Merci Monsieur le Président,
I thank Mr. Eduard Mulet for his comprehensive and very useful briefing, and for introducing the Secretary-General’s report, and welcome the participation of Special Representative Farid Zarif. I would also like to welcome Foreign Ministers Vuk Jeremic and Enver Hoxhaj, and thank them for their statements.
I will focus my statement on three specific aspects.
First: the referendum on the acceptance of the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo, which is planned in Northern Kosovo. This project has already been condemned by the international community in general, and, very pointedly, by the Republic of Serbia.
The rhetoric that serves as basis for some actors in Northern Kosovo to entertain the idea of a referendum is unhelpful to the process towards improvement of relations between Belgrade and Pristina and potentially destabilizing for Kosovo. It demonstrates the extent to which some actors in Northern Kosovo are pursuing independent agendas. In this regard, President Boris Tadic’s rejection of partition of Kosovo must be highlighted and is much to be welcomed.
In fact, this unacceptable initiative is a challenge to the territorial integrity of Kosovo. It furthermore strays from the accepted path towards peace and stability in the region, under resolution 1244. It is meant to put pressure on the government of the Republic of Serbia, and to disturb Serbia’s clear, deserved and indeed necessary path towards European integration.
Second: the situation created by the barricades in Northern Kosovo. We have witnessed, particularly last November, violent clashes between Kosovo Serbs and KFOR forces. Needless to say how much the barricades and the violence it entailed have hurt the normalization of the situation in Northern Kosovo. The barricades are also a clear obstacle to the development of unimpeded economic relations between Serbia and Kosovo, which represent an important dimension of the ongoing negotiations within the European Union facilitated Dialogue.
We must vigorously deplore the continuation of the barricades: they stop the population of Northern Kosovo from leading normal lives; they prevent the international forces in Kosovo from fully implementing the mandates they were given by this Council and fulfilling their duties to the population; finally, they are a source of great tension and therefore cast a permanent shadow over the negotiations in the Dialogue between the parties – and these negotiations are indeed decisive. The barricades are imprisoning Kosovo Serbs in a situation for which a solution acceptable to all is made more difficult by their action. I am happy to echo President Boris Tadic’s appeal for the dismantlement of the barricades.
Thirdly, Mr. President, allow me to briefly address the report on the activities of EULEX. I wish to underline the ambitious scope of the Mission’s activities: ensuring accountability for war crimes, rooting out corruption, fighting organized crime and trafficking in human organs, and also investigating the allegations in the Dick Marty report.
Portugal commends the efforts already undertaken by EULEX, and welcomes the recent activity of the Lead Prosecutor and head of the Special Investigative Task Force, Ambassador Clint Williamson. The contacts he established with the Presidents and Governments of Serbia, Albania and Kosovo, and the strong support he has gathered for his mission, allow us to expect transparent and efficient cooperation from all involved. It also raises our expectations about the mission’s initial findings, about which we would like to hear very soon. as the endeavor to uncover the whole truth behind the allegations of hideous crimes must remain our ultimate goal.
In this context, I would like to note very appreciatively the recent letter from the Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania, in which full cooperation with the investigative action of EULEX is promised. In line with what we have always defended concerning other serious crimes, be it in the region or elsewhere, impunity is not only in itself intolerable, but also an obstacle to peace. These allegations must be fully investigated and, if confirmed, their perpetrators brought to justice.
As the Secretary General’s report states, both sides, at the highest levels, have adopted a more conciliatory stance in some important instances, and they have renewed efforts to achieve results. We encourage them in their path.
Progress has also been made in the Belgrade – Pristina dialogue. In December, another agreement was reached on integrated management for crossing points, which we hope, when implemented, contributes to a normalisation of the situation in Northern Kosovo. Furthermore, we have seen encouraging steps towards implementing previous agreements.
We reiterate our call to both parties to continue committed to this process and to finding compromise solutions. We should not allow minor, irresponsible stakeholders to play a spoiling role disproportionate to their contribution to peace and stability and their representation among the population. The Security Council must, therefore, continue to play its crucial role in ensuring stability in Kosovo and the region, as Mr. Mulet underlined.
Portugal believes that the European perspective of Serbia and Kosovo constitutes an important encouragement for both parties to remain constructively engaged in their negotiations. While we are aware of the challenges ahead, we stress that time is of paramount importance in this issue; we appeal to both parties to renew their efforts, both internally and among each other, to make headway in all fundamental issues.
In concluding, Mr. President, let me once again express Portugal’s appreciation and full support for the important work being carried out in Kosovo by the various international presences there, namely by UNMIK and Special Representative Farid Zarif.
I thank you.