Belgrade and Pristina must keep working to implement their agreement to normalise relations, the head of the United Nations’ Kosovo mission told the Security Council in New York.
on Tuesday, Kosovo mission chief Farid Zarif urged Belgrade and Pristina to stay on track with the implementation of their landmark April 2013 deal despite their differences and internal political situations.
Zarif said that some progress had been made but ‘at a slow pace due in part to general elections in Serbia and the forthcoming legislative elections in Kosovo’.
‘Both sides must embrace forward-looking approaches to tackling sensitive issues leading up to and beyond next month’s elections [in Kosovo],’ he added.
He said that the remaining challenges included the establishment of the association of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo which was envisaged by last year’s EU-brokered deal.
Zarif said there had been progress despite recent violent incidents in Kosovo, citing the investigation of a potential mass grave in Raska in southern Serbia, where it is believed that the bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed in 1990s war are buried.
‘This is work done by Serbian institutions… and monitored by international and local experts,’ Zarif said, adding that it was particularly encouraging that families of missing persons from Kosovo were allowed to visit the site of the probe.
He also noted that progress was made in ‘addressing the needs of survivors of sexual violence’, referring to the establishment of a Kosovo national council to examine the issue.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told the Security Council that his country would not change its stance that Kosovo’s independence is illegal but said that he remained dedicated to peace.
“For historical reconciliation of the two nations and a comprehensive solution for the problem of Kosovo, it is necessary that both sides made compromises,” Nikolic said.
“Instead of living in the past and making mutual recriminations, it is time to reach a sustainable solution for the future of the two nations,” he added.
Nikolic also greeted the establishment of a new tribunal to deal with alleged war crimes by Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas.
But he urged the UN to address what he called ‘secret indictments’ of Serbs for war crimes by the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo. The EU mission however denies that such indictments exist.
Responding to Nikolic’s speech, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga said that “while we have our differences over Kosovo, it is important that we have recognized the reality of Kosovo’s independence and its irreversibility”.
Jahjaga insisted that there had been considerable progress in implementing the Brussels agreement and that ‘negotiations will gain momentum following the completion of the electoral processes in both countries’.
Serbia recently got a new government after general elections in March while Kosovo goes to the polls on Sunday, although it remains unclear if the Serbian community, concentrated in the north, will participate in the vote.
Jahjaga also said that Pristina remained committed to helping refugees who fled the conflict to return to Kosovo.
According to the UN report, 50 displaced people returned to Kosovo in the first three months of this year, 29 of whom were Serbs.