, such as the freedom of speech, movement, peaceful assembly and participation in elections. Similarly, there was an incident on 9 May when the head of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Mr. Djurić, was barred without explanation from going to a Victory Day meeting in Gračanica.
Pristina’s acts aimed at appropriating Serbian State property are unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is the Kosovo Government’s decision to transfer all community-owned enterprises to State ownership.
We continue to witness ongoing physical attacks on Serbs. We see their property confiscated or burned down. We see refugees and internally displaced people thwarted in their attempts to return home, not to mention the desecration of property belonging to the Serbian Orthodox Church, in particular the incident at the Visoki Dečani Orthodox Monastery, despite the fact that its rights had been upheld by the Constitutional Court in Kosovo. The cathedral church of Christ the Saviour in Pristina is in a deplorable state. The Serbian Orthodox Church has been unable to gain access to its religious objects there, which will be a necessary part of its restoration after its earlier attack by vandals.
The need to combat the spread of radicalism and terrorism in Kosovo is increasingly pressing. We are concerned by the fact that the province is being used to recruit foreign terrorist fighters who fight alongside extremists in the Middle East and who are also preparing terrorist acts elsewhere in the world. Under these circumstances, we think it untimely and counterproductive to plan to reduce the UNMIK staff and the budget parameters. The situation in the province means that decisions such as these are inappropriate, especially in the absence of real dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Therefore, we need to set aside any request to downsize the Mission or even to close it all together.
Instead, we need to undertake constructive work and interaction with that important United Nations operation. I would like to remind the Council that UNMIK is working despite having minimal resources at its disposal. Even so, it is playing a key role in Kosovo affairs and remains an irreplaceable international monitoring tool designed to help normalize the situation in Kosovo, pursuant to resolution 1244 (1999), which remains fully valid.
In the light of the foregoing, we see no reason to review the practice of having quarterly Security Council briefings on the situation in Kosovo, which, as we have seen during the discussions today, continues to require very close international attention and monitoring.