COUNCIL MEMBERS CONCERNED ABOUT LOW VOTER REGISTRATION OF MINORITIES FOR KOSOVO-WIDE ELECTIONS
Support also Expressed for Lifting of Arms Embargo against
NEW YORK, 28 August (UN Headquarters) -- Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Marie Guèhenno, told the Security Council today that the registration of Kosovo Serbs for the November general elections had been "disappointingly low", tempering with reality the note of cautious optimism he had sounded during his last Council briefing. He expressed the hope that recent clear signals from Belgrade would help reverse that "unsatisfactory trend".
Briefing Council members for the second time this summer on the situation in Kosovo, Mr. Guèhenno focused on the preparations for Kosovo-wide elections and the hand-over to provisional self-government, as well as the engagement of minority communities and implementation of confidence-building measures to bridge the inter-communal divide. He also outlined efforts under way to improve law and order.
The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) was concerned about the closure of the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he said. That not only affected the United Nations Mission’s ability to support its operations, but had risked long-term consequences for the Kosovo economy.
Following Mr. Guèhenno's presentation, wide support was expressed for the upcoming elections, which many saw as the framework for restoring democracy, enhancing transparency, reducing tensions and contributing to the establishment of a multi-ethnic Kosovo. However many Council members expressed concern about the low voter registration from Serb and other minority groups. Nearly all speakers stressed that the success of electoral process would depend on the participation of all residents of the province.
Mali's representative said despite obstacles, outstanding progress had been made in establishing a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. Notable progress had also been made in the lead up to the province's November elections, which would be an essential framework to combat extremism and violence.
However, the representative of the Russian Federation said that it would be naïve to expect the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's call on Kosovo’s Serbs to participate in the election to resolve the problems in the province. Unless real conditions of security were guaranteed it would be hard to speak of any real democratic process. Elections under the present conditions would only lead to increased separatism.
And a representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia warned that not even the basic preconditions for free and fair elections had been created and that UNMIK had much to do to ensure the safety and liberty of all in Kosovo, regardless of ethnicity. Continued violent attacks by armed Albanian extremists and terrorists had provided telling evidence that the right atmosphere had not been created for important decisions to be taken regarding the future of the province.
Considerable support was given, by many speakers, for the lifting of the arms embargo imposed against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by the Council.
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's representative supported the lifting of that embargo, but urged UNMIK to prevent any abuses that might result from it.
The infiltration of armed terrorist groups and logistic support from Kosovo into his country must be stopped, that representative added, and mobilization of former members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), including their joining the ranks of the so-called NLA, must be prevented.
Also speaking today were Council members the United States, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, China, Bangladesh, France, Jamaica, Singapore, Mauritius, Ireland, Norway, Mali and Colombia, and also the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States.
The meeting began at 10:41 a.m. and was adjourned at 1:07 p.m.
When the Security Council meets this morning on the situation in Kosovo, it will hear a briefing from Jean-Marie Guèhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on developments in the province.
On 10 June 1999, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1244 authorizing the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to begin the long process of building peace, democracy, stability and self-government in the shattered province. To achieve this goal, UNMIK has been acting as the transitional administration for the region. Working closely with Kosovo's leaders and citizens, the mission performs the whole spectrum of essential administrative functions and services covering such areas as health and education, banking and finance, post and telecommunications, and law and order.
The first phase of a civil registration process was completed throughout Kosovo in mid-July 2000, and was used to form the basis of an electoral roll for municipal elections that were held successfully on 28 October. Together with a Kosovo-wide election expected in 2001, this paves the way for self-government.
Mr. Guèhenno last briefed the Council on 26 July when he told members that preparations for the elections in Kosovo had moved up a gear with the conclusion of the certification period for political parties on 20 July. By that date, parties representing Kosovo Albanians, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, Bosniac, Turkish communities, one independent candidate, three citizen's initiative groups and one coalition had submitted certification applications to the Central Elections Commission (CEC). In addition, four Kosovo Serb parties had submitted certification applications.
