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Belgrade Media Report 22 October

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LOCAL PRESS

Dacic: Pristina deceived both Serbia and EU (Tanjug)
Brnabic acting foreign minister (FoNet/RTV/NSPM)
Petkovic: Compromise solution for the Kosovo problem (RTS)
DFC: US knows normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations cannot happen without resolution of political issues (Nedeljnik/Beta)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina

US Ambassador Nelson says B&H citizens must be agents of change (O kanal)
German Embassy: Elections have to be in line with international standards (Dnevni avaz)
Inzko to submit his semi- annual report (Dnevni avaz)
Croatia

EU Human Rights Commissioner calls on Croatia to stop violence against migrants (Hina)
Montenegro

The majority of minority parties rejected Krivokapic (CdM)
Armed Forces of Montenegro will not give up on the exercise on Sinjajevina (CdM)
Albania

Albania- Greece relations: New positive dynamics (Tirana Times)
EC welcomes decision on maritime border issue (ADN)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

Economic Agreement, Resumed Talks between Belgrade, Pristina, Mark Important Steps towards Reconciliation in Kosovo, Mission Head Tells Security Council (UN Press Release)

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Dacic: Pristina deceived both Serbia and EU (Tanjug

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday that Serbia is taking the dialogue with Pristina very seriously and with responsibility, but that Pristina has deceived not only Serbia but the European Union too by not implementing the agreement signed in Brussels on the formation of a Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO). Speaking at a session of the United Nations Security Council on the work of the UNMIK Mission in Kosovo, Dacic also said that Pristina began to violate the agreement signed in Washington in the part that refers to the one-year moratorium on activities related to the recognition of the so-called Kosovo. Despite an appeal to local authorities to react quickly to find the perpetrators of numerous attacks on Serbs and publicly discourage such acts, justice for Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is slow and unattainable, and the number of incidents is not decreasing, Dacic pointed out. He also pointed to the Serbian cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija, and the attempts by Pristina to rewrite history, denying that Serbian churches in Kosovo and Metohija are truly Serbian. Serbia has insisted for twenty years that the perpetrators of horrific crimes committed by the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army against Serbs, Roma and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija should be prosecuted, Dacic stated and assessed that an initiative to pass a law on the “preservation of values of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army” at a time when indictments are being filed against its members for the most serious crimes is unheard of. He pointed out that the presence of UNMIK in Kosovo and Metohija is still necessary and that this mission is expected to continue with the active implementation of its mandate, that the presence of EULEX is equally important due to its activities on promoting the rule of law, as well as of KFOR, as the main security guarantor in the province. The talks we continued in Brussels are not easy, because there are still significant differences between the positions of Belgrade and Pristina, but we sincerely believe that dialogue is the only possible way to solve our problems in the long run and ensure better relations, peace and stability in the region, Dacic underlined.

Brnabic acting foreign minister (FoNet/RTV/NSPM

Prime minister-designate Ana Brnabic took over the duties from outgoing Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, and, along with the premier duties, she will also perform the duties of the foreign minister until the appointment of a new minister, the government press service announced.

Petkovic: Compromise solution for the Kosovo problem (RTS

The Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic has told the morning press review of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) that we still have the possibility to debate the reports on the situation and position of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, with all the tendencies for them to be less frequent and abolished. “After 20 years, we have the opportunity to speak and point out what is happening in Kosovo and Metohija, to tell the truth about the suffering of the Serb people in the heart of Europe, now for the first time in the UN Secretary General’s report we can read about the obstructions in the work of the Special Court,” said Petkovic. At the session, there were different views on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. There is no other solution for the Kosovo knot except to go in the direction of a compromise solution, said Petkovic, adding that without Belgrade there is no solution to the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, we cannot get anywhere with unilateral moves. According to him, Pristina must understand this as well. For the past 12 years, Pristina has not achieved its goal, says Petkovic, emphasizing that there must be a sincere desire to reach a final solution in the dialogue, where no one will be humiliated, but where the two sides will win or lose equally. “We are for peace, mini-Schengen, but if someone says that we will not form the ZSO – that it will not have executive powers, we will not agree to that,” said Petkovic.

