UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
22 March 2013
UN MISSION IN KOSOVO (UNMIK)
Statement by H.E. Gary Quinlan
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of Australia to the United Nations
(Check against delivery)
I would like to thank Special Representative Zarif for his presentation this morning and for the participation in today’s debate by Prime Ministers Dacic and Thaci, and for their remarks earlier. We warmly welcome them both.
Given this is the first time Australia has spoken in a debate on Kosovo in the Council, I would like to state Australia’s support for an independent and sovereign Kosovo. While recognising there is not a unanimity of views within the Council on this question, Australia itself was one of the first couple of countries to recognise Kosovo’s independence in February 2008.
We commend the leadership displayed by both Prime Ministers in elevating the European-Union mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to the highest political level. This is not an easy process but we are encouraged by their personal and constructive contribution to seven rounds of trilateral negotiations, including in Brussels this week.
The discussions between the Prime Ministers builds on other recent positive developments, including the meeting between Presidents Nikolic and Jahjaga in early February, which was a powerful symbol of the commitment of both parties to continue their dialogue to find a long-term solution to the situation in Kosovo. Trust building and reconciliation among communities in Kosovo are obviously a vital complement to the political process.
The role of the EU and High Representative Ashton has been decisive in advancing the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. We commend these ongoing endeavours, which have achieved genuine results, including the commencement of the integrated agreement on the management of crossing points and customs and the exchange of liaison officers based in the EU delegations in Belgrade and Pristina. Both countries have a European future.
We welcome the strong endorsement of the process provided by both the National Assembly of Serbia and the authorities of the Republic of Kosovo, which has sent powerful messages to communities in both Serbia and Kosovo on the fundamental importance of a successful outcome to the negotiations to the futures of both countries.
The security situation in Northern Kosovo, and particularly around Northern Mitrovica, remains fragile. Both sides need to work harder to improve the situation in the north. We condemn acts of vandalism against signficant cultural and religious heritage sites. The prompt reactions by local authorities, the condemnation of violence by all political parties and the swift action of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) have helped to prevent further incidents and we commend these actions. We encourage all sides to take steps to protect Kosovo’s rich and diverse heritage, including that of the Serbian Orthodox and Muslim communities, on the basis of ethnic and religious tolerance. We also encourage the unimpeded resettlement of minority returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Kosovo. This is vital.
Australia would also like to express its appreciation of SRSG Farid Zarif and the UN Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) for their efforts to ensure a consistent approach by the international presence in Kosovo. We have to be frank. UNMIK’s job as mandated by the Councilis a difficult one. But its work has complemented efforts by the European Union Rule of Law Mission, KFOR and the OSCE and helped provide the stability to support direct political dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. This in turn supports improved security, political and civil stability and efforts to strengthen human rights conditions in Kosovo.
We support ongoing investigation by EULEX into the allegations of organ trafficking and we support calls for any persons implicated in war crimes to be held accountable.
Mr President, to conclude;
A broad and substantial political settlement to the question of Kosovo is now within reach. Australia joins the Secretary-General and other Council members in encouraging both Prime Ministers to continue their dialogue with the determination to bring about lasting stability not only in Kosovo and between Serbia and Kosovo, but in the broader Balkan region. We look forward to progress on remaining sensitive issues - such as the governing institutions in northern Kosovo – at the next round of EU-mediated dialogue scheduled for April. Following that, it will be important that both parties leverage on the confidence and trust they have so painstakingly created to achieve full implementation of the agreements reached at a political level. For our part, we believe the Security Council and the international community stand ready to assist the parties on their path to reconciliation, security and stability.