Mr. Guèhenno had stressed that it was imperative not only for Kosovo Serbs to register to vote, but also for their parties to be certified for the elections. While there had been encouraging signs, he had called on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to send an unequivocal sign to the Kosovo Serb parties to certify for the elections.
In his briefing, JEAN MARIE GUÈHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, focused on the priority areas of preparations for Kosovo-wide elections and the hand-over to provisional self-government, as well as engagement of the minority communities and implementation of confidence-building measures to bridge the inter-communal divide. He also outlined the efforts under way to improve law and order.
Mr. Guèhenno told Council members that UNMIK was finalizing the structure of the institutions of provisional self-government, in which the Departments of the current Joint Interim Administrative Structure would be streamlined into a more manageable number of Ministries. More than 300,000 booklets explaining the Constitutional Framework had been distributed in Albanian and Serbian, and a Turkish translation was being prepared.
Alongside preparations at the central level, he said, the consolidation of municipal structures continued, with further efforts to devolve authority to municipalities in various sectors. At the same time, there was an increasing tendency on the part of the municipal assemblies to challenge UNMIK’s authority in areas such as public utilities and socially-owned property.
In terms of preparations for the general elections, he noted that UNMIK was in the midst of voter registration, which began on 30 July and would continue to 8 September. Voter registration had run alongside the ongoing civil registration process, in the course of which some 700,000 ID cards had been issued to the local population. Voter registration figures, given that the process was more than halfway completed, were "disappointingly low".
He said that the Institution Building Pillar was calling on members of Municipal Election Committees and local village leaders to encourage participation. He again called on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to fully support UNMIK’s efforts to register as many Kosovo Serbs as possible and encourage them to participate.
He drew attention to progress in several areas of mutual concern to UNMIK and the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, primarily the issue of the missing persons and returns. On the missing persons, there was now an enhanced programme of visits to grave sites both in Kosovo and Serbia proper, including an exchange of photographic and other information relevant to post-mortem verification. On returns, he explained that an initial organized return of 54 Kosovo Serbs to the Osojane valley took place on 13 August under KFOR security escort, followed by further returns on 22 August, both without incident.
Relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had "generally improved" over the past month, he said. An important step forward had been made on 15 August, with a meeting between the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, KFOR and the Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Mebosja Covic.
With respect to security and law and order, he noted that Jean-Christian Cady had assumed his responsibilities as Deputy Special Representative for Police and Justice on 16 August. Efforts continued to develop instruments of law and order enforcement, including the completion of a package of legislation to tackle organized crime. Also, a witness protection director had been appointed and progress had been made on a Kosovo Organized Crime Bureau, which was due to open on 1 September. Other initiatives were under way.
Referring to letters addressed respectively by the President, the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Secretary-General, Mr. Guèhenno said that the Secretary-General’s response had indicated that UNMIK and KFOR remained committed to countering Albanian extremism. The UNMIK continued to support KFOR in its efforts to sever possible ties between radical elements in Kosovo and the so-called National Liberation Army. KFOR supervised the activities of the Kosovo Protections Corps and reported that there was no evidence that the Corps had been involved in recent incidents.
Since March, he continued, KFOR had increased its presence at borders with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and with Albania, and had conducted a Kosovo-wide operation to seize weapons and seek out those believed to be members of armed groups. Since 31 May, KFOR reported that more than 600 individuals had been detained and more than 600 rifles, 1,400 grenades, 1,000 anti-tank weapons, and 139,000 rounds of ammunition had been seized throughout the province, mainly in the border areas.
He said that that UNMIK was "greatly concerned" at the further closure of the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which not only affected the Mission’s ability to support its operations, but it also had long-term consequences for the Kosovo economy. The closure had come at a time when tax collection mechanisms, especially in northern Kosovo, had finally been accepted.
Efforts were under way to attract investment and foster industry. As a result, there had been a 180 per cent growth in jobs in the affected industries, and commercialization had engendered extra investment in the banking sector. Significant progress had also been reported in the transport sector.
