Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the situation in Kosovo
We welcome the participation in today’s meeting of Mr. Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, and we share the grave concerns he expressed about the state of affairs in Kosovo.
We would like to thank the Special Representative of the SecretaryGeneral, Mr. Zahir Tanin, and his team for their work and objective briefing on the activities of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which shows that the persistent serious problems in the province continue and are in urgent need of solutions and of oversight by the international community.
We also listened attentively to Ms. Vlora Çitaku’s statement. Ten years ago, at the initiative of Russia, the Security Council convened in this Chamber to respond to Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (see S/PV.5821). We gave a warning at the time about the pernicious consequences of that step both for the situation in the province and for regional security, and today it is perfectly clear that the sponsors and executors of the questionable Kosovo project should reflect on the results of that misadventure.
The illegal secession, whose forerunner was the NATO aggression of 1999, made a resolution of the Kosovo issue significantly more difficult. The result is that to this day there are still no clear prospects for a settlement and Kosovo continues to be one of the main problems on the regional, European and international agendas.
Above all, the flouting of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a Member State continues, in violation of fundamental principles of international law. The expectations of Pristina’s supporters that the number of States recognizing Kosovo’s so-called independence would keep going up have proved unfounded.
On the contrary, there have recently been calls for retracting that recognition. Kosovo’s applications for membership in a number of international organizations have been rejected. On the security front, the potential for serious conflict continues, and any incident is liable to spark an outbreak of violence. On top of that, the province continues to be a comfort zone for recruiting radicals.
Attempts to sweep this issue under the rug could have costly consequences for both the Balkans and for Europe as a whole, especially since returning terrorists are fleeing there from Syria and Iraq. The attempts to cultivate a self-sufficient political system with pretensions to being a legal democratic State have been fruitless.
Behind the facade of public institutions we glimpse clannish interests and unresolved contradictions and conflict, and corruption and organized crime are rampant. The moderate political forces have been pushed into the background, and the current authorities, where former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters are running things, are being challenged by even more radical nationalists and those supporting the creation of a greater Albania. In spite of the promises, there has been no economic boom or influx of investments in the province, and as a result the socioeconomic situation is still disastrous. From that point of view, Kosovo remains the most unsuccessful area in the region.
We have always believed that the only solution to the Kosovo problem is a political one, which should be based on dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). Yet for the second year in a row the Brussels dialogue between the parties, in which the European Union took on the role of mediator, is stalled.
The main reason for that is the Kosovo Albanians’ refusal to fulfil their obligations, and in particular to implement the key First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations between Belgrade and Pristina of April 2013 on establishing an association/community of Serbmajority municipalities in Kosovo.
It is astonishing that the European mediators’ attitude to this stagnation is strangely complacent. In contrast, we note Belgrade’s constructive attitude, demonstrating a willingness to continue the dialogue and seek ways to arrive at a long-term settlement of the relations between Serbs and Albanians on a basis of compromise. Unfortunately there has so far been no serious response to those calls from either Pristina or Brussels.
At the same time, the signs are increasing that preparations are being made to ramp up pressure on Serbia’s leaders in order to compel it to recognize a de facto Kosovo independence. In our view, if the negotiations on Serbia’s admission to the European Union are used as a way of cranking up the pressure, that would call into question Brussels’ objectivity and impartiality as an intermediary.
The recent murder of Oliver Ivanović, a prominent Kosovo Serb politician, is alarming and has further highlighted the fragility of the situation in the province. Whoever was responsible for the crime, it is a clear reflection of the catastrophically low level of security and law and order in Kosovo, the particular vulnerability of the Serb community and the lack of effective mechanisms for responding to such challenges. Only the courageous decision by Serbia’s President Vučić to take the risk of visiting Kosovo, with the aim of giving support to his compatriots, has brought some calm to the situation.
However, it would be premature to suggest that this crisis has been completely dealt with. In particular, we want to emphasize that it is unacceptable to use the current situation as an excuse for enforcing Kosovo Albanian control of the province’s Serbianmajority areas.
We support Belgrade’s calls for a fullfledged investigation into the murder of Ivanović by the international entities in Kosovo and for giving the competent Serbian authorities the opportunity to participate as well, especially given that the possibility of a Serbian police presence in the province is explicitly provided for in resolution 1244 (1999).
In our view, special responsibility lies with the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which has claimed a key role in recent years in the maintenance of law and order but is now passing the baton to the Kosovo police, within whose purview it says the issue falls. One wonders who, if not EULEX, is deciding to transfer such functions to the Kosovo police? On what grounds and according to what law has it been done, considering that at issue are powers delegated to EULEX by UNMIK, pursuant to a resolution of the Security Council? Who verified the ability of Kosovo Albanian security forces to objectively investigate crimes against Serbs? Is Pristina actually interested in doing that in any way? Its refusal to provide any of the evidence requested by Belgrade suggests the opposite, including the possibility of an attempt to conceal something.
Immediate efforts must be undertaken to rectify these mistakes so as to ensure the most effective, comprehensive and impartial investigation possible and to identify those who planned and carried out the murder. The passivity of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) is startling, constituting as it does the international security presence in the country, in accordance with resolution 1244 (1999). Frankly, the meagre reports submitted to the Secretariat do not give us a clear picture of KFOR activities.
We cannot ignore the issue of the investigation into the crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army. It remains unclear when the work of the Specialist Chambers established under the leadership of the European Union in The Hague will begin or if any specific indictments will be made. The fact that the Court’s activities depend on the whims of the members of the Assembly of Kosovo, among whom are a number of former fighters, does not inspire great optimism.
There is considerable additional evidence of the lamentable state of affairs in the province, some of which is described in the Secretary-General’s report (S/2018/76). It includes a drop in refugee returns, persistent attacks on the homes and property of Kosovo Serbs, arson, acts of material damage and vandalism and attacks on Serbian Orthodox church property.
These are the sad legacies of 10 years of Kosovo’s independence. Under the leadership of the United Nations as represented by the Security Council and UNMIK, the international community should continue to closely follow the situation and actively fostering the maintenance of stability and security in the province.
In view of all of this, and given the current situation, we believe it would be absolutely inappropriate to raise the question of changing the format and periodicity of the Secretariat’s briefings to the Council on Kosovo.