Kosovo – UNMIK refuses Quint gambit

An UNMIK presence in north Mitrovica – and the other three Serb-majority municipalities in the north – is required under UNSCR 1244 and remains the only available means to peacefully preserve the integrity of Kosovo’s boundaries as recognized by 1244.

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By Gerard M. Gallucci

Having written several days ago about a pending decision by UNMIK on the demand by the Kosovo government and the Quint to close its administrative office for north Mitrovica (UAM) and turn over its files to Pristina’s intended successor, it now appears that UNMIK will not play into this effort to unilaterally change the status quo on the ground in the north.

UNMIK appears to have not yet decided on whether to close or transition UAM or not. The leadership is aware of the impact of the Kosovo government’s decision to cut off UAM’s funding. But UNMIK is not free to disregard the Security Council and continues to view its office as the only legal government for north Mitrovica. Apparently, the UNMIK leadership was never consulted by Pristina or the International Community Office (ICO, the Quint agent for “supervising” Kosovo independence). The publicly released “demands” for UAM’s closure were made while the UNMIK leadership was out of Kosovo. It may have been an ICO/Pristina gambit to force UNMIK to break with UNSCR 1244.

The UNMIK Administration of north Mitrovica (UAM) was established by UNMIK in 2002 to preserve the legal integrity of Kosovo despite the inability of the Kosovo Albanian municipal government in south Mitrovica to govern there. It has served since then to preserve links across the two sides of the Ibar River and between the north and the Pristina government. This worked even after the UDI in March 2008. But the ICO wants to leave Kosovo this year and is in a hurry to bring the north to heel. Pristina must have been only too happy to make use of this haste to mount a provocative challenge to the northern Kosovo Serbs that they knew would harden attitudes to negotiations. The Kosovo Albanian leadership does not want negotiations on the north, it just wants to have the north on its terms.

What UNMIK eventually does with the north Mitrovica office may still be up in the air. Without funds from Pristina, it really cannot contribute much in the way of services to the various communities there. But an UNMIK presence in north Mitrovica – and the other three Serb-majority municipalities in the north – is required under UNSCR 1244 and remains the only available means to peacefully preserve the integrity of Kosovo’s boundaries as recognized by 1244. The UN, and NATO, remain bound to the peacekeeping mandate that sent them there in 1999. The Quint is luckier than it appreciates that UNMIK remains on the job. KFOR cannot enforce any political objectives through use of force. UAM and UNMIK provide the political continuity that keeps open the door for a peaceful resolution to the remaining issues of Kosovo status.

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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