I will now make a brief statement in my national capacity.
Like previous speakers, I would like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Mr. Farid Zarif, for his comprehensive briefing, I congratulate him on his appointment and wish him the best in his challenging tasks. I would also like to thank the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Mr. Vuk Jeremic and Mr. Enver Hoxhaj, Foreign Minister of Kosovo, for their statements.
I start by expressing our deep concern for the escalation of violence directed against UN-mandated international forces in Kosovo, which has provoked a significant number of wounded, among which were 12 Portuguese soldiers, as recalled by Mr. Zarif. Portugal condemns in the strongest terms these attacks and reiterates that all attempts to hamper, by the use of force, freedom of movement in Northern Kosovo are totally unacceptable and can only worsen an already very tense situation.
Portugal appeals, in unequivocal terms, for restraint. It is fundamental to deflate the present situation, in order to prevent an even more dangerous escalation of tensions, further bloodshed and a worsening of the situation of tens of thousands of civilians. Strengthened political dialogue is, from our point of view, the only way to achieve that goal. In this regard, UNMIK has undertaken serious efforts to bring together relevant political players in the north of Kosovo and to supplement several failures in fundamental supplies, thereby contributing importantly to a safer and more secure environment. These efforts should be commended.
Also on the issue of political dialogue, we welcome the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on 21 November. The latest agreement between the parties, on the mutual recognition of university diplomas, is a welcome development. Portugal believes that the European perspective of Serbia and Kosovo must be a constant reminder to both parties of the importance of remaining 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.
We would like to underline the importance of some of the issues mentioned in UNMIK’s report. We welcome the fact that several important Serbian Orthodox Church events took place in Kosovo without incident. Freedom of worship is an essential element of democratic conviviality and respect for the rule of law and must be protected. Unfortunately, there was a worrying increase in incidents affecting minority communities Kosovo-wide. Indeed, progress in upholding minority rights is fundamental to peace and security in Kosovo and in the Western Balkans.
On the EULEX report, I would like to underline that this Mission’s essential role in promoting and upholding the rule of law and law enforcement in Kosovo should be duly appreciated. Portugal has consistently been a strong promoter of the role that the Rule of Law mission plays in Kosovo.
But Portugal continues to believe that the Council would benefit from hearing more directly about EULEX’s work and future perspectives on the investigations it has undertaken, in areas as diverse and serious as human organ trafficking, tax evasion, border control and the fight against corruption.
My final words are of appreciation for and encouragement of the work of the various international presences in Kosovo. Winter is a particularly challenging time in Kosovo and may prove to be the source of more instability. The mandates of UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX, among others, were designed to correspond as much as possible to guaranteeing peace, stability and justice to the country. They will continue to do so, under the Security Council’s oversight and with this Council’s help.