"Reconciliation, but not recognition of Kosovo"

NEW YORK -- Serbian PM Ivica Dačić said in New York that differences on the issue of Kosovo's status should not stand in the way of efforts to resolve practical issues.

He was addressing a session of the UN Security Council dedicated to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's regular report on Kosovo.

Dačić said that without the development of mutual trust between Serbia and Priština, there will be no sound basis for normal arrangements, "in which we will have the help of the European Union."

"The next session will mark one year since the signing of the Brussels agreement. To provide better results of the application of the agreement, it is necessary to establish clearer rules and greater mutual trust."

Dačić thanked High Representative of the EU Catherine Ashton, who, he said, "wisely mediated in the talks between Belgrade and Priština."

Dačić also pointed out that Serbia was "proud to start accession negotiations with the European Union January 21 which was also a great incentive to improve living conditions for the citizens in Kosovo."

Speaking about the challenges and problems facing Serbs in Kosovo, he stressed the limited freedom of movement, endangered freedom to use native language, lack of mechanisms for restitution. "When Serb returnees choose to return, local municipalities do everything so they feel alienated."

"For peace to be lasting, it must be just, I'm telling you as a person born in Prizren, in Kosovo and Metohija," said he.

He also stated that Albanians now make up the majority of the population, but that this does not give them the right "to make decisions without the state from which they are seceding".

Dačić on this occasion reiterated that Serbia will not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo.

"For a historic reconciliation of the two peoples, it is necessary that both sides make tough decisions. Priština has to be aware that there is no permanent solution without an agreement with Serbia."

The prime minister also stated that elections in northern Kosovska Mitrovica would be held and a mayor elected, although the murder of one candidate and the arrest of another "contributed to an atmosphere of fear and insecurity."

He added that after the election of the mayor a community of Serb municipalities would be formed, and that its statute was being prepared.

Dačić said that the letter of the Brussels agreement must be respected and that much greater trust needed "because without it there cannot be a sound basis for any agreements," and warned that Priština has not prepared a legal framework for effective exercise of jurisdiction of the future ZSO, envisaged by the Brussels agreement, and does not show the political will to carry out that part of the deal.

"We need to reach a basic agreement on the appropriate long-term representation of the Serb community in central Priština institutions, with a clear picture of their representation in organs, through, among other things, a detailed regulation of the financing of the ZSO, its communication with Priština and determine the modalities for the implementation of central elections," he said.

According to him, the assassination of candidate for mayor Dimitrije Janićijević contributed to an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, "which certainly will not help to create the conditions for Serbs to vote in the elections."

"Exactly what I warned about from this place, is now being repeated - the lack of sanctions for perpetrators of crimes against Serbs only creates a favorable climate for new crimes that must not go unpunished, and whose perpetrators we expect will soon be brought to justice."

Dačić also referred to the arrest of Oliver Ivanović, stressing that Serbia strongly protested to the UN Security Council because of this and sought his release from detention, and an explanation of why he was arrested, and why this happened just ahead of the election for mayor of northern Kosovoska Mitrovica, where he was one of the candidates .

"Such reckless actions could destabilize the already fragile peace and stability in Kosovo," warned Dačić.

Noting that Belgrade called on Serbs to participate in local elections in Kosovo, Dačić said it would also encourage them to go to parliamentary elections in Kosovo, but that "the elimination of irregularities that accompanied local elections must be turned to."

"The report does not specify any of the numerous obstacles encountered by Serbs in the electoral process, that prevented many of them form participating in elections and freely exercising their civil rights," he added.

In this context, Dačić said that the situation with voter lists was particularly complex and that their update was imperative for the next election.

Serbia, he said, "expects the following problem to be resolved: secret indictments perhaps do not exists in Kosovo, but there are witnesses who suddenly start giving evidence 15 years after the alleged crimes."

"Ivanović, who is in custody in Priština, was arrested on the basis of just such evidence. The Court of Appeal also failed to explain why the legal limit to respond to his complaint regarding the detention was exceeded," he told the council.

He said that Serbia has recently received information about the intentions of the provisional institutions of self-government in Priština to change the legal status of the Trepča mining complex, whose majority shareholder is the Republic of Serbia.

"The adoption of a new law that would change the ownership structure and legal status of Trepča represents undoubtedly another unilateral move of Priština that could have as a direct consequence also the change of the rights and status of Trepča workers, members of the Serb and other non-Albanian communities in Kosovo. This is another attempt to illegally take away the assets of the Republic of Serbia and a violation of basic principles of property rights," he said.

Dačić added that Serbian officials "continue to closely monitor the investigation launched by EULEX's special investigating group to verify claims made in Dick Marty's report."

"Also, as Serbia has done everything in the process of clarifying and prosecuting all who have committed crimes against the Albanian population in Kosovo, Serbia expects that full truth is established and those responsible for the war crimes committed against Serbs in Kosovo punished," he said .

Dačić said that Serbia wants a lasting peace, which must be just.

"To be perfectly clear, Serbia is ready for normalization of relations and reconciliation in the region, primarily in the interest of ordinary citizens. Serbia is also ready for dialogue aimed at finding a comprehensive solution, but it is not, and will not be ready to accept Kosovo's independence. We warn Priština not to interpret Serbia's readiness for dialogue and compromise as our weakness and to use it for promotion of the self-proclaimed independence," Dačić stated.

He also said that any discussion of a possible change in the scope and mandate of EULEX should not be taking place while excluding the UN Security Council, keeping in mind that the UN is the umbrella organization for the international presence in Kosovo.

"I believe that today's session is the real opportunity to initiate a conversation about the reconfiguration of EULEX, as the UN Security Council is the only appropriate forum for agreement on changes in Kosovo and Metohija that will lead to a permanent and steady progress on the ground," Dačić told the Security Council.

According to him, if it was necessary for the council to adopt a presidential statement, the so-called six point plan, in order to deploy EULEX under the umbrella of UNMIK, "is not the approval of the body also necessary for a significant change in the mandate and scope of the EU mission."

"The starting point for determining measures to be taken in order for the EU contribution in Kosovo to improve in the best way should be a report of the secretary-general on the achievements of EULEX so far. Serbia expects the start of talks on this subject, to which it will give a constructive contribution," Dačić said.

He also pointed out that Serbia considers the international presence in Kosovo to be important for implementation of all agreements, "due to the lack of mutual trust."

"It applies to UNMIK, KFOR, and EULEX, and missions of other international organizations. Any proposals for their elimination or reduction of their scope and change of mandate must be a subject of serious discussions and negotiations so that it does not have consequences for the peace and stability of Kosovo and Metohija and consequently the whole region," concluded Dačić.