DFC: US knows normalization of Belgrade-Pristina relations cannot happen without resolution of political issues (Nedeljnik/Beta

According to John Jovanovic, the head of the Belgrade office of the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Washington is aware that the relations between Kosovo and Serbia cannot be normalized until all political issues have been resolved. “The long-term goal is to have the significant political point of contention between Belgrade and Pristina resolved once and for all, but that is not possible without an economic collaboration. Look at it as a building of trust. A person cannot just jump out of bed and into a marathon. Preparations have to be made first,” Jovanovic told Nedeljnik.  According to him, the two sides cannot afford to waste or miss out on opportunities. “All should be aware that time irrevocably passes. That the youth is leaving. That the region is missing opportunities,” the head of the DFC office said.

Jovanovic, a Serb-American who grew up in Chicago, further drew attention to the great importance of investing in infrastructure, which is what the DFC office in Belgrade will mainly be doing.

REGIONAL PRESS 

 

US Ambassador Nelson says B&H citizens must be agents of change (O kanal)

The US government has long supported the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) in their efforts to build a better future, US Ambassador to B&H Eric Nelson wrote in his blog on the occasion of the upcoming local elections, adding that the US remains a true friend, committed to ensuring this support is effective and results-driven, but the final achievement depends on the people of B&H. “Governments support democracy by embracing freedom of expression, freedom of association, rule of law, and the like. In these areas, too, B&H suffers. Perhaps of most concern as municipal elections approach, research shows the existence of registration fraud, systematic irregularities, vote buying and even election violence”, reads Nelson’s blog article. He added that most urgently, the US government will continue to press leaders to take assertive action to reform the public sector and bolster economy, especially now with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging. Such action should include the de-politicization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). “SOEs are inefficient, political cash cows that help the ruling elites maintain their power, assert control over the electorate and enrich themselves with resources that belong to you, the citizens of B&H,” he points. The Ambassador concluded that little will change without the ordinary citizens doing their part, refusing to pay bribes, calling out waste, corruption and election irregularities, letting their voices be heard, and, most importantly, voting to hold their leaders accountable. Nelson also said that young people in B&H do not want to stay trapped in the past and that B&H in 2030 is much more important and interesting for them compared to B&H back in 1995. “Together, citizens have power to determine the future and make sure that B&H takes its place as a stable and more prosperous member of Euro-Atlantic community. B&H’s success does not depend on what the international community will do, but as President Kennedy said it will depend on what you can do for your country,” Nelson stated.

German Embassy: Elections have to be in line with international standards (Dnevni avaz)

After US and UK respective Embassies, as well as Italian Ambassador to B&H Nicola Minasi reacted to information about increased number of reports which raise suspicion in legitimacy of the election process in B&H, giving the support to competent prosecutor’s offices, the German Embassy to B&H also issued a statement. “The European Union and thus Germany as a member state, always demanded that elections in B&H have to be in line with the international standards in regards to free, fair and democratic elections. That is our expectation and our request for a country, such is B&H, which aims to obtain the status of the EU candidate. Responsibility for implementing of the elections is on B&H. We observe, with concern, that even before the elections there are numerous evidence on irregularities concerning registration of voters. These irregularities have to be removed and those responsible have to answer,” reads the statement.

Inzko to submit his semi- annual report (Dnevni avaz)

The UN Security Council will hold a session at the beginning of the next month and discuss the situation in B&H. Among other things, the UN SC will discuss extension of EUFOR mission in B&H. It is also expected for the High Representative Valentin Inzko to submit his semi-annual report about the situation in B&H, but the daily comments that not many diplomats expect this discussion to result in any concrete consequences. The daily learns from their unnamed sources, close to the EU institutions, that EU structures are holding consultations in order to take the joint stance before the discussion on B&H. UN SC set a deadline for submitting of written stances by the end of this month, noting that during every discussion about B&H, permanent members of the UN SC present general stances about peace implementation in B&H. The daily also unofficially learns that the High Representative has already prepared his report, in which he will underline aggravating of political relations, which along with the pandemic additionally complicate implementation of reforms. It is expected for Inzko to comment the progress regarding the City of Mostar, where local elections will take place for the first time after 12 years, but he will also warn about the ongoing presence of the separatist rhetoric. It is also evident, daily reads, that Inzko will mention the certain processes in the fight against the organized crime and corruption and he will call on the international community to increase pressure on the authorities in B&H in order to fulfill obligations on the EU path.

