Statement by Mr.Vladimir Safronkov, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council on the sitiation in Kosovo
We thank the representative of the SecretaryGeneral and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, Mr. Zahir Tanin, and his team for their work and objective assessment of the situation in Kosovo. The Mission continues to play an important role in the province.
We also acknowledge Mr. Tanin’s personal efforts. We also welcome the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr. Ivica Dačić, to today’s meeting.
We agree with the Minister as he expressed serious concerns about the situation in the province. We also support the determination of Serbia’s leaders to resolve all issues through civilized dialogue. We listened very carefully to Ms. Çitaku’s statement.
According to our assessment, the situation in Kosovo is not only not stabilizing; on the contrary, it is deteriorating. Negative factors continue to accumulate. The situation requires constructive diplomatic efforts and strict international control, primarily through the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), in particular since we understand that the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) has plans to leave the province.
No progress has been made to date in the investigation into the murder of a well-known KosovoSerb politician, Oliver Ivanović. Much time has elapsed since 16 January, the date on which the crime was committed.
However, thus far we have heard no credible information about the results of the investigation. We are therefore left with the impression that the authorities in Pristina, after they tried and failed to put the blame on Serbia, decided to simply forget about the investigation. But the truth must be determined as soon as possible, and the Security Council must be apprised of it. In addition to that tragedy, on 26 March there was another egregious incident in Kosovo and Metohija — the brutal, humiliating and violent arrest of the Director of the Serbian Government’s Kosovo office, Mr. Marko Đurić.
As a result of that staged and cruel provocative act, scores of people were beaten. That kind of unprovoked violence on the part of the Pristina’s special forces calls into question the already fragile peace in the province. Bloodshed was prevented only because the Serbs behaved responsibly. Such lawlessness against Serbs in Kosovo illustrates a deplorable situation with respect to law enforcement and human rights. It is drastically different from the rosy, but virtual, picture painted by those advocating the independence of the province.
In that regard, we are puzzled about the blatant permissiveness on the part of the international presence — the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the EULEX. They stood idly by, observed from the sidelines and refused to act to ensure to public order and safety. We believe that that kind of intimidation against Serbs in Kosovo and the suppression of their determination to protect their legitimate interests is very dangerous and can lead to the resurgence of armed clashes in Kosovo. It could also destabilize the Balkans as a whole. The line chosen by Pristina serves only to inflame the situation and undermines the long-lasting efforts of the international community in the area of post-conflict settlement.
We would like to address and call upon those with influence over Pristina to put pressure on those they support to de-escalate tensions. Regrettably, we are witnessing exactly the opposite. Pristina believes it can act with impunity, with full permission to do so. Contrary to resolution 1244 (1999), it continues to prepare for the transformation of Kosovo’s current security forces into a full-fledged army. It is being assisted by certain NATO contingents in KFOR, which by doing so go beyong the United Nations mandate. The closed Bondsteel base is being used for those purposes in particular. Kosovo-Albanian fighters are being prepared for active combat.
We would like to warn the Council that, in the interest of peace and security in the Balkans, it is important to halt the creation of a force that hot-headed entities will employ against Serbs in the province. We also have questions about the complete closure of the Bondsteel base. Its establishment was based on the importance of ensuring an international presence under the United Nations mandate, within the framework of resolution 1244 (1999). The international community has the right to information about the kind of military activity conducted at the base. Who is being trained there and for what purposes? What kind of exercises are being conducted? We believe it would be logical to include that kind of information in the quarterly reports about the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.
We are also concerned about the information we received some time ago from NATO with regard to the fact that the KFOR command will halt contact with Russian representatives. What is being hidden from a permanent member of the Security Council by an international entity that is in Kosovo on the basis of the United Nations mandate? We hope that reason will prevail and that that erroneous decision will be reviewed.
The Russian position on Kosovo remains unchanged and is based on the international legal frameworks that are reflected in resolution 1244 (1999), which remains the cornerstone of the Kosovo settlement. We are of the view that the Kosovo issue can be settled only through politics, on the basis of negotiations between parties in the spirit of goodwill and international law.
Regrettably, we must acknowledge that dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has been discredited. More than five years have elapsed since the Brussels Agreement was signed but the key obligation contained therein, which was reached under the auspices of the European Union, namely, the establishment of the community of Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo, has still not been implemented.
We bear witness to laxity on the part of the European Union, the international mediator. It did not compel the Kosovo Albanians to implement agreements achieved under their own auspices. As a result, Pristina openly undermines the implementation of its own commitments and refuses to abandon its own unrealistic demands. In contrast, we witness a constructive approach by Belgrade to tackle the Kosovo issue in the statement made by President Vučić citing his readiness to reach a compromise. At the same time, we are therefore concerned about increased pressure on the Serbian leadership and attempts to compel Belgrade to acknowledge the de facto independence of Kosovo.
We hope that a Brussels dialogue will be spared such pressure and ultimatums. Failing that, we cannot expect to have success in the form of a long-term solution acceptable to all. We believe it is untimely to push forward and link the so-called full and comprehensive normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina to an artificial timeline.
First, we must fully implement earlier agreements, without which the already weak trust among the members of the negotiating process could disappear altogether. The implementation of the agreement concerning the establishment of the community of Serb-majority municipalities is at the centre of our attention. We must note that no practical moves have been made with regard to Specialist Chambers in The Hague to investigate crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Eight years have passed since the publication of the Marty report on the issue. That is another serious problem. We believe that it is not constructive to delay the start of the work of that body under artificial pretexts.
We expect that the Specialist Chambers will start its work in the very near future and be as transparent as possible. All those who committed terrible crimes, including trafficking in human organs, must face justice and be justly punished, regardless of their current positions. To replace Mr. Shwendiman, who retired on 7 May, American lawyer, Mr. Smith, has been appointed to the position of Prosecutor. We hope that he will quickly assume his post and finally produce tangible results in the form of specific indictments. The rate of refugees and internally displaced persons to the region is also unsatisfactory.
As indicated in the report of the Secretary-General (S/2018/407), only three people returned to Kosovo during the reporting period. For some that truth is unpleasant, but it is still the truth. Attacks on homes and property of Kosovo Serbs, arson, physical trespass and acts of vandalism continue. We must pay particular attention to ensuring proper protection for the Orthodox sites in Kosovo — churches and monasteries. We must also put an end to the destructive practice of denigrating sensibilities and humiliating Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo. We should not turn a blind eye to acute issues and problems, such as in the area of counter-terrorism and combating corruption and crime, but we must actually address them.
The situation with regard to those issues is very worrisome. In the current situation, the international community, with the leading role played by the United Nations and represented by the Security Council and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, should pay more attention to the situation in Kosovo and actively contribute to the maintenance stability and security in the region. Given those and other current circumstances, we consider the calls to reduce the frequency of reviewing the situation in Kosovo at the Secutiry Council to be completely inappropriate.
Allow me to remind those who ignore this fact that UNMIK was created by the Security Council, and only the Security Council has the authority to make relevant decisions in that regard. Unilateral statements are null and void. In conclusion, I would like to point out that the Western Balkans, with its rich history and potential, can, and should, become a region for cooperation and interaction, rather than tension and hostility.
However, in order to achieve that, we must abandon the logic of confrontation and the practice of presenting countries in the region with the false choice of: Are you with or against us? As in many other parts of the world, what we need there is collective work on the basis of mutual respect. The Russian Federation stands ready for that.