"Force won't subdue Serbs - time for other solutions"

The northern, Serb-dominated part of Kosovo cannot be subdued by force, writes a former UN administrator for this region.

Source: B92
Gerard Gallucci (file)
Gerard Gallucci (file)

Former U.S. diplomat Gerard Gallucci analyzed the situation in the tense north in the wake of last week's clashes between NATO's troops, KFOR, and Serbs, to suggest that a solution to the overall problem may require a new approach.

He accused the Quint - a group of five powerful western countries that support the ethnic Albanian unilateral declaration of independence - of continuously attempting to settle the status of northern Kosovo through the use of force, and of possibly "closing the door to existing formulas for achieving compromise".

"NATO's effort on June 1 to forcibly open roads in north Kosovo led to another round of violence. People on both sides injured. KFOR justified its actions as part of its mandate to ensure freedom of movement. But what it actually did went against its fundamental responsibility of maintaining peace," writes Gallucci, and adds:

"The barricades removed hurt no one but were seen by the local Serbs as a means of defending themselves against the type of unilateral actions thrown against them by Priština and its international supporters since July 2011. The barricades had become a porous but stable element of peace and security in the north. NATO's attack on them has clearly made KFOR a peace-breaker rather than a peacekeeper."

"The order for KFOR to upset peace and calm in Kosovo must have come from some cabbadost somewhere within the Quint who has not yet learned the lesson that force won't subdue the Serbs," notes the former UN official, and adds that "the recent actions - Priština's political arrest of a Serb staff member of UNMIK and the June 1 assault by NATO - will only harden their resistance to being included in the Albanian-dominated 'independent' Kosovo." He further speculates that "perhaps that was the aim of some".

In order to resolve this deadlock, Gallucci suggests that "a formula" should be found "for allowing full Serbian authority to return to the region north of the Ibar", adding that this "may now be the only way to provide long-term peace and stability and set the stage for a fuller accommodation on the independence of the rest of Kosovo".

"This would not be partition but simply drawing the line on the partition of Kosovo out of Serbia," argues Gallucci, and explains that "an end to the peacekeeping phase and imposing of a settlement that clears the way for a real peace", could be accomplished "in at least three ways":

"Serbia could simply assert its right to return to that part of Kosovo it still effectively controls (just as the Albanians took their part); Serbian police could be allowed to return to north Kosovo under the existing provisions of 1244; or a new UNSC resolution could be passed ending UN and NATO peacekeeping in Kosovo while recognizing the Ibar as the new dividing line between the contending parties."

The diplomat further notes that "none of this would require Belgrade's recognition of Kosovo but would clear the way for it as part of a rapprochement of neighbors", while at the same time "Serbia cannot expect to ever rule Kosovo south of the Ibar".

In this scenario, the Kosovo Albanian leadership "would complain, threaten instability in south Serbia and Macedonia and raise the specter of resorting to a Greater Albania", Gallucci believes, and notes that "Kosovo will need continued EU mentoring and assistance for some time to come".

"But dealing with these issues are something the Quint signed up to in supporting the UDI in 2008," writes the former UN administrator. "It's no reason to avoid recognizing the reality that Priština cannot rule the north."

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