 

EU Human Rights Commissioner calls on Croatia to stop violence against migrants (Hina)

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic on Wednesday called on Croatia’s authorities to stop violence against migrants at its border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and to start punishing the police officers responsible for inhumane treatment of irregular migrants. For some time, foreign and local nongovernmental organizations have been accusing Croatia’s law enforcement authorities of extreme violence and collective expulsions of migrants who are trying to pass through Croatia in an attempt to reach western or northern Europe. Croatia’s authorities reject such allegations every time. Mijatovic underscores that reports about rising violence and other crimes allegedly committed by law enforcement officers have been arriving despite the fact that that two years ago she called on Croatia’s authorities to investigate those allegations. Mijatovic says that she is worried by the government’s rejection of the allegations made by the nongovernmental organizations and investigative journalists. The CoE commissioner says that the independent Croatian institutions for human rights protection and international organizations, including various bodies of the CoE and UN special rapporteurs, have raised an alarm about the situation along Croatia’s borders.

 

The majority of minority parties rejected Krivokapic (CdM)

Minority parties, that is, coalitions, don’t want to enter the government of Zdravko Krivokapic. Representatives of Bosniak party and ‘Unanimously’ coalition didn’t even want to talk to the prime minister-designate. Albanian list is expected to express their view in the next two days.

If Albanian list refuses to be part of the government, the new majority will have the problem to prove the power to the citizens. And what will international community say about the government which is not expert, but political, and which has no minority nations in it? Leader of the Albanian list, Nik Djeljosaj, reminded what they had asked the prime minister-designate and what they expected the program to be. Albanian list has not decided yet if it will be part of the new Government but is expected to do so in the next two-three days. “Minorities should be part of the government if they can be a factor,” Djeljosaj said. “We represent our people and they expect us to advocate for their better life,” Djeljosaj pointed out. What kind of message does the decision of minority parties send, CdM asked Anmar Borancic, Liberal party spokesperson. He points out that minority parties have confirmed that they cherish the idea of civil and modern Montenegro. He adds that parties that are not the majority have been basing their policy on the rhetoric targeted at national and religious minorities in Montenegro and, therefore, it’s ridiculous that they now expect them to rush into their government. “Participating in the government at all costs is not the point, and I think some civil parties will pay through the nose the fact they agreed to be part of it. I firmly believe decisions like the one brought by minority parties, will have beneficial effects for the civil society in future” Borancic said. This is how Bosniak party explained why they don’t want to be part of the government. “Due to different approach and specific ideological differences with members of the new government regarding important social issues in Montenegro, relations with minority nations, both in the past and in present political programs, the Main Committee of the Bosniak Party decided that this party should not be member of the future government”, they said. Albanian coalition ‘Unanimously’ didn’t talk to Krivokapic. They have said they can’t be part of the Government which is dominantly composed of parties and policies that don’t advocate for the equality of Albanians in Montenegro. “These parties denounce the state of Kosovo as fake, and often terrorist. They don’t want civil but Great Serbian Montenegro” they said. “They think NATO membership is a strategic mistake, just like Montenegro’s independence. They support seizure of our common sanctuaries,” they stated in their response to Krivokapic.

Armed Forces of Montenegro will not give up on the exercise on Sinjajevina (CdM)

Armed Forces of Montenegro haven’t given up on carrying out military exercise on Sinjajevina, Ministry of Defense has said. “Armed Forces of Montenegro and Ministry of Defense informed the competent authorities, Council on Security and Defense, Government, State Prosecutor’s Office and Police Department, so that they can all take measures to organize exercises as soon as possible,” Ministry stated. Commenting on the delay of the execution of military exercise on Sinjejevina, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he would not comment on the specific locations for military exercises in Montenegro but pointed out that need for the protection of nature and military needs had to be reconciled. He added that Montenegro would receive ventilators and protective equipment from the Alliance. “That’s the confirmation of solidarity and support. If necessary, we will provide another form of aid too,” Stoltenberg said.

