Minister Dacic at UN Security Council meeting devoted to the work of UNMIК

UN DacicStatement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, H. E. Mr. Ivica Dacic at the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to the work of UNMIK.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank Secretary-General Guterres and Special Representative Tanin also on this occasion for the submission of the Report and for their dedication and engagement in the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in accordance with UNSCR 1244 (1999). I also recognize and express my gratitude to the President and the Members of the Security Council for the extensive attention they accord, on the basis of continuity, to the consideration, review and understanding of this issue which is of paramount importance for the Republic of Serbia.

Some members of the Security Council suggested also before this meeting that, in the presentation of our Statements, we stick to the topic of the meeting, demonstrate constructiveness and maintain calm and avoid all provocations and confrontation. Just as I did in my previous Statement, I shall focus on the current situation in Kosovo and Metohija and the developments that took place in the preceding quarter, as well as on the Report of the Secretary-General. I hope that Priština’s representative will also honour these recommendations and that she will not, as she did in the past, hold history lessons full of falsehoods and unfounded accusations, as well as unwarranted embellishments of the situation in Kosovo and Metohija disregarding, all along, the Report of the Secretary-General and the realities on the ground.

And the reality on the ground is that the First Agreement of principles governing the normalization of relations was signed as early as August 2013 and that that Agreement provides for the establishment of a Community of Serb majority municipalities. I would like to remind you that I signed this Agreement together with Hashim Thaçi and Catherine Ashton. As you know very well, the establishment of the Community is a question of crucial, enormous importance for Serbia as it is aimed at ensuring and protecting the vital interests of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and at improving their everyday life. Four and a half years now has Serbia been waiting patiently for Priština to fulfil this obligation of essential importance. In the meantime, 30 non-permanent Member States have been in and out of this esteemed body and each and every one of them called on Priština to fulfil its obligations. Unfortunately, rather than forward, the movement thus far has been only backward. In his Report, the Secretary-General notes that not only “[t]here was not progress toward the establishment of the Community/Association of Serb majority municipalities,” but that “[n]o indications were provided about when and how steps towards the establishment of the Association/Community might be progressed.” This is the reality on the ground, distinguished Members of the Security Council.

I would like to remind you also on this occasion that Serbia’s participation in the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština was dedicated and responsible and that, irrespective of the hurdles and challenges, my country approached it in true belief that the solution of all outstanding issues in a status neutral framework will contribute to peace, stabilization of the situation and the realization of conditions for the Western Balkans’ unimpeded progress toward the EU membership. Convinced that this approach has no alternative and that all issues must be resolved through dialogue and peacefully, Serbia has, for its part, implemented its obligations consistently and in good faith. I emphasize once again that Serbia is ready to continue the dialogue; however, it is very questionable if any new agreement will have any meaning at all if, four and a half years after the signing of the Brussels Agrrement, we continue to be saddled with the lack of „indications” as to „when and how” its part relative to the establishment of the Community will be implemented.

Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

The reality on the ground is that Oliver Ivanović, the leader of the Civil Initiative Freedom, Democracy, Justice, was shot dead in Kosovska Mitrovica on 16 January and that his murder has threatened the security in Kosovo and Metohija dramatically. We welcome the reaction of Special Representative Tanin who condemned this gruesome act and called for a speedy and resolute investigation, providing assurances that all international agencies will support the authorities and help them arrest those responsible for this crime.

The murder of Oliver Ivanović is a senseless terrorist act that threatens the stability not only of northern Kosovo and Metohija, but also of the entire region. Serbia’s political leaders and State authorities called for calm and stabilization of the situation in the Province also on this occasion. My country’s responsible approach was reconfirmed also on 21 and 22 January when President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić visited the Serbs in northern and central Kosovo and Metohija and called on them to maintain stability, peace, calm and dignity, emphasizing that all problems must be solved through dialogue and peacefully.

Aware of the seriousness of the situation, Serbia addressed letters to UNMIK and EULEX requesting that its State organs take part in the investigation of the murder, convinced that their participation would contribute to a quick and efficient establishment of the truth. The request was reiterated also by President Vučić in his telephone conversation with Hashim Thaçi. It was rejected by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) in Kosovo and Metohija; they insisted that the investigation be conducted exclusively by the investigation authorities of ‘Kosovo’. The reality, however, is that, three weeks after the murder, we have no information whatsoever, except for the intimation by some of the Priština representatives that a settling of accounts within local mafia is involved and that, surely, the murder was not ethnically motivated. These statements serve to obfuscate Priština’s inability or lack of readiness to conduct investigation of this gruesome crime.

