8459th Security Council Meeting: Report of Secretary-General on UNMIK

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07-Feb-2019 02:20:09
Antagonistic gestures, accusations prevailing over efforts to resume Kosovo talks, Special Representative tells Security Council at 8459th meeting.

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Antagonistic gestures and accusations are prevailing over genuine efforts to resume political dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today, calling on both sides to steady, rather than agitate, the atmosphere as a minimum requirement.

“There has been a tendency to disrupt rather than de-escalate the situation,” said Zahir Tanin, who is also Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the matter (document S/2019/102). The absence in Pristina of a unified stance on the conditions for resumed talks has raised concerns about the viability of the government coalition.

Attention has also focused on the 100 per cent tariff Pristina introduced on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina — a measure that has been challenged by many quarters and on whose revocation Belgrade has made dialogue contingent. Pristina has linked the lifting of the tax to several conditions, he said, stressing that a forward-looking approach is essential to removing obstacles.

For its part, the Mission has worked to foster mutual trust across communities, facilitating people-to-people engagement, he said. But more must be done to guarantee the rights of non-majority communities, including the Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma, as well as returnees and internally displaced persons. He pressed the Council to support engagement between Belgrade and Pristina, as removing obstacles to dialogue is crucial for regional stability.

When the floor was opened, Serbia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said dialogue with Pristina has been forestalled for one reason: Kosovo’s decision to impose a 100 per cent tariff on goods from his country and Bosnia and Herzegovina — a move condemned by the international community and which contravened the Central European Free Trade Agreement.

He said Pristina’s attempts to take over the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica and expel Serbs from that area only complicate the difficulties. Assertions that UNMIK is unnecessary do not reflect reality and he urged the Council to avoid rushed decisions.

On that point, Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo wondered “why on Earth” the Council has convened for the third time in four months to discuss Kosovo. UNMIK has no role and no longer has a mandate in Kosovo. Her government is prepared to discuss building constructive relations with Belgrade as equals.

On the tariffs, she pointed out that no product labelled “Made in Kosovo” can pass the Serbian border and questioned why Kosovo should extend such a courtesy, stressing that the tariff’s real economic effect is negligible. “We remain determined to do all that is in our power to achieve and cherish a stable and lasting peace,” she asserted.

Other delegates offered their views, with the representative of the Russian Federation stressing his rejection of attempts by Western Powers to exclude Pristina from the Council’s agenda, describing Kosovo as the cradle of instability in the region. Calls for Kosovo to be militarized gravely violate Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). “If we want to achieve stability in the Balkans, we have to find compromise,” he said.

The speaker for the United Kingdom, stressing that Kosovo is no longer a place in conflict, welcomed the proposal to focus the Council’s efforts on “much more fierce, intractable and live conflicts”. Kosovo and Serbia are fortunate that the European Union has offered a dialogue within which they can make progress towards integration in the bloc as equals and sovereigns.

Poland’s representative recalled that 10 years have passed since the last strategic review of UNMIK. Echoing calls by her counterparts from the United States, Germany and Belgium, she said “the time is ripe for a new one”, which should lead to the downgrading of forces and possible resource savings.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, China, Peru, Indonesia, Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3:18 p.m. and ended at 5:39 p.m.

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