 

Albania- Greece relations: New positive dynamics (Tirana Times)

A new and more positive dynamic for the bilateral relations between Greece and Albania is possible, was the message that Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias conveyed in his statement to the media, during his official visit to Albania.  Dendias visited Tirana on Tuesday to kick start efforts once again for the settlement of important bilateral issues in dialogue with the Albanian counterpart. He was received by Prime Minister Edi Rama, President Ilir Meta, opposition leader Lulzim Basha and Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Cakaj. In a press conference with PM Rama, both authorities declared that the key outstanding issue, that of the delineation of the maritime border and exclusive economic area will be resolved by taking it to the international law authorities, more specifically to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Rama said that the “international expertise would help to cross all t-s” whereas Dendias said he was “happy that the agreement would be based on the UN Convention which both countries have signed.” There has not been an agreement on the issue since the Constitutional Court of Albania overturned the one reached in 2009. Negotiations had resumed in 2017 but were interrupted also because Albania at the time, just as now, does not have a functional Constitutional Court due to the effects of the justice reform. Since then Greece has had a new government and Albania a new Acting Minister of FA. Experts differ in their evaluation of this strategy with some applauding the involvement of an international third party and some arguing that this will ultimately benefit Greece, whose experience and expertise in similar cases puts it in clear advantage. Rama called against nationalistic drum beating of the people claiming that “the sea was being invaded by Greece”, responding to the media debate in Albania regarding the announcement that Grece was expanding its border to 12 miles from the coastline. Dendias in the press conference said he had specific instructions from the Greek PM Mitsotakis that the “anachronic issue of the Law of War” had to be addressed and solved quickly, something that was immediately appreciated from Rama as very good news. Finally, Dendias also said that the progress of Albania on minority issues, an old and sensitive controversy going back and forth between Albania and Greece, was very satisfactory. A protest was held in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana by the Party of Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) which called for the rights of the Cham population displaced forcefully from Greece at the end of WWII. The protest was dispersed by the police as against the rules of the pandemics and several people were taken to the police headquarters, including the Albanian representative of Vetevendosje, Bojken Abazi. Observers are cautiously optimistic about the potential for a new reset in the strategic bilateral relations between two countries. Despite the numerous issues, Greece has always backed the European integration perspective of Albania, something that was noted during this visit as well.

EC welcomes decision on maritime border issue (ADN)

The European Commission has welcomed the decision of Albanian and Greek governments to address the issue of the maritime border to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Responding to the latest development between Albania and Greece, spokesperson of the European Commission for Neighborhood and Enlargement Ana Pisonero said that this issue should be resolved by meeting two basic principles: international law and good neighborliness.

“EU welcomes announcement by Albanian and Greek governments on the way forward on their maritime dispute. Issues related to delimitation of borders are indeed best addressed through dialogue, in accordance with International Law and in pursuit of the principle of good neighborly relations,” Pisonero wrote on Twitter. The decision to address this issue to the International Court of Justice in The Hague was announced during a press conference of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who recently paid an official visit to Tirana. PM Edi Rama said that taking the disagreement to the court in The Hague would connect the dots based on the court’s expertise and international maritime law. Dendias, for his part, said that resolving this diverging point will be beneficial for both countries. Greece has recently launched a push to delimitate its sea borders with neighboring countries, amid high tensions with eastern neighbor Turkey over offshore energy exploitation rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens has so far signed deals with Italy and Egypt.

 

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES 

Economic Agreement, Resumed Talks between Belgrade, Pristina, Mark Important Steps towards Reconciliation in Kosovo, Mission Head Tells Security Council (UN Press Release, 21 October 2020) 