I emphasize once again that bringing those who ordered the crime and its perpetrators to justice, as well as establishing the motives of the crime, are of key importance for maintaining peace and trust among the population of Kosovo and Metohija. This tragic event proves that the overall security situation in the entire Province is very serious, volatile and sensitive and that the presence of the international community is needed.

Mr. President,

The reality on the ground is also that, at the end of the last year and at the beginning of this, the power structures and the political parties and their leaders in Kosovo and Metohija tried to revoke the law on the Specialist Chambers set to try the allegations of crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). There is no need to assure you of Serbia’s concern for you were surprised and concerned over these developments yourselves. In his Report, the Secretary-General expresses deep disappointment; he goes on to say that this is a step backward in one of the most important areas and strongly calls on Priština to demonstrate commitment to justice and the rule of law. U.S. Ambassador Greg Dellaway said on the occasion that any initiative to change the Specialist Chambers Law will have profound negative impact on Kosovo’s European future and its relations with the United States. Head of the EU Office in Priština Nataliya Apostolova said that she was shocked by the Kosovo Assembly initiative to revoke or abrogate in any other way the Law on Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. German Ambassador Christian Heldt warned that the rescission of the decision to establish Specialist Chambers could affect the relations between Kosovo and its friends abroad.

These statements are clear evidence that the international community does not share the views of those who are behind the initiative and believes that the heinous crimes committed against the Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, reported by Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Special Rapporteur Dick Marty, must not remain unpunished and cannot be relativized or justified.

Mindful of moral responsibility toward the victims and their families, we consider that the establishment of criminal responsibility in an impartial and credible way and the punishment of criminals will have immeasurable impact on the fight against impunity and demonstrate that justice is achievable for all victims. I would like to assure you once again that Serbia is ready to provide evidence it possesses on the commission of brutal crimes, the crimes no statute of limitations runs out on, the crimes that must not be forgotten.

In accordance with its laws, fully aligned with international law, Serbia will continue to prosecute those for whom there is convincing evidence that they have committed criminal offences of war crimes against civilian population in Kosovo and Metohija. The positions occupied by some individuals in the PISG cannot and must not deter us from achieving justice and they do not release these individuals from criminal responsibility for perpetration of the offences. In this context, we were concerned and disappointed with INTERPOL’s recent decisions to remove international arrest warrants for a certain number of persons from Kosovo and Metohija from its lists, including Hashim Thaçi and Ramush Haradinaj. Let me say unequivocally that these decisions create precedents hard to understand and that they have been taken contrary to all the rules of the organization.

Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Regrettably, the reality is that the so-called President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaçi, pardoned three KLA members, sentenced to 30 years in prison, for killing the entire 5-member Albanian Hajra family near Glogovac in August 2001. The victims included 3-year-old Adelina and 9-year-old Mimoza. According to the EULEX report, father Hamza Hajra was a member of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia and the entire family was killed as an act of KLA retaliation. In a joint communiqué, the Embassies of France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States in Priština expressed deep concern at the decision of Hashim Thaçi to pardon the criminals. I don’t have to assure you of the concern that this decision caused among the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I recall that, in addition to about 16,500 internally displaced persons in the Province, more than 200,000 still reside outside Kosovo and Metohija in Central Serbia more than 18 years after the arrival of international presences. Only 1.9 per cent of them have achieved sustainable returns to which UNMIK should accord additional and maximum attention. It is noted in the Report that “the lowest number of returns since 2000” was recorded in 2017 as, sadly, only 498 persons returned to the Province. On the one hand, this number is shocking; on the other, it is understandable and begs the question of who is ready to return to where they will suffer discrimination every day, where nationalistic and religious hatred is not sanctioned, where property is not protected, where jobs are few, where people are exposed to intimidation, arbitrary arrests and ethnically motivated violence, where they cannot visit the graves of their forefathers and where the rule of law is implemented by institutions that have not brought a single legally-valid decision for the killing of a large number of Serbs since the ending of the conflict. I pose the question again: Who would want to return and be a part of this reality? Before these problems are resolved structurally and institutionally, the number of returnees will, regrettably, only be lower.

