Restating Serbia’s long-standing rejection of independence for Kosovo, the country’s President today proposed a compromise for the province that the United Nations has administered since 1999 based on the “autonomous development” of the Albanian-majority community.
“In defence of the State sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, our negotiating team has offered a decentralization model based on European solutions that would protect the interests of Kosovo Albanians, as well as the threatened interests of the Serbian and other non-Albanian ethnic communities in the province,” Boris Tadić told the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.
The arrangement would involve Serbia giving “Kosovo Albanians special rights and competences for an autonomous development of their community within the Republic of Serbia.”
The Serbian President said that according to UN statistics, of the more than 200,000 Serbs who left Kosovo in 1999, only 7,100 had returned.
Pointing out that the Contact Group on Kosovo is holding a meeting today, he said “a legitimate decision on the future status of Kosovo can be brought only by the Security Council of the United Nations.”
He advocated a diplomatic solution as opposed to one reached through violence. “Serbia does not accept that the threat of violence of the party we are negotiating with is an argument for re-drawing the borders of legitimate democracies and for violating the norms of international law,” he said.
Referring to reports that Kosovo’s provisional institutions could declare independence on 11 December, he said any one-sided recognition of independence would forever alter the international legal order. “Many separatist movements the world over would use the newly established precedent,” he said. “Many regions in the world would be destabilized.”
On the question of war criminals still at large, he said “Serbia has done all within its powers to track down, arrest and transfer to The Hague those accused of war crimes, demonstrating in that way its commitment to bringing cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to a successful end.” The ICTY was set up to prosecute those responsible for war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Also addressing the Assembly today, the President of Croatia, Stjepan Mesić, described the post-war accomplishments of his country, which had completed its struggle “through cooperation with the UN” and had “established good relations with all our neighbours, including those who waged war against us.”
Croatia also actively participates in UN peacekeeping, deploying its personnel in 15 UN operations. This, he said, “puts Croatia at the very top of those countries whose soldiers are preserving peace under the blue flag.”
Also addressing the Assembly today, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša, said this year more than 10 per cent of the country’s armed forces participated in United Nations peacekeeping missions. “The majority of them helped to strengthen peace and stability in south-eastern Europe, and also in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq,” he said.
Mr. Janša also said the investment made by the UN in promoting stability in the Balkans should be preserved. “In the last decade and a half, the international community has dedicated considerable human and financial resources to the Balkans region,” he said. “It is therefore important that the dividends of peace are not wasted at the end of the stabilization process.”
The Prime Minister called for “solutions that are sustainable for all involved” to secure the dividends which, he added, “should be further invested in the common European project.”