Chicago: A United Nations Security Council status update on efforts to achieve a final peace between Serbia and Kosovo turned into nearly four hours of name calling with accusations blaming each side for everything from ethnic cleansing to intentional diplomatic obstruction.
The purpose of the meeting was to review a 26-page "monitoring report" issued by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, headed by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Caroline Ziadeh that spelled actions taken to ease tensions and provide support.
But rather than address the report, representatives for Serbia and Kosovo instead outlined grievances blocking their hopes for peace during the three and one-half hour session that prompted most other participating nations to take rhetorical sides.
UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General head of UN Interim Administration Mission (UNIAM) in Kosovo, Caroline Ziadeh of Lebanon opened the session with encouraging words summarizing monitoring efforts and acknowledging agreements previously signed by Serbia and Kosovo leaders including those recently in Brussels intended to achieve "normalization."
"Our focus is on the empowerment of communities to flourish in spaces where ethically divided prejudice and political rhetoric are being transcended. Trust building can directly help light the path to political normalization," Ziadeh, who is from Lebanon, told the Security Council members and participants.
"Together these approaches mark a genuine path towards a more sustainable, peaceful and ultimately prosperous future for all."
Ziadeh emphasized that the two sides need to "overcome divisions caused by miscommunication and by frequent political invective, acknowledging "accusative rhetoric," "pitfalls" and "insufficient political will" without naming names.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Serbia, Ivica Dacic vowed to abide by peaceful negotiations but said the efforts to achieve "normalization" are being sidelined by Kosovo's efforts to win independent statehood and EU membership wirthout addressing the suffering and losses by Serbian citizens of Kosovo who have been forced to leave because of discrimination and tensions since the two territories separated.
"The harsh truth is that Kosovo and Metohija in the past 20 years has turned from a multi-ethnic environment into an almost ethnically pure territory," Dacic said.
"In Krishna, more than 40,000 Serbs used to live while today there are less than 100 of them. In the ancient imperial city of Prizren where I was born and in which today I need permission to visit, there used to be 10,000 Serbs and today there are only 20 left."
Dacic praised Ziadeh's efforts, but stressed that the situation in Kosovo is "complex and distrubing."
"I am convinced the efforts of the Special Representative of the Security General, Miss Ziadeh, have constructive intentions ... however the fact is the report we are considering today is not and will never be sufficient for a comprehensive and essential understanding of all of the implications of security and other challenges in Kosovo and Metohija and regional and global flows."
Dacic said noted that the Serbian population of Kosovo has been pushed out and no effort has been made to allow them to return to their homes or properties.
"There is still an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and pressure towards Serbs and other Albanians on the ground," Dacic said.
"The harsh truth is that Kosovo and Metohija in the past 20 years has turned from a multi-ethnic environment into an almost ethnically pure territory. ... In Krishna, more than 40,000 Serbs used to live while today there are less than 100 of them. In the ancient imperial city or Prism where I was born and in which today I need permission to visit, there used to be 10,000 Serbs and today there are only 20 left."
Claiming that four of Serbia's most important Orthodox Churches in Kosovo built in the 1300s and on UNESCO's World Heritage Endager list have experienced serious damage.
"There is no way that Kosovo can become a member of the United Nations because they do not have a majority ... we are absolutely devoted to dialogue. ... The other side is only interested in the independence of Kosovo. This agreement in Brussels is not an agreement on recognizing each other but on normalizing further relations," Dacic said.
"The obligation taken 10 years ago to form the Association of Serbian Municipalities is something that needs to happen now, otherwise there won't be any kind of an agreement."
Kosovo political leader Donika Gervalla-Schwarz responded to Dacic's assertions, accusing them of blocking the agreements signed in Brussels. She called Serbia's leaders including Dacic as "cul[prits" in "this breach of contract."
"Their political DNA makes it impossible for them to keep their word. It promises, and given signatures are not honored. Negotiations become a farce. This is uncivilized. This is outrageous. And this is a sign of disrespect to the entire diplomatic community. The Serbian strategy is to block Balkan integration into Europe. And behind this attempts in power are the Russian working via Serbia it's Balkan process. When dealing with people who engage in dishonest and unfair behavior, it is important to take punitive action rather than negotiate with them. More and more voices in Europe from Kosovo to the Netherlands and Germany are now calling for sanctions against Serbia. Because you don't negotiate with cheaters, you face them with the consequences," Gervalla-Schwarz retorted.
"EU integration will eventually move forward without Serbia. This is not only true or the Berlin process but also for the EU project of the common regional market which promotes integration into the EU market and this applies to the dialogue between the Republic of Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia has largely disregarded signed agreements from 2011, 2013 and 2015."
Gervalla-Schwarz said that Kosovans were the "victims of genocide and brutality" by the Serbians and accused the Serbian leadership of fomenting "racism, hate and incitement."
Several nations spoke in calmer terms urging the two sides to persist in following the "path of peace" towards normalization including an officials with the United Arab Emirates.
"Peace is not a simple story of before and after. There are many chapters," said Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, United Arab Emirates Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
"The recent agreement between Serbia and Kosovo is the most significant breakthrough in relations between both states in over a decade, and we must all support this welcome trajectory. ... there is a path forward."