HONOURED GUEST: Former United Nations special envoy Martti Ahtisaari passes near members of the Kosovo Security Force in Pristina airport, June 15 2009.
The foreign ministers of Serbia and Kosovo clashed in a United Nations Security Council debate on June 17 2009 on key issues including whether the UN mission UNMIK should continue.
Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic reiterated Belgrade’s adamant refusal to ever deem Kosovo as independent, again rejecting as illegitimate Kosovo’s February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia.
Serbia recognises the UNMIK mission as the legitimate authority in Kosovo. UNMIK, set up by UN Security Council resolution 1244, should continue, Jeremic said.
Kosovo foreign minister Skender Hyseni said that Kosovo now had its own constitution, the European Union rule law of mission EULEX was now fully functional, and UNMIK was no longer needed.
Hyseni told the Security Council that Kosovo had announced a date for municipal elections, had appointed constitutional court judges and had made progress in setting up the Kosovo Security Force.
He alleged that Serbia was standing in the way of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo co-operating with the government in Pristina.
In his scheduled quarterly report to the UN Security Council on Kosovo, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that the security situation in Kosovo was relatively peaceful despite concerns over incidents in northern Kosovo and Pristina's request for the withdrawal of UNMIK.
Serbian news agency Beta said that the UN Secretary-General’s report said that Kosovo authorities had on several occasions requested the termination of UNMIK, says that the Security Council’s Resolution 1244 approved in 1999 was no longer relevant and that they were no longer obliged to obey it.
"I call on the communities and the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to continue to closely co-operate with all international representatives in order to reduce tensions to a minimum and reach a solution in a peaceful fashion," Ban Ki-moon said.
He said that municipalities in northern Kosovo and northern Kosovska Mitrovica were still operating separately from the rest of Kosovo. Serb leaders in northern Kosovo view UNMIK and KFOR as the only legitimate missions under Resolution 1244 and consequently do not accept any institution or symbol of the Kosovo authorities, he said.
"UNMIK can serve as a bridge between EULEX and local political leaders in northern Kosovo," Ban Ki-moon said.
The report said that Serbian officials had faced problems when visiting Kosovo, noting that Pristina had blocked several visits.
UNMIK head Lamberto Zannier said that UNMIK was spending less but was no less relevant.
The looming decision of the International Court of Justice was hampering UNMIK’s work in Kosovo, Zannier said. In 2008, Serbia won UN General Assembly backing to refer the question of Kosovo’s UDI to the court for an opinion. It is expected that it could take about two years for the court to pronounce its opinion, which will be non-binding.
Jeremic urged the Security Council to insist on adherence to commitments stemming from resolution 1244 and to desist from encouraging new recognitions of Kosovo’s unilateral independence.
"No one should be permitted to ignore the decisions of the Security Council. We therefore urge the Council to insist that all parties uphold commitments that arise from Resolution 1244 (1999). It was passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which binds all to respect its provisions in full. This is our common legal imperative, and our moral obligation," Serbia’s B92 reported Jeremic as saying.
Jeremic said that everyone had to respect the fact that the court was now examining the case.
"Therefore," he said, "new UDI recognitions should not be encouraged. And multilateral bodies should refrain from extending membership to the secessionist authorities in Pristina."
"In the meantime, we should find strength to put our differences on status to one side, for the sake of peace and stability, and the residents of the province," Jeremic said.
"As a result of our measured response to UDI, the unstable equilibrium on the ground has largely been kept in check. We have sought to contain flash-points despite numerous provocations – such as targeted power cuts, pressure to sign loyalty oaths, and the construction of new, unauthorized housing settlements," Jeremic said.
Jeremic called on EULEX to solve the problem of Serbian officials being barred from entering Kosovo.
He labelled the Kosovo Security Force an "illegal paramilitary formation" that were a direct threat to peace and stability in the Western Balkans, and said that it should be disbanded.