Statement by Mr. Vladimir Safronkov, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in KosovoMay 16, 2016
We welcome the presence here of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr. Ivica Dačić. We share his comments. We would also like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, Mr. Zahir Tanin, for his briefing on the work of the United Nations mission in Kosovo. We also listened very carefully to statement made by Ms. Vlora Çitaku.Given the trajectory of the discussion, I would like to make a number of comments. First of all, resolution 1244 (1999) was and remains the only platform for resolving the situation in Kosovo. No one has the right unilaterally to revise the resolution. Security Council resolutions may be altered only by the Council itself. Secondly, a lot has been said about the need for recognition and the need for truth. I agree with that. It is true that, to resolve the very complex issues of Kosovo, they need to be acknowledged and we need to speak of them truthfully.We should not remain silent about the real challenges in the province. Unfortunately, the main part of today’s discussion has been devoted not to these problems and the issue of stability in the Balkans, but rather to technical and organizational matters. Nevertheless, the situation in the province is one of constant crisis and legal scepticism. The political situation remains unstable. Conflict with the Kosovo opposition, which demands a rejection of the agreement on the association/community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo and a revision of the border with Montenegro, is becoming increasingly brutal. Instead of defending its position through dialogue, the opposition has decided to use violence. The European Union-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is a mechanism for normalizing the situation in the province and yet, since August 2015, there has not been any progress. They key pending issue is the establishment of an association/community of Serb majority municipalities. The reason for this is neglect by the Kosovar Albanian side of their obligations and their attempts to revise them unilaterally and, unfortunately, with the silent consent of the European Union mediators. We hope that the specialist court established to investigate the crimes committed by the fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army will begin its work as soon as possible and will not resume the unsuccessful methods of the work of the former International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We are convinced that criminals, no matter what positions they currently occupy, must be punished. Time is passing. It seems that there are already problems with potential witnesses. In April, for example, a former fighter of the Kosovo Liberation Army, Bedri Curri, was killed. The only plausible reason for this crime is that apparently he might have been able to testify for the prosecution. We note the continuing gaps and problems with regard to the rule of law in the province. We have very serious doubts about the impartiality of justice, the effectiveness of the work of judges and prosecutors and are concerned about the high level of corruption, the violations of the freedom of the press and organized crime, including human trafficking and drug trafficking. These problems need to be addressed.The situation of the Kosovar Serbs remains very difficult. There are still cases of physical violence against them. In January, the participants of an anti-governmental demonstration in Pristina desecrated the unfinished Church of Christ the Saviour in that city. The Kosovar police did nothing to intervene. I also point to the graffiti on the cathedral in Pristina praising the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). What is the meaning of that? There are other problems as well. Serbian monasteries, churches and cemeteries have once again become targets of violations and desecration. The international presence must step up it efforts to protect Serbian cultural and religious heritage. A great deal has been said about international requirements and the international presence. They are exactly the international requirements we need to fulfil, not just abstract slogans.
There are other problems as well. There have been clear attempts by the Kosovar authorities to acquire the Trepča mining complex, the main interest owner of which is the Foundation for Serbia’s Development, a major employer of Kosovar Serbs in the north. They are also major problems with Serb properties in Kosovo. Some 30,000 units of Serb real estate have been encroached upon. This is an old problem that has not been resolved. A good example of this is the Visoki Dečani monastery, whose ownership is being contested. We have demanded that these problems be resolved for a long time in this Chamber. Those are international demands and requirements.The rate of return of refugees and internally displaced persons is very slow. Furthermore, as we see it, Kosovar Albanians are very interested in going to Western Europe due to the extremely difficult socioeconomic situation in the province. We would like to point out that, owing to the weakness of law enforcement and the security situation in general, the province as a whole risks becoming a grey area in the middle of Europe, used as a refuge and a transit hub, not only by representatives of organized crime, but also by radical Islamists. All of this obviously is conducive to the use of the territory of the province by extremists for recruitment and training purposes. As far as the graffiti about ISIL on the churches that I mentioned, it is a clear sign very dangerous attitudes among the locals. Kosovo is a leader in Europe in terms of the number of combatants fighting for ISIL per capita, while the population of the province is less than 2 million. This is a problem that affects not only the security of the Balkans, but Europe as a whole. It requires far more attention. We will see how the expected visa-free travel to Europe will impact migration flows into Europe. We believe that the solution to the situation is not to try to sweep the problems under the carpet, but rather to urge Pristina to immediately implement its obligations, including first and foremost the establishment of the association/community of Serb majority municipalities. That will be a real litmus test for their readiness to respect the independence of minorities and ensure their security. It is not simply about shouting slogans, but about undertaking concrete steps and ensuring security and living up to the commitments undertaken in the framework of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. Further delays will lead to a continued deterioration of the situation in and around Kosovo. We think that it is also counterproductive to try to promote Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, which we have been seeing more and more recently. Resolution 1244 (1999) remains valid. Given the current unstable conditions, it is obviously very important to maintain the United Nations presence in Kosovo, through the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, and the Mission must have all the necessary financial and human resources to carry out its mandate. Today’s discussion has demonstrated the timeliness of this issue. It is also very important to continue to follow the situation closely. Statements that run counter to this need also run counter to reality. In that connection, we say that the appeals that have been made today to radically reduce and drawdown the Mission or even to reformat its mandate have no grounds. The report of the Secretary-General (S/2016/407) clearly states that a huge amount of work remains to be done to build a democratic, multiethnic society in Kosovo.