The note of cautious optimism sounded during the last briefing to the Council had been recently tempered by the reality that the Kosovo Serb community had so far not participated in registration in any great numbers, he concluded. Hopefully, clear signals from Belgrade would help to reverse that "unsatisfactory trend".
CAMERON R. HUME (United States) said the upcoming elections in Kosovo were a top priority that had the full support of his Government. The United States also supported UNMIK’s efforts to transfer authority to a democratically-elected Government. He stressed the importance of Serb returns to Kosovo and the protection of minority interests including their full participation in the November elections.
He said UNMIK should continue its constructive dialogue with Belgrade. Public security and the rule of law should also continue to be one of UNMIK’s foremost priorities, particularly combating violence and preventing its spread over Kosovo’s borders. Efforts must continue to strengthen the judiciary. The United States also looked forward to the appointment of a highly-qualified individual to head UNMIK’s judicial affairs division.
SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said while there had been some progress in Kosovo, the situation did not encourage optimism. The figure, of 2000 Serbs, Gypsies and other minorities registered for the upcoming election so far, was one that spoke for itself. The security problem in the province was not being resolved, the return of refugees was not guaranteed, and numbers and figures in other areas of security were paltry. Unless real conditions of security were guaranteed it would be hard to speak of any real democratic process. Elections under the present conditions would only lead to increased separatism.
He said the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had unambiguously called on Kosovo’s Serbs to participate in the election. But to expect that to resolve the problem in the province would be naïve. The head of UNMIK was also taking decisions that were creating problems between UNMIK and Belgrade. He cited the creation of the tax collection point between the Serbian and Kosovo border. It was also clear that Mr. Covic’s appointment could not solve the serious problems that remained. Scrupulous compliance with Security Council resolution 1244 was the answer to the Kosovo issue, along with proper cooperation between UNMIK and Belgrade.
He said the links between the conflict in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo were clear. Kosovo had become a base for Macedonian Albanian extremists. UNMIK and KFOR must take additional robust steps and halt the spill over of extremism from one part of the region to another. He was also disheartened by reports of efforts to create, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That could not be allowed.
He said it was necessary to stress once again that the international presence in Kosovo must make all efforts to cut off the flow of weapons destined for Albanian terrorist groups. He was convinced that a durable settlement of the problems in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo would only be possible through a global initiative. In that regard he cited the Russian initiative to hold a Balkan Summit with international participation. He added that conditions had now been met to lift the arms embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) noted that the generally good conditions were prevailing. He was also pleased to note the positive productive attitude adopted by all parties. That would guarantee the broad-based participation by all ethnic components of Kosovo, and suggest the likely success of the election. He welcomed the decision of Serbian parties to participate in the elections. That wise decision augured well for the future of the province and the participation of ethnic minorities in the new political structures. Clearly the priority was to banish hatred and promote peaceful coexistence.
He said that broad participation in the election would give it the necessary legitimacy. Further contacts between KFOR and the Belgrade authorities should be encouraged. He reiterated his concern about the ongoing acts of violence. Clearly, the approaching elections were creating tension, and therefore increased vigilance was needed. Security should be guaranteed for refugees on their return home. Not only their homes, but their rights must be rehabilitated. This should be settled with due dispatch, preferably before the elections. Moving away from emergency rebuilding to a new phase of economic reform was good for all in the Balkans; the positive impact of recent decisions would be felt quickly, he believed.
VOLODYMYR G. KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said the full participation of all Kosovo’s communities was essential to ensure a transparent and multi-ethnic society in the province. His delegation was concerned at the reports of violent attacks and ethnic intolerance that continued to take place in Kosovo. Such actions could harm the conducive environment being sought for the 17 November elections.
He said his country was also disturbed by reports that international peacekeepers patrolling the Kosovo side of the province’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had been attacked by Albanians trying to enter the province. His delegation was particularly concerned by the continuing insecurity in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Ukraine was committed to the legitimate aspirations of that country to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) associated his country with the statement to be made later in the debate on behalf of the European Union. He said he welcomed the support given by the Belgrade authorities to the registration of Kosovo Serbs. The elections would mark an important step in returning significant responsibility for self-government to the people of Kosovo. The elections were also a very important opportunity to shape Kosovo’s future. In order to clearly establish that Kosovo must develop as a multi-ethnic community, all ethnic groups must take part in the elections. Those that did not would be able to claim that they had no long-term interest in the province.
