Kosovo – time to change the paradigm

With the Quint peacekeepers – KFOR and EULEX – employing force to impose a one-sided regime, the peacekeeping phase has now reached its end and it is time to impose a settlement that clears the way for real peace.

Personally endorse the principles of conflict transformation!

By Gerard M. Gallucci

The continued attempts by the Quint and Pristina to settle the status of north Kosovo through the use of force may have instead closed the door to existing formulas for achieving compromise. NATO’s effort on June 1 to forcibly open roads in north Kosovo led to another round of violence. People on both sides injured. KFOR justified its actions as part of its mandate to ensure freedom of movement. But what it actually did went against its fundamental responsibility of maintaining peace. The barricades removed hurt no one but were seen by the local Serbs as a means of defending themselves against the type of unilateral actions thrown against them by Pristina and its international supporters since July 2011. The barricades had become a porous but stable element of peace and security in the north. NATO’s attack on them has clearly made KFOR a peace-breaker rather than a peacekeeper.

The order for KFOR to upset peace and calm in Kosovo must have come from some cabbadost somewhere within the Quint who has not yet learned the lesson that force won’t subdue the Serbs. People are never convinced of the position of those who repress simply because they are subject to acts of repression. Didn’t work in Libya, Egypt, or Tunisia and isn’t working in Syria. The northern Kosovo Serbs have not surrendered and are unlikely to do so now. Indeed, the recent actions – Pristina’s political arrest of a Serb staff member of UNMIK and the June 1 assault by NATO – will only harden their resistance to being included in the Albanian-dominated “independent” Kosovo. Perhaps that was the aim of some.

It may also have been that these Quint “thick-heads” thought it a good thing to teach the new Serbian President a “lesson” just as he takes office. Lay down the law – demanding he give up Kosovo – and present him with the brute reality that NATO and the EU can make his political life miserable by upping the ante there. They probably also saw this as a good way to “soften” up the local Serbs – like an off-shore artillery barrage or some bombs from the sky – before pushing them to accept the Potemkin administration being put up by Pristina. This hasn’t worked and won’t work. More likely it has closed the door for any compromise reached through dialogue.

So, it seems time to recognize that any effort to find a compromise that keeps north Kosovo within the territory of Kosovo as established under UNSCR 1244 also won’t work. With the behavior of the Quint and the Albanians since 2009, the Serbs have absolutely no reason to trust any agreement that puts them in any relationship whatsoever with Pristina. Finding a formula for allowing full Serbian authority to return to the region north of the Ibar may now be the only way to provide long-term peace and stability and set the stage for a fuller accommodation on the independence of the rest of Kosovo.

This would not be partition but simply drawing the line on the partition of Kosovo out of Serbia. (When Ireland became independent, the north remained part of the UK.) It could be accomplished in at least three ways: Serbia could simply assert its right to return to that part of Kosovo it still effectively controls (just as the Albanians took their part); Serbian police could be allowed to return to north Kosovo under the existing provisions of 1244; or a new UNSC resolution could be passed ending UN and NATO peacekeeping in Kosovo while recognizing the Ibar as the new dividing line between the contending parties. None of this would require Belgrade’s recognition of independent Kosovo but would clear the way for it as part of a rapprochement of neighbors within the context of Europe.

The Kosovo Albanian leadership would complain, threaten instability in south Serbia and Macedonia and raise the specter of resorting to a Greater Albania. Kosovo will need continued EU mentoring and assistance for some time to come. But dealing with these issues are something the Quint signed up to in supporting the UDI in 2008. It’s no reason to avoid recognizing the reality that Pristina cannot rule the north.

Of course, Serbia cannot expect to ever rule over Kosovo south of the Ibar. It would be better for everyone to accept that and move on. It could instead engage in productive relations with Kosovo and in the interests of Serbs living south of the Ibar.

Peacekeeping has reached its end in Kosovo because the Quint peacekeepers – KFOR and EULEX – took sides and have sought to use force to impose a one-sided regime. UNMIK is unable to do anything but hold a line that the internationals no longer seem to value. It’s time to move on, end the “peacekeeping” phase and impose a settlement that clears the way for a real peace.

Gerard M. Gallucci is a retired US diplomat and UN peacekeeper. He worked as part of US efforts to resolve the conflicts in Angola, South Africa and Sudan and as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council. He served as UN Regional Representative in Mitrovica, Kosovo from July 2005 until October 2008 and as Chief of Staff for the UN mission in East Timor from November 2008 until June 2010. Gerard is also a member of TransConflict’s Advisory Board.

To read TransConflict’s policy paper, written by Gerard and entitled ‘The Ahtisaari Plan and North Kosovo’, please click here.

To read other articles by Gerard for TransConflict, please click here.

To learn more about both Serbia and Kosovo, please check out TransConflict’s new reading lists series by clicking here.

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