UNSECCO:Statement on Kosovo

1. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for calling this Open Meeting today. Ireland associates itself fully with everything in the statement which will be delivered by Ambassador Schori of Sweden as representative of the Presidency of the European Union. I would like to take the opportunity of this meeting to highlight a number of issues which Ireland, as an incoming member of the Security Council, considers to be of particular significance.

2. Ireland acknowledges the combined efforts of the international community in relation to Kosovo. The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has been working closely with KFOR, the OSCE, the EU, the UNHCR, the IOM and other organisations to achieve the objectives laid out in Security Resolution 1244. Ireland is pleased that it has been able to contribute personnel to these important missions and we salute all those who have served in Kosovo in the name of peace. It is perhaps not inappropriate on this occasion to pay tribute to the personal contribution of Ambassador Holbrooke to the efforts of the international community in the western Balkans. Like him, Ireland looks forward to the peoples of this region joining us in what he described earlier as a ‘United Europe, whole and free'.

3. We have studied with great interest the most recent Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (S/2000/1196) which was circulated on 15 December 2000. We have also listened to the comprehensive briefing from Mr. Guehenno and would like to thank him for that. We welcome the progress made in Kosovo in the implementation of Resolution 1244: with the help of the mission, an interim administration has been successfully established, municipal elections have been held in a democratic and peaceful manner and substantial reconstruction is underway. While certain objectives remain to be achieved such as the UNMIK Mine Programme, aspects of the emergency humanitarian assistance programme and implementation of the recommendations of the UNMIK Department of Justice, Ireland is pleased with general progress made to date.

4. However, while the overall security situation has improved, like our partners in the European Union, we are concerned about the ongoing ethnically and politically motivated violence in the Presevo Valley areas of southern Serbia and, particularly in the Ground Safety Zone. We strongly condemn the use of violence by armed groups, which endangers the overall security of the region. Ireland supports the efforts of UNMIK and KFOR in addressing the situation, including the recent arrest of presumed terrorists. Like the UK, we also commend the sensible restraint shown by Serbian and Yugoslav regular forces in the face of this situation, as well as the commitment of the FRY authorities to respect the provisions of Resolution 1244 and the Military Technical Agreement. We believe that full implementation of Resolution 1244 must remain the aim of the international community in Kosovo.

5. Ireland continues to be greatly concerned with the humanitarian situation in the region. It is essential that progress be made towards facilitating the return by Kosovo Serbs and others to their homes, and reversing the effects of the wide-scale devastation in the region.

6. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Bernard Kouchner, who has just completed his work as Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of UNMIK. We are all grateful for the energy and determination which Mr. Kouchner brought to this extremely difficult job. We welcome Mr. Hans Haekkerup who has now taken up duty in Kosovo, and offer him our full support.

7. Chief amongst Mr. Haekkerup's tasks will be establishing the legal framework for Kosovo-wide elections. While it is indeed desirable to proceed rapidly, we must be careful to ensure that certain objectives are met in advance: the results of the local elections must be fully implemented, and preparations must be completed in the areas of voter registration, education and information. Ireland has no doubt that Mr. Haekkerup will take account of these and we appreciate the caution and desire for consultation he expressed when he was in New York last December.

8. I would, at this point, like to join our partners in the European Union and others in this chamber in welcoming the programme of democratisation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia begun by President Kostunica. We already declared our support for President Kostunica following his victory in the elections last September. The outcome of the Serbian elections on 23 December last confirmed the choice of the democratic option. We are now beginning to see positive signs of the radical transformation initiated and maintained by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. These combined changes have an effect not only on FRY, but on the stability and prosperity of the region as a whole. We urge the governments concerned to continue working towards a peaceful settlement based on democratic principles and full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and equality of all citizens and national communities.

9. Of course, the resolution of the difficulties in Kosovo entails a lengthy process of reconciliation and rebuilding. It is important, therefore, that appropriate legal channels be found for the speedy release of Kosovar Albanian political prisoners and that an amnesty be put in place for those detainees who did not bear arms during the conflict in Kosovo.

10. I would also like to mention the importance Ireland attaches to full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It is essential that all parties to the conflict are treated equally and that indicted war criminals be brought to justice in an even-handed and fair manner. Trials under domestic law are important in coming to terms with the past, but they cannot replace trial in an international forum for certain specific offences.

11. Ireland thanks Mr. Guehenno for the information in relation to depleted uranium and shares the view of other States that it is important to establish the facts surrounding its use in munitions in Kosovo and its side effects. It is essential that this issue be handled in a transparent way and that information emerging from the various surveys underway - including those to be carried out by WHO and UNMIK - be shared. This matter is of significance to both the local population and the international troops, observers and aid workers who have served and are serving there.

12. In conclusion Mr. President, it is our view that an international presence will be necessary in Kosovo for quite some time. We appreciate the excellent work being carried out by UNMIK in very difficult circumstances. I take this opportunity to assure you that Ireland will remain, politically and in practice, fully supportive of the efforts of the Secretary General in Kosovo.


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