Help Serbs and Albanians settle their differences in Kosovo!

A Civilian U.N. Authority Supported By NGOs for a Negotiated Settlement in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 24

August 1997

“The Serbs and Albanians have proved that they themselves are unable to start and sustain a process towards conflict-resolution and reconciliation. International attempts, lacking analysis as well as strategy, have failed, too. The overall situation has deteriorated and violence is escalating, slowly but surely. It simply cannot go on like that in the future and go well,” says Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation which has been engaged in the conflict in the Kosovo region of Serbia, Yugoslavia since 1991. “New thinking should be applied sooner rather than later,” he urges.

“With the breakdown in Albania, Serbia has lost the argument – never very credible – that the Kosovars want to unite with Albania. President Milosevic recently visited the region with no new proposals. The pragmatic non-violent policies of the Kosovar leadership is being undermined. The Kosovars have failed to prove that Serbs as people are their friends, for instance when they protested the temporary settlement of refugee Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia in Kosovo.

With its anti-Serbian diagnosis of ex-Yugoslavia’s conflicts, