The Situation in Kosovo
- Human Rights
- Peace and Security
- Rule of Law
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Mr President. And thank you to Special Representative Farid Zarif for his report. I also acknowledge the report by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security on the activities of EULEX. UNMIK and EULEX continue to promote peace, security, human rights and the rule of law in Kosovo, in close cooperation with relevant international partners – including KFOR and the OSCE.
I welcome Prime Minister Vučić of Serbia and Prime Minister Thaci of Kosovo.
Robust debate in the formation of governments can of course be a sign of vibrant and mature democracies. But the prolonged political deadlock in Pristina following the successful elections on 8 June has risked diluting the progress achieved so far in the dialogue with Belgrade and damaging Kosovo's economy. We therefore welcome the "in principle" agreement reached recently to form a coalition government in Pristina and the announcement that the Assembly of Kosovo will reconvene on 8 December. We urge the new Kosovar government to re-engage as a matter of priority in a new phase of dialogue with Serbia. We also urge it to focus on responsible government and fighting corruption, and to work to stabilise the country's economic and fiscal situation.
Australia welcomes the recent progress achieved in technical talks between Kosovar and Serbian authorities, despite the stalled high-level political dialogue. The agreements on crossing points, telecommunications and energy should make a real difference to people's lives, and facilitate economic activity. The progress and cooperation in municipal governance–including between the four Serb-majority municipalities and authorities in Pristina–and in police integration are also welcome developments. Full realisation of the Community of Serb Municipalities should now be a priority, along with concrete improvements in the overall situation facing Kosovo's internally displaced persons.
The security situation in Kosovo continues to normalise, with a steady decline of politically-motivated security incidents. But the intensification of inter-ethnic tensions in Kosovo following the suspension of the 14 October football match between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade, including incidents directed at Kosovo-Serb returnees and their property shows that much more needs to be done to strengthen inter-ethnic harmony. We commend Kosovar security authorities and EULEX for their prompt and effective handling of incidents in the aftermath of the match. We urge Kosovo's leaders to continue their efforts to build understanding and reconciliation between different ethnic communities.
Australia appreciates the efforts of the Kosovar authorities to safeguard the country's cultural and religious heritage. But we remain concerned that episodes of desecration of sites of particular significance continue to occur. The spraying of provocative messages praising ISIL at the Visoki Dečani Monastery on 12 October is of particular concern.
In this context, Australia also appreciates the steps taken by Kosovo to address the problem of extremism and foreign terrorist fighters. We, like the Secretary-General, commend all those Kosovo moderate religious and secular groups who work to address the root causes of extremism, and to combat foreign terrorist fighters.
We note the steps taken by UNMIK and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to monitor the situation and assist the voluntary return of displaced persons. The return of displaced persons and refugees from the Kosovo conflict is an essential component of long-term reconciliation, and we once again call on all parties to increase efforts in this regard.
In Australia's last statement on Kosovo before the Council during our term, it is appropriate to reflect on the past two years–a period of substantial progress in the relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
For Serbia and Kosovo, the 19 April 2013 agreements and the concrete results delivered by technical talks set a high benchmark for Serbian and Kosovo leaders elected over the past year to achieve full normalisation of relations in a new phase of high-level EU-facilitated dialogue. We welcome the recent visit by Foreign Minister Hoxhaj to Belgrade as a sign of the determination of both parties to make this happen.
In light of this progress, there is now scope to reduce the frequency of Security Council debates on Kosovo to redirect Council resources – already facing unprecedented demands – to other more acute challenges to peace and security. A good first step would be requesting the Secretary-General to submit his reports on UNMIK at six-monthly intervals. The Council could also start to consider whether the current mandate of UNMIK is appropriate for the contemporary political and security situation of Kosovo.