He said Belgrade must give a clear signal of support for Kosovo Serbs participating in the election and not just registering. Such clear signals from Belgrade might not solve everything, but were certainly an extremely important element in the equation. He welcomed the recent meetings between Mr. Haekkerup and Deputy Prime Minister Covic. It was also good news that UNMIK and the Belgrade authorities were working together to find practical solutions to security concerns.
Extremism and ethnically motivated violence had to stop, he said.
Small groups should not be allowed to destabilize the region. He, therefore, welcomed KFOR’s success in arresting Albanian extremists crossing into Kosovo from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Such efforts should continue, and a harmonious relationship between the United Nations, UNMIK and the Macedonian authorities should be promoted.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said his country had consistently emphasized the importance of minority participation in Kosovo’s November elections. He was concerned, however, that the figures for minority registration to date remained low. The UNMIK must crack down on criminal activities and facilitate national reconciliation, in order to ensure maximum participation of minorities in the election. The UNMIK should also consolidate the momentum for better relations gained so far with the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
He said the problem in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was closely linked to the problem of the entire Balkan region. Preventing illegal arms flows and cutting off the arms supply was important to ensure peace and security in the region. The UNMIK must therefore adopt more effective methods to address that issue.
He added that China believed that conditions had now been met to lift the arms embargo against Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that discussions yesterday in the latest round of talks between the head of UNMIK, and Deputy Prime Minister Covic were steps in the right direction. A main concern now was the forthcoming election. The registration of the minority communities, so far, had been "extremely disappointing". He urged the authorities to continue to encourage registration by Kosovo Serbs and the internally displaced.
He said that the question of missing persons and detainees was a humanitarian issue with serious political implications. He was pleased that Deputy Prime Minister Covic had met representatives of the families of the missing persons, as such gestures were crucial in building confidence and promoting reconciliation. Concerning the rights and responsibilities of the minority communities, those must realize that there was no alternative to establishing a multi-ethnic society.
The Kosovo Serb community, in particular, must integrate into the structures being set up by UNMIK, rather than attempt to set up parallel structures, he said. He appreciated the understanding being shown by Belgrade on the question of transition institutions. The initiatives taken by Mr. Haekkerup to protect the rights of minority communities also deserved commendation. Monitoring property sales in mixed neighbourhoods was a positive measure.
He emphasized that secure conditions for the elections must be ensured. His delegation had earlier recommended development of a comprehensive strategy to resolve the complex situation in Mitrovica. Civil society groups helping to bridge the ethnic divide should also receive full international support.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) said the upcoming election in Kosovo would enable implementation of Council resolution 1244 (1999). The UNMIK and KFOR were doing their best to make those elections a success. As the date drew near, the commitment of all residents of Kosovo was indispensable -- all parties had responsibilities, particularly the Serb community which he hoped would participate in the vote.
He said that by casting a ballot, every citizen of Kosovo would be making his or her voice heard. He therefore supported appeals for full participation in the election. France was also satisfied at the promulgating by UNMIK of legislation to combat terrorism and organized crime. The Mission should now make sure that there were no weak spots that could be exploited by criminals. KFOR must remain vigilant.
The situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia required intense attention as well, he said. In that country the European Union had committed itself to promoting cooperation and effective dialogue among the parties.
CURTIS A. WARD (Jamaica) said that violence against minorities in the territory continued to plague the region and impede UNMIK’s work. They were usually isolated incidents in a few areas, and UNMIK had continued to put structures in place to maintain law and order. Nevertheless, they overshadowed the enormous progress made so far, and must not be allowed to continue. The UNMIK must increase efforts to recruit Serbian judges, prosecutors and lawyers, in order to build a multi-ethnic judicial system. Ways must also be found to control ethnic violence, as preparations intensified for the general elections.
