Security Council Meeting STATEMENT by H.E. Ms. Vlora Çitaku Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in the United States Washington, DC
March 1, 2017, UN Security Council,
Honorable Mr. President,
Honorable members of the Security Council,
Honorable Special Representative of the Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ten days ago, Kosovo celebrated its 9th anniversary of independence. We all remember vividly that cold day in Pristina; the emotions, expectations, and dreams. All the suffering that Kosovars were subjected to; years of discrimination, exclusion, mass killings, rape and deportation did not deter us from pursuing our destiny. We persevered. And we succeeded. The lessons of Kosovo are quite simple; you can win, if you are right, if the cause is just, even if you are not the powerful one. And furthermore humanity is capable of miracles. When there is solidarity amongst the free nations of the world, life beats death, and good prevails over evil. We will forever be grateful for the role this honorable chamber has played. But, the time has come to move on. Coming here every three months, taking your valuable time, hearing the same old stories, is an unjustified consumption of your very valuable time. Spending millions to maintain a mission in Kosovo, that no longer has a function or a purpose, is an unjustified spending of UN resources, when we know very well that they could be put at a much better use.
And frankly speaking, I won’t go through every topic raised in the report of the Special Representative. If UNMIK’s criteria would be used to write reports about the countries of the representatives sitting around this table trust me, many reports would be produced.
I’ll just mention briefly the incident in the city of Gjakova. What the report fails to mention is that during 1998-1999, 1665 civilians were killed. That’s 13% of the population. Only in the village of Meje, 373 civilians were killed in less than an hour. 3000 women from this municipality were raped. Hundreds missing. Houses, schools, religious sites were destroyed. Yet, the Mayor of Gjakova, Ms. Mimoza Kusari, has been working hard to accommodate minority communities in her municipality. For the record, the Municipality has invested in the reconstruction of the Serbian Orthodox Church there. The church does not pay for any utilities; the municipality covers all the costs. Moreover, the municipality has invested in a small farm in the premises of the church, in order to accommodate even more the lives of the people living and serving there.
The Orthodox Church in Gjakova was never attacked, and there is good cooperation. The incident the report is referring to has to do with a specific situation, of people who were involved in the war crimes, coming to visit the site. This is the whole story. The context is everything, and often, the reports of the SRSG fail to provide that.
While we heard from my counterparts from Serbia about a parallel universe, let me please tell you what is happening in the real world.
First, Kosovo is a free, an independent and a sovereign state, recognized by the overwhelming majority of the free nations of the world. And just today, Bangladesh has recognized the Republic of Kosovo as an independent country. Thank you to the people and Government and people of Bangladesh. Also, thank you to the people and the Government of Singapore, that recognized Republic of Kosovo earlier in December.
Kosovo is a member of over 50 regional and international organizations, on a clear path towards becoming member of the European Union, and hopefully soon a member of the United Nations. The legitimacy of our cause was sealed but the crystal clear ruling of the International Court of Justice.
“States exists for the population, not vice versa,” the court ruled, confirming without any ambiguity that we did not break any international law when we declared independence.
Second, just because Serbia refuses to accept us as a state that does not make us any less of a state. That only makes Serbia a neighbor that is still a hostage of its own hegemonic and neo colonial past. Their attitude is clearly demonstrated with the abuse of the Interpol red notice, as we witnessed recently with the detention of the former prime minister of Kosovo, Mr. Ramush Haradinaj.
Mr. Haradinaj was twice acquitted from The Hague tribunal. And we have absolutely no doubt that justice in France will work professionally and will release him. That’s long overdue.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not justice. This is not prosecution this is persecution. Furthermore, this is a desperate act by Serbia to reverse history. Just to remind you, that Serbia had similar trials and charges against all western leaders in the year 2000, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Jacque Shirak, Schroder, and Solana etc.
We have no doubt that this Kafkian process will soon come to an end, and Mr. Haradinaj will be back to Kosovo, where he belongs. But, the really disturbing element in all of this drama is Serbia’s failure to deal with its own past, with the real, not the fictional, but real crimes that were committed in Kosovo during the war. Just last month, Center for Human Rights in Serbia published a shivering report, demonstrating with facts and figures unprecedented measures that Serbia undertook to hide traces of the war crimes, going as far as erecting constructions on top of the mass graves.
Imagine just for one second ladies and gentleman; imagine those thousand families in Kosovo that demand answers that demand a proper burial. Instead of finding strength to deal with their own past, instead of catharsis, Serbia chose the path of denial. Zero is the number of Serbians charged or convicted for crimes committed in Kosovo. Instead, they are being promoted to high level positions, like is the case of General Dikovic, current Chief of Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, who as documented, is responsible for killing of 1400 civilians.
Ladies and Gentleman, Kosovo Liberation Army is not, and was not, a terrorist organization. KLA is the most successful liberation movement in the recent history.
What we face almost on a daily basis from Serbia - are one sided provocations aimed at destabilizing Kosovo. There is a daily train line between Kosovo and Serbia. There was never a problem. People commute from one side of the border to the other. Until one day in mid January of 2017, when Serbia decided to send to Kosovo a fully loaded train with hatred, covered with slogans “Kosovo is Serbia” in 21 languages, including in Albanian. Now, really, does anyone have any idea what was Serbia thinking? And, would any of you sitting around this table allow the same to happen in your country? Kosovo, of course took measures to stop the train, and after seeing our resolve, just before reaching the border, Serbia decided to stop the train. And frankly speaking, there is absolutely no reason to praise Serbia for doing that. They play the pyromania and the fireman. They should not be rewarded for “fixing” a problem they created in the first place.
As it was the case with the wall that was built in the center of the city of Mitrovica, and later removed by those who put it there in the first place. These kinds of games should end!
Serbs living in Kosovo should not be held hostage by Serbia and played as pawns in order to create leverage. They themselves should be masters of their own lives. Kosovo institutions have gone at great lengths to accommodate their needs. Unprecedented legislative and constitutional measures were put in place in order to make sure their rights are guaranteed. And we will, in accordance with our constitution, implement all the agreements we have reached in Brussels. We will establish the Association of the Serb Municipalities, but only according to our constitution, without any legislative or executive power. We will not allow Serbia to hold us back, and hold us hostages of their own troubling past. And we understand, dealing with the past is sometimes more difficult for the perpetrator than for the victim; questions need to be answered, and for some, that past is shameful.
We will not discuss with Serbia or anyone the establishment and the creation of our owned Armed Forces. That is a legitimate and a sovereign decision of the Kosovo Government.
While the President of Kosovo has established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, because we believe every family, every victim, regardless of their ethnicity deserves truth and justice. Nevertheless, what we heard from the President of Serbia in January was a call for a war. Now, obviously, there will be no war. We all know how the last one ended. But in order to build sustainable peace, absence of war is not enough. And, let me be clear, we in Kosovo will not be distracted, we know exactly who we are and we know exactly what we want. We want peace, dialogue, and reconciliation, but never, never submission.
Young, dedicated, and selfless youngsters are writing and are making us proud every day our history. Like Majlinda Kelmendi, rewining the world championship in Judo, and Arta Dobroshi and Shpat Deda who working together with British producers, just brought home our first BAFTA award.
In the real world ladies and gentleman, beyond the political troubles and turmoil, there is a Kosovo, where youngsters try hard, challenge the boundaries imposed by politics, dream big, and never shy us out.
And I would like to invite all of you to come and visit, so you are convinced with your own eyes what Kosovo looks like today.