In his Report, the Secretary-General recites “continued lack of progress in implementing […a] ruling of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo” related to the property right of the Dečani Monastery to the land in its environs. I would like to underline also on this occasion that the protection of the historical, cultural and religious heritage of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija, which is at the same time an important part of the European and world heritage, is a question of priority importance for the Republic of Serbia. In that context, let me mention, as particularly harmful, institutional attempts to conceal the true identity of the Serbian heritage in the Province, which is frequently designated as medieval, Balkan or Byzantine. The crucial attribute of Serbian, however, is being left out of these designations all along.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,

Convinced that a responsible, realistic and rational approach is needed in the relations with Priština, Serbia continues its internal dialogue to which President Vučić called its citizens. A Working Group has been established to support the dialogue conducted on a number of levels and with participation of all relevant social groups. I assure you that Serbia wants to make a serious and responsible contribution to the stability of the region, political cooperation, understanding and economic progress. We want to offer a solution that would provide an opportunity for an historic agreement with the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija and will not cause new divisions, misunderstandings, instability and conflict. This solution must honour the interests of Serbia and the needs of the Serbian community in Kosovo and Metohija. To achieve this goal, genuine commitment and aspirations of both sides are needed in order to build the very necessary trust and respect. To that end, I would like to point out that the inappropriate and disconcerting statements made by some leaders of Albanian political parties are not contributive to the creation of a constructive atmosphere for the achievement of the historical agreement.

Let me emphasize in particular that Priština’s one-sided acts, as well as each and every attempt to solve questions unilaterally, are entirely unacceptable for Serbia. Serbia, I underline, is firmly opposed to Priština’s intentions to form the “Army of Kosovo”; these and other similar attempts are very dangerous and may potentially threaten not only the security of the Province and the dialogue between Belgrade and Priština, but also the stability of the entire region.

In addition, we have been witness, for some time now, to Priština’s attempts to become a full-fledged member of international organizations in spite of the opposition by a considerable number of countries, including even some that have recognized the UDI of ‘Kosovo’. The last instances have been ‘Kosovo’s attempts to become a member of UNESCO, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. All these attempts, let me point out, are contrary to the basic principles of international law and detrimental to, and needlessly politicizing of, the work of international organizations.

I take this opportunity to express special gratitude to all the countries that, with regard to this question, extend support to Serbia and that, at the same time, insist, alongside Serbia, on principled respect for universally accepted norms of the contemporary international order relative to upholding consistently the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.

In my Statement, I would like to remind you that, for a decade now, i.e. since ‘Kosovo’ declared independence by a unilateral act, Serbia has patiently, dedicatedly and responsibly apprised the international community of the apparent danger from unilateral acts and admonished that the UDI of ‘Kosovo’ is a very dangerous and unacceptable precedent which, as we have witnessed, has already emboldened other separatist and secessionist movements all over the world.

As in the past, Serbia continues to take measures to protect its national and State interests, with full respect for the basic postulates of international law, primarily the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity as universal values reasserting freedom and equality among States and peoples. In that regard, I would like to thank once again the States that have not recognized the UDI of ‘Kosovo’ for their consistent support and principled respect of the Charter of the United Nations and UNSCR 1244 (1999). At the same time, I call on the States that have done so to reconsider their decision and encourage in that way both sides to find a mutually acceptable solution through dialogue.

In the end, I would like to call on all Members of the Security Council to focus together on the quest for a compromise and sustainable solution to this decades-long question and to fully support UNMIK in the meantime as its unimpeded presence in Kosovo and Metohija is of key importance for building lasting peace, stability and security, as well as confidence among communities, and solving the problems facing the members of the Serbian and other non-Albanian communities in the Province. In that context, I would point out the importance of maintaining UNMIK’s financial and personnel capacities that will make it possible for the Mission to meet the complex demands of the implementation of its mandate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I spoke about today has been a testimony that problems are numerous, that security situation is volatile and that commitment, patience and hard work are needed for us to be able to communicate, in three months, to the international community from this same place a different reality.

For its part, Serbia is ready, looking forward to the future, to invest all its resources to make a contribution toward achievement of these goals.

Thank you, Mr. President.