He repeated his concern that the sale of minority housing might be used as a guise for ethnic cleansing, and welcomed the signing of the new regulation ensuring property sales would be thoroughly reviewed prior to approval. Recent talks between Mr. Haekkerup and Deputy Prime Minister Covic were welcome, as only though dialogue would obstacles be overcome. He remained concerned about the refugee situation, as well as the border closure, which was preventing essential supplies from entering Kosovo. He asked if the police rotation adversely affected the security situation.
KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) said one new dimension in the Council's ongoing discussions on Kosovo was the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The recently signed Framework Political Agreement had not yet generated a substantive Council discussion, and it might be useful to have one on it. He wanted to know what the Euro-Atlantic Treaty was, and whether it was a new organization. He also referred to an article in the Wall Street Journal on 22 August that was somewhat critical of the Framework Agreement.
He asked whether it was possible for the Council to have anticipated the Macedonian dimension of the Kosovo problem, and why the current turn of events had not been anticipated. He also asked what form of preventive action the Council could have taken, had it paid attention to all the signals.
While he welcomed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) involvement in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he wanted to know whether the Council in any way needed to legitimize such action or just take note of it. He asked what the technical role of the Council was when a regional organization took a leadership role on such a difficult issue. In addition, he wanted advice on who then would pick up the pieces and how would the passing of the baton be arranged if the NATO action failed.
JADISH KOONJUL (Mauritius) expressed concern about the security situation, in particular the recent riots that had led to the wounding of several KFOR and UNMIK police officers. Such attacks on United Nations personnel were serious and hampered their work. Political leaders must convince partisans not to resort to violence. Similarly, he deplored the recently killing of a family in Kosovo and the attack on a Serb convoy. He also condemned criminal activities, including those of organized crime. The Kosovars themselves were responsible for creating conditions conducive to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.
He said that the border closing had hampered the work of UNMIK and called for the reopening of the route to allow easy access of supplies and the return of refugees. The seizure of weapons by KFOR was commendable; that Force should continue to thwart extremists' supply lines. The extremists must be persuaded to abandon violence in favour of a peaceful Kosovo. He welcomed recent talks which were reassuring about Serbian support for not having parallel security or administrative structures. He also welcomed Belgrade’s positive attitude to the Kosovo-wide elections. It was crucial that everyone was counted in the Kosovo Assembly and a public campaign to enhance registration and participation, therefore, had his support.
GERARD CORR (Ireland) said the elections scheduled for 17 November in Kosovo clearly represented a unique opportunity for Kosovars, and he urged all citizens to participate fully in the political process. The only future for the province was as a multi-ethnic society based on equal rights.
He said the number of Kosovo's Serbs that had registered to vote in the November elections was disappointing. He called on larger numbers to register and for Serb leaders to lend their support by encouraging participation in the process. All registered Albanians must also distance themselves from violence, he added.
He welcomed the improvement in relations between UNMIK and Belgrade. Further cooperation would help create a favourable climate for change. He urged all parties to implement all aspects of Framework Agreement on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and called on KFOR to take all measures necessary to prevent actions by extremist and violent groups.
WEGGER CHRISTIAN STROMMEN (Norway) said that he was particularly concerned about the low level of registration of Kosovo Serbs. Intensified efforts were clearly needed. The international community should facilitate this by refraining from impinging on the authority of Belgrade. Convincing them of the advantages of voter registration had been hard enough; convincing them that there was something to be gained from participating in the elections was even harder.
Meanwhile, the Serbian authorities were pursuing cases of alleged war crimes against Kosovars, he said. The UNMIK should avail itself fully of practical and constructive cooperation with the Belgrade authorities in that regard.
He said the region had truly entered the "post-Milosevic" era. The way in which Security Council resolution 1244 was implemented would have clear repercussions for the entire region. The international community must stand united in giving firm and clear support for the Framework Agreement. It was also important to recognize that confidence and trust between Albanian and Slav communities in Macedonia was almost non-existent. While responsibility for remedial action rested with the authorities and political leaders, the international community should be supportive. A regional perspective, rather than a Kosovo perspective, should be maintained in dealing with the Balkans.
