UN Security Council greenlights Kosovo plan

NEW YORK, BELGRADE -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday in New York unanimously adopted the UN secretary-general’s report on the reorganization of the civil mission in Kosovo.

The Security Council approved Ban Ki-moon's recommendations contained in his latest Kosovo report, via a statement by the chairman, thus giving the green light to UNMIK's reconfiguration and EULEX’s deployment.

Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić welcomed Ban's Kosovo report.

The document, Jeremić told the Security Council session in New York – which he attended representing official Belgrade – that the document confirms the status neutrality of the EU mission in Kosovo, which will operate under the UN umbrella and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

"The explicit language of the report confirms the status neutrality of EULEX's engagement, which is a guarantee that no part of its mandate can be devoted to the implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan for Kosovo's independence-rejected by the Republic of Serbia, and 'never endorsed by the Security Council,' in the words of the report that is before us today," Jeremić said.

"What has always been a crucial condition for our acceptance of reconfiguration is a clear and binding commitment by the European Union - confirmed in the Security Council - to be fully status neutral, and completely anchor its presence in Kosovo under the authority of the United Nations, in conformity with resolution 1244," the foreign minister said and voiced his satisfaction with the fact that these requests had been met.

"What is of great significance, however, is that the implementation of the six points - as well as the deployment of EULEX that, to quote the report, "will fully respect resolution 1244 and operate under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the United Nations" - shall nonetheless be put into operation. And that it shall be done in consultation with relevant stakeholders, such as the Republic of Serbia." Jeremić said.

"I call on the authorities in Priština neither to obstruct the will of the international community, nor to oppose the binding resolve of the Security Council," he said.

The foreign minister once again reiterated that this was why Serbia will "never, ever accept the independence of Kosovo".

He also told the council that Kosovo Serbs are the most endangered community in Europe and supported his claim by quoting a host of security and safety issues.

"For many Serbs in Kosovo, their fate continues to depend on how they feel they can survive despite the enormous hostility of their immediate surroundings," he said.

In a wish to deny what the Kosovo Albanian representative told the United Nations in his previous speeches at the United Nations, i.e. that "Kosovo is an idyllic, multi-ethnic place where democratic perfection is just around the corner," Jeremić quoted a large number of issues that should be considered.

"What of the abominable act of cultural cleansing that is the paving over of the ruins of the recently destroyed Serbian church in the center of Đakovica - thus compounding physical destruction with the attempt to erase every trace of its very existence?"

"What of the return of illegally-seized private property? More than 30,000 such cases are outstanding. Those affected - Kosovo Serbs overwhelmingly - barely manage in make-shift dwellings or IDP camps, while Kosovo Albanians continue to live in their homes and make use of their agricultural fields-without fear of prosecution," the foreign minister continued.

"What of the defiance of the municipal authorities in Dečani to restore the cadastral record of land belonging to the monastery of Visoki Dečani, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been placed on its List of World Heritage in Danger-notwithstanding two Executive Decisions by the SRSG ordering them to do so?"

"What of the fact that only one hundred and seven Kosovo Serb IDPs - according to the UN's numbers-have returned to their homes in the first nine months of this year," he said, quoting the issues that should be considered by the council.

But Skender Hyseni, appointed by the Kosovo Albanian authorities in Priština to be their foreign minister, who also addressed the session in New York on Wednesday, rejected the Ban plan as unacceptable and "contrary to Kosovo's constitution".

At the same time, Hyseni said Priština supports EULEX's deployment, but not as a status-neutral mission, as envisaged in the secretary-general's report.

"Kosovo supports a speedy deployment of EULEX in line with the mandate that draws from the declaration of independence, the Ahtisaari plan, the Kosovo constitution, the action plan, and the invitation by the Kosovo institution to EULEX to deploy," he continued.

Hyseni repeated the Kosovo Albanians' readiness to cooperate with the EU, U.S. and NATO, but did not mention the United Nations.

In his report, Ban Ki-moon states, among other things, that he expects EULEX representatives to continue deploying over the coming period and to assume responsibilities in the areas of police, justice and customs, under the UN’s authority, in line with Security Council Resolution 1244.

Ban’s spokesman Brenden Varma told B92 earlier today that the secretary-general’s report welcomes the positive outcome of the talks on the six points of the UNMIK reorganization and Belgrade’s decision to accept the agreement.

Jeremić said ahead of the UN Security Council session on Wednesday that he expected this UN body to approve the reconfiguration of the UN civilian mission in Kosovo that will not violate Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"I don't expect any surprises. Absolutely everything Serbia has insisted on is in the secretary general's report and EULEX will operate under the UN umbrella with strict status neutrality," Jeremić told the Serbian state television, RTS.

He said that the report would contain the six-item plan, which clearly specified conditions under which the UN Mission in Kosovo would be reconfigured and under which the EULEX mission would arrive.

"Everything will be in line with Resolution 1244. I expect the Security Council to approve the reconfiguration that will not violate Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Jeremić said.

He stressed that Priština "remained isolated" in refusing the UN secretary general's report.

"All Security Council members support the report, only Priština has objections. But after this session the implementation of the secretary general's plan will become binding. Their objections will not be included in the official text of the agreement which will be adopted by the UN Security Council," Jeremić said.

The European Commission has voiced its support for the secretary-general’s report. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that it was “time for all sides to be constructive“ when it came of EULEX’s deployment in Kosovo.

“All sides are constructive on this issue and I, to a degree, understand Priština’s concern, but, at the same time, this is in the common interests of Kosovo, Serbia, the Western Balkans and the EU, at this very important time when stability and the rule of law needs to be guaranteed,“ said Rehn.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Priština have announced that the Kosovo institutions reject the six-point plan and that they believe that EULEX should operate in line with the Ahtisaari Plan.

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that the Kosovo institutions would uphold the Kosovo constitution and that the six-point plan would “remain unacceptable and unsustainable for the Kosovo institutions and people.“

The European Union mission in Kosovo will present reports on its work to Brussels and it will be operating in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, EULEX spokesman Victor Reuter said on Tuesday, Tanjug reported from Kosovska Mitrovica.

Asked whether the mission would be presenting its reports to Brussels or to the UN in New York, Reuter answered that EULEX would operate under a unified chain of command, which meant that it would be under the operational command of Brussels.