NATO now has two choices under its UN mandate, to escort those forces back south of the River or to open the border and allow Serbian forces to enter and provide security in the north (as allowed under 1244). This could then lead to Pristina agreeing to full implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan or to accept the partition of Kosovo.
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By Gerard Gallucci
Pristina has again sought to subdue northern Kosovo by force. NATO should have acted to prevent such efforts. Having failed to do so, NATO has two choices, to escort Pristina’s police back south of the Ibar River or to open the border to allow Serbian police and military forces to enter the four northern Serb majority municipalities to provide security there.
On May 26, the Kosovo government – led by Albanian nationalist Albin Kurti – sent its special police north of the Ibar to force Kosovo Albanian mayors there. Serbs boycotted these unilaterally-called elections allowing the Albanians to be elected with minority votes. NATO did not prevent the deployment and clashes between local inhabitants and Kosovo-Albanian police broke out. Serbia has put its forces on alert on the border. NATO and the Quint – the five Western supporters of Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence, including the U.S. – condemned Kurti’s actions and called on both sides to reduce tensions.
NATO acts in Kosovo under UNSCR 1244 by which the status of the territory – stilled claimed by Serbia – remains undetermined. In 2010, the ICJ decided (in the case of Kosovo) that international law is silent on declarations of independence. However, international law as established by the UN Charter is not silent on efforts to change borders through force, whether in Serbia or Ukraine. The UN and NATO entered Serbia’s province of Kosovo in 1999 under UNSCR 1244, which left it to the Security Council to recognize Kosovo’s final status through a new resolution. This never happened leaving Pristina – with Western support – to act as if it was sovereign and to claim the entire territory. NATO is not in Kosovo to support or allow either side to seek to settle that status by force. Nor is it there to serve the Western approach to status but rather the UN Security Council and therefore 1244.
The U.S. and EU have failed to managed their client “state” and to find a way to achieve a final settlement between Belgrade and Pristina. This has allowed a vacuum that Kurti uses to rule while the aid and Euros continue to flood into Pristina. In his most recent gambit, he used this lack of restraint on his actions – he was not elected with Western support and thumbs his nose at their exhortations – to put his stormtroopers into the north unopposed. NATO now has two choices under its UN mandate, to escort those forces back south of the River or to open the border and allow Serbian forces to enter and provide security in the north (as allowed under 1244). This could then lead to Pristina agreeing to full implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan or to accept the partition of Kosovo.
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. He was Diplomat-in-Residence at Drake University for the 2013-14 school year and now works as an independent consultant.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of TransConflict.