M. MAMOUNOU TOURÉ (Mali) said despite obstacles, outstanding progress had been made in establishing a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. Notable progress had also been made in the lead up to the province's November elections, which would provide an essential framework to combat extremism and violence. The unreserved participation of all communities was crucial to the success of the electoral process. In that light, low participation by Kosovo's Serbs would be a source of major concern to his delegation.
He said that efforts to further the democratic process were encouraging. There was also a need for security measures to be put in place that would encourage all refugees to return home to the province, take part in elections and build a multi-ethnic Kosovo.
He said Mali was still concerned at the persistence of the mindless ethnic and political violence, which was a major obstacle to peace, the establishment of democracy, and the return of refugees. All efforts must also be made to establish peace in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Additional funding should also be mobilized for economic recovery in Kosovo’s villages as well, he added.
Council President ALFONSO VALDIVIESO, speaking in his national capacity as the representative of Colombia, thanked Mr. Guèhenno for his comprehensive remarks. The Council had supported the constructive dialogue between Mr. Haekkerup and Mr. Covic. Indeed, the success of the political process of the implementation of the Constitutional Framework, and even Kosovo’s future, depended on the relationship with Belgrade. Constant improvements in understanding between the sides would hopefully contribute to an improved security situation, allowing for the safe return of refugees.
He was alarmed by the low level registration of Kosovo Serbs and asked Mr. Guèhenno for additional information on efforts to stimulate registration among refugees and displaced persons.
He also asked Mr. Guèhenno to provide more information on the situation in prisons. Specifically, he asked what UNMIK was doing to cope with that situation and what the Security Council could do to prevent the problem from spinning out of control. He asked what steps UNMIK and KFOR were taking to better control the border and thoroughly investigate allegations against members of the Kosovo police corps.
The Council must be prepared to consider lifting its sanctions without delay, he added, as that was the best way of recognizing that the circumstances that had led to their imposition had ceased to exist.
JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said relations between Belgrade and UNMIK had evolved very positively over the last weeks. The first meeting between the leaders of both entities had gone well. That provided hope for the decisive steps being taken towards a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. The recently published Constitutional Framework would become a reality if all communities took part in November's election and in the transitional institutions that emerged. Belgrade's support for registering Serbian electors in Kosovo was welcome and it should actively encourage the Serbian community to take part in the elections.
The persisting problems in Kosovo, he said, included security issues, the matter of disappeared persons, the return of refugees and of the displaced, as well as organized crime. The Union took seriously the concerns of all communities. It also welcomed all measures and initiatives to resolve those issues. Further, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had sent an encouraging sign to the region by signing a framework agreement between its President and four major political parties. Parliament should quickly consider and approve the agreement. Further, all parties should abide by it and implement its measures, particularly by scrupulously observing the ceasefire.
Finally, he said he was confident the peace process would succeed despite the uncertain situation, as would the "Essential Harvest" initiative by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). KFOR should devote the greatest attention possible to the sensitive frontier between Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Union would collaborate closely with all parties to promote stability, democratic development and prosperity for the region.
DEJAN SAHOVIC (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) said that since the Council’s last debate on the issue, his Government had intensified its efforts to promote direct and prompt communication with the international presences in Kosovo. His Government and that of the Republic of Serbia had established a Coordinating Centre for Kosovo to enhance cooperation with the international community in solving common problems and achieving the shared aims of the Federal Republic, UNMIK and KFOR in the Province. The Centre would also, hopefully, improve the confidence of Kosovo Serbs in UNMIK and KFOR. Also, aimed at facilitating communication and solving practical problems, his Government had just adopted guidelines for the transport of KFOR personnel and equipment through Yugoslav territory.
Unfortunately, he continued, in spite of those efforts, unnecessary misunderstandings and incidents continued to occur, such as that which took place on 7 August, when UNMIK forcibly entered the Federal Government premises at Gracanica. Another step in the wrong direction was the introduction of the guidelines of the Special Representative, providing for a 96-hour notice by any Yugoslav or Serbian official who wanted to visit Kosovo. That measure would certainly not facilitate efforts to encourage the non-Albanian population to register for the elections.