The recent United States-mediated agreement on Belgrade-Pristina economic cooperation and the resumption of European Union-facilitated talks between the two sides represent positive steps towards reconciliation and lasting peace, the top United Nations official in the Balkans told a Security Council video-teleconference meeting on 21 October. “The recent meetings in Brussels and Washington, D.C., demonstrate the potential for progress when international resources are combined with leadership on the ground to move difficult issues forward,” said, Zahir Tanin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Mission (document S/2020/964), he highlighted that the removal of the reciprocity measures upon goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by the government of Avdullah Hoti created an impetus for restarting the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.  He added that this was accompanied by the appointment of the European Union’s new dedicated Special Representative, Miroslav Lajčák, and a high-level meeting hosted by the leaders of France and Germany on 10 July, leading to the official resumption of the European Union-facilitated dialogue. The United States also launched new initiatives for improving Pristina‑Belgrade relations, which culminated in a meeting in Washington, D.C., in September, during which agreements were signed in the economic and other spheres, Mr. Tanin noted.  “Of course, the most important conditions to be met for negotiations to succeed are political unity, strong commitment and goodwill among leaders, both in Pristina and Belgrade, and sustained international support,” he emphasized, also underscoring the importance of women’s participation in the peace process at all levels, particularly in the ongoing dialogue between the two sides. Turning to the rule of law, he said important steps were made to advance the investigative and judicial processes of the Kosovo Specialist Prosecutor’s Office and Kosovo Specialist Chambers.  In June, the Special Prosecutor’s Office filed indictments against Hashim Thaçi and the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Kadri Veseli, alongside others whose names were not made public.  Mr. Thaçi has indicated his intention to step down from office if his indictment is publicly confirmed by pretrial judges.  In September, arrests were made, with three individuals now in pretrial detention, one facing war crimes charges and the two others being held on suspicion of intimidation, retaliation, violating the secrecy of proceedings and unlawful disclosure of protected information. However, some public reactions to these higher profile indictments have been concerning, including attempts to question the legitimacy of the Specialist Chambers and accusations that it is politically motivated.  The Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are integral parts of Kosovo’s justice system, with mandates crucial to the rule of law there and to its future.  Ruling by a slim majority, Mr. Hoti’s government faces significant parliamentary opposition, as well as widely diverging priorities among coalition partners.  Having been in office for barely over 100 days, constant disagreements among its constituent parties, and difficulty reaching compromises, have hampered and delayed its responses in critical areas. On the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the socioeconomic consequences have been severe and are not limited to the measurable macroeconomy.  UNMIK, alongside the United Nations country team, have also significantly adapted their activities to help meet the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Mission’s focus has been on providing direct support to people, institutions and communities in the framework of its strategic support for dialogue and trust-building in Kosovo.  Projects have been tailored to contribute to the response to the coronavirus. For places such as Kosovo, still suffering the consequences of past conflict, the highest of priorities must be accorded to cooperation, unity of political voice and vision, dialogue and preventing extreme polarization.  This solidarity, especially during the current pandemic, should focus intensively on attaining the difficult balance between public health, economic recovery and human rights.  In the same spirit, leaders on both sides should move decisively towards a comprehensive agreement, long-term peace and reconciliation.

Ivica Dačić, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said UNMIK’s presence remains critical to building lasting peace on the ground.  Spotlighting his country’s long-standing and responsible attitude to its dialogue with Pristina, he said it signed the 2013 Brussels Agreement following a series of difficult negotiations and major concessions on the part of Belgrade.  In the years since, Serbia has asked the European Union — the agreement’s guarantors — the same question:  Can such an agreement be considered valid if one side refused to uphold its commitments under it?  To this day, Pristina’s statements reveal that it lacks the political will to engage in further negotiations, in contravention of the Brussels Agreement. “Dialogue is the only true path to a sustainable solution to the issue of Kosovo,” he said.  Thanking the United States Government for its efforts to facilitate an economic normalization agreement, he said such strides are critical to improving everyday life throughout the entire region.  However, Pristina has already begun to violate that agreement.  “It is high time they started to act in a serious and responsible manner,” he stressed.  Noting that ethnic Serbs continue to be attacked and intimidated in Kosovo — with hatred spread over social media networks — he expressed concern that those incidents continue despite many direct appeals to local authorities — and even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the fate of thousands of displaced ethnic Serbs, he said that while Pristina claims that they are welcome to return home, it is no wonder that only 1.9 per cent would choose to do so, as they would be unable to realize their safety or human rights in Kosovo.  Spotlighting other examples of Pristina’s “cultural arrogance”, he said local authorities have not committed to cease construction in special protected zones.  Agreeing that perpetrators for serious crimes must be held to account, he stressed that “this applies to everyone” — including the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has committed crimes against members of the Roma community and other civilians.  The so-called president of Kosovo continues to attempt to destroy the very court which has brought indictments against that terrorist group. UNMIK’s presence remains necessary, he stressed.  Regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Kosovo Force — known as KFOR — he voiced concern over its joint patrols with Kosovo troops, which run counter to existing security frameworks.  Pristina’s announced intention to institute mandatory military service is also cause for concern.  Emphasizing that dialogue remains the only way to achieve better relations, he declared: “The road to political normalization is long.”  Concluding, he said the recognition of Kosovo by 160 nations, as reported today by the Special Representative, is “fake news”.  Pristina can only garner 92 votes in the General Assembly.

Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla of Kosovo said the sovereignty and independence of Kosovo is an irrefutable fact supported by a 2010 ruling of the International Court of Justice.  “Acceptance of this reality is the only basis for a resolution of the issues that divide Serbia and Kosovo,” she said, adding that, once it has been fully acknowledged, the way forward can begin. Recalling the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s ruling that the military and paramilitary forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia conducted a widespread and systematic armed attack on the ethnic Albanian civilian population of Kosovo — actions which constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes — she said 12,000 people were killed in those attacks, 20,000 women were raped and half the population became refugees.  The leaders who perpetrated those crimes included Aleksandar Vučić and Ivica Dačić, respectively the current President and Foreign Minister of Serbia, she said, stressing that “Serbia has never acknowledged the past” and continues to perpetuate denials. More recently, she said, Serbia has intensified its attempts to sabotage the republic of Kosovo, issuing spurious arrest warrants, lobbying small States to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo, manipulating their own media channels with a constant stream of racist propaganda and preventing Kosovo’s accession to international bodies such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).  “What happened to our families, to our lives, is not a dim or distant memory,” she stressed, adding that Kosovo’s trauma is also seen today in the context of its more than 1,700 missing persons.  Calling for the return of their bodies, she said Serbia’s denials and campaigns of hatred — while they may harm Kosovo in the short-term — ultimately achieve “precisely nothing”.

“The only way forward is true reconciliation,” she said, calling for a future that embraces all nationalities and ethnicities and where trade, culture and human well-being can flourish.  The principles of such a path are clear:  Serbia must acknowledge the fact of Kosovo’s statehood, including its territorial integrity, unitary character and constitutional order.  Crimes of the past must be accounted for in an agreed manner, and the bodies of the missing must be returned.  As requested by international organizations, Kosovo has been patient and built a functioning State based on the rule of law.  It protects all of its citizens equally.  However, while Council resolution 1244 (1999) always envisaged that Kosovo would become an independent State, that text remains a “zombie that exists on paper only” due to the exercise of the veto by certain members.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members broadly welcomed the recent economic normalization agreement and the resumption of the European Union‑facilitated talks.  Many delegations called for the greater participation of women and youth in the peace process, while urging unity of both sides to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  They also exchanged views on the role of UNMIK, with a few pushing for the review of the Mission, including an option for a drawdown.

China’s representative, noting several Belgrade-Pristina meetings that took place between July and September, welcomed the official resumption of European Union-facilitated dialogue after a two-year hiatus.  Stressing the importance of respecting the sovereignty of Serbia, he urged a solution based on dialogue.  He urged Pristina to enhance mutual trust among different communities, calling for progress on the establishment of the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines commended the efforts of UNMIK and the United Nations country team to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, also welcoming the 4 September agreement in Washington, D.C., on economic cooperation.  She also welcomed the European Union-facilitated dialogues, stressing the need to advance the participation of women in peace processes.  Highlighting the nexus between development and security, she urged Kosovo to strengthen the rule of law and its fight against corruption.

Tunisia’s representative, welcoming the resumption of negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade, expressed his hope that the parties will harness such progress to make further headway towards a comprehensive political settlement based on compromise.  He also voiced support for the full participation of women in future talks.

Germany’s representative voiced regret that the delegation of Serbia never includes references in their statements to the crimes committed against the Kosovar population in 1998 and 1999, including ethnic cleansing and mass deportation.  “Our Serbian friends are shooting themselves in their own foot,” he said, pointing out that Belgrade is also trying to gain membership in the European Union.  The International Court of Justice has ruled that Kosovo’s independence declaration did not violate international law, which implies that it should be fully recognized.  He urged both sides to work towards a legally binding, comprehensive agreement that ensures stability and enables both parties to become members of the European Union.

Niger’s representative said that the resumption of European Union-facilitated dialogue in July is a decisive step in the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina.  It is therefore crucial that regional and international actors support the parties in this process to create the conditions conducive to a comprehensive peaceful settlement of the conflict.  In any peace process, confidence-building, partnership and cooperation are of paramount importance, he said, welcoming the launch of the platform for the strengthening of intercommunity trust, aimed at advancing the recommendations of the United Nations Kosovo Trust-building Forum.

Estonia’s representative said that the normalization of relations by the two sides is key to regional stability, expressing his delegation’s strong support for European Union-led facilitation.  He also encouraged both parties to engage with civil society, especially women and youth.  Estonia commended UNMIK for its work on Kosovo’s democratization and protection and promotion of human rights, as well as its work on increasing the participation of women in peace processes.  Both parties must build trust and refrain from negative rhetoric.