It was clear, he went on to say, that the basic preconditions for free and fair elections had been created and that UNMIK had much to do to ensure safety and liberty to all in Kosovo, regardless of ethnicity. Continued violent attacks by armed Albanian extremists and terrorists, not only against non-Albanians, but also against Albanians and even UNMIK and KFOR personnel, provided telling evidence that the right atmosphere had not been created for important decisions to be taken regarding the future of the province.
He also noted that recent independent reports on the overall human rights and law and order situation in Kosovo, especially the reports by the Ombudsperson for Kosovo, identified a number of examples of clear incompatibility of UNMIK regulations and practices with recognized international standards. Those findings should be carefully analysed and urgent action taken to rectify the situation.
SRGJAN KERIM, (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that, as an immediate neighbour of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it was vitally important for his country that it have a stable and transparent northern border, including the part with Kosovo. Recent activities by UNMIK and KFOR in the province, aimed at strengthening control of that border and minimizing the number of illegal crossings as well as incursions of armed extremist groups, were certainly contributing to a more efficient control of illegal traffic along the border.
He said that to ensure the full effectiveness of the security component of the Framework Agreement, it was indispensable to ensure a complete cessation of the activities of the instigators of ethnic Albanian insurgency and their supporters from Kosovo, including members of the Kosovo Protection Corps. While his country supported the lifting of the arms embargo imposed under resolution 1160 (1998), it also urged UNMIK to prevent any abuses that might result from that.
He stressed that the infiltration of armed terrorist groups and logistic support from Kosovo into his country must be stopped. In addition, all mobilization of former members of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), including their joining the ranks of the so-called NLA, must be prevented. That was important to the success of the NATO-conducted operation in his country for the disarmament of ethnic Albanian groups and their complete and voluntary disbandment. The effectiveness of that operation should not be measured just by the quantity of collected arms, but also by the creation of conditions for the cessation of hostilities and the lasting peaceful implementation of the Framework Agreements.
Under-Secretary-General Guèhenno then responded to questions raised during the discussion. He noted the concern expressed by several speakers about incidents across the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and their potential impact on Kosovo. He was not in a position to give additional information on those incidents, but yesterday no fewer than 35 Kosovo Albanians were arrested for illegally crossing the border into Kosovo, and last weekend 96 were similarly intercepted. That showed the degree to which KFOR was actively patrolling the borders to ensure that Kosovo was not transformed into a safe haven for extremists.
Responding to a question on the impact of the border closure, he said that this had significantly complicated UNMIK's work, as well as the process of police rotation. It had not yet directly affected the operation of the police, but the resulting increased economic hardship in Kosovo could only play in the hands of those extremists who did not want Kosovo to return to normalcy. He took note of the observation that there would be no lasting solution in the Balkans that did not address the regional dimension.
He said that the United Nations had taken a leading role in the peacebuilding process and stood ready to give its full support to follow-up activities being undertaken by NATO in operation "Essential Harvest". That operation had clearly sent a strong political signal and was hopefully achieving practical results.
Responding to a question about the voter registration process, he said that much had been done to facilitate that registration. Agreements had been reached with immigration organizations and the relevant authorities in Serbia and Montenegro, which had allowed for the opening of registration centres in areas where displaced persons were concentrated. Hopefully, those practical measures would achieve results, as more people took advantage of them. The need to register and vote was also being emphasized by the media in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
To a question about detention facilities, he said that progress was being made, but as the legal ground broadened under which individuals could be charged and detained, the detention capacity would have to be enhanced. The UNMIK had recently adopted a disciplinary code for the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and was relying on cooperation with KFOR for reports of criminal or serious civil offences. When evidence was found, a suspect could be immediately suspended. If the investigation confirmed the suspicion, the member would be dismissed. In addition to the case reported yesterday, three other KPC members had been dismissed in August. Another had been suspended, awaiting conclusion of an investigation.
The Council President then declared the meeting closed.
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