South Africa’s representative noted the role of UNMIK in building trust amongst communities, and efforts to continue engagement between authorities in Belgrade and Pristina.  He highlighted the importance of a Kosovo Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as “our own Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an integral part of the process that paved the way for our democratic transition”.  Facing the past was crucial in realizing national unity, as hearing different views and versions of events of all communities can ultimately lead to a peaceful, inclusive political solution.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the Mission’s mandate should now be reviewed as the situation on the ground has shifted.  Welcoming the resumption of dialogue and progress made recently towards greater economic cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade, he called on both parties to establish a “rational, calm atmosphere” and continue to negotiate in good faith.  Calling for justice for war crimes committed in 1998 and 1999, he stressed that “we cannot allow impunity” and voiced support for Kosovo’s specialist courts.  It is disturbing to hear provocative and harmful comments from senior ministers regarding the issue of missing persons, which are disrespectful to victims and harmful to the peace process, he said.

Indonesia’s representative said his country consistently upholds the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity and will not condone any acts that violate it.  Welcoming Pristina’s decision to lift its 100 per cent tariff imposed on goods from Serbia — as well as recent economic normalization commitments agreed to by the parties — he said nothing is more important than dialogue.  In that vein, he commended UNMIK’s multiple prongs of engagement and called on Belgrade and Pristina to demonstrate flexibility in overcoming their differences.

Belgium’s representative strongly condemned attempts to weaken the Kosovo Specialist Chambers or obstruct their action.  This transitional justice mechanism makes it possible to bring the truth to victims.  Establishing accountability for crimes of great gravity is essential to restore the confidence of the population and thus achieve lasting peace.  In this regard, he expressed full support for the efforts of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) and welcomed the recent adoption by the assembly of Kosovo of an amendment to the Constitution which makes directly applicable the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The representative of the United States said that a briefing by the Special Representative of the European Union could have made this meeting more fulsome.  The agreements signed at the White House on 4 September spanned a range of economic normalization issues.  “They will bring growth, investments, and jobs to citizens in both countries and set a new tone of reconciliation in the pursuit of progress for the Western Balkans,” she said.  Seeing the full normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina remains a shared goal, as well for the United States and the European Union.  The United States-brokered agreements complement the European Union-facilitated talks.  UNMIK’s role in Kosovo and the region as a peacekeeping mission has long since outlived its original purpose.  The Security Council now has the responsibility to redirect limited peacekeeping resources to areas and issues where they are more needed.  She urged Council members to think seriously about UNMIK’s transition and to begin taking the steps needed for a responsible drawdown.

Viet Nam’s representative joined other speakers in welcoming the resumption of talks between Belgrade and Pristina, as well as the recent agreement to normalize economic relations.  However, he voiced regret over the continued lack of implementation on the ground, urging both sides to undertake confidence‑building measures in an effort to reach a sustainable negotiated settlement.

France’s representative recalled that a comprehensive, legally binding settlement between Belgrade and Serbia is a prerequisite for membership in the European Union.  Welcoming the resumption of dialogue between the parties, she said it is essential that even the most sensitive issues be addressed.  She also voiced support for EULEX — as well as the latter’s Specialist Chambers — while calling upon all parties to cooperate with them.  “Serbia and Kosovo do have a common future,” she stressed, pledging that France will remain engaged in the European Union-led dialogue process.

The representative of the Dominican Republic urged both sides to seize an opportunity to leave their differences aside and focus on fighting the pandemic, urging donors to increase their official development assistance to the region.  She strongly emphasized the need to include women and youth in peace processes.  Kosovo has the youngest population in the region, she said, noting that all efforts must count on the full participation of young people in governance.

The representative of the Russian Federation, Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said that Pristina still sabotages the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo.  On 14 October, Mr. Hoti once again ruled out the possibility of endowing such municipalities with executive powers.  Expressing hope that the European Union mediation will lead to significant progress and noting the agreements signed by the parties in Washington, D.C., he stressed that Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) remains the international legal basis for a Kosovo settlement.  There is no improvement in the situation in the rights of non-Albanian communities in the province.  Ensuring protection of Orthodox sites in Kosovo requires special attention.  Against this background, his delegation considers Kosovo’s accession to international organizations, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), erroneous.  The return of former terrorist fighters to Kosovo poses a threat to peace and stability in the region.  “This is a time bomb for security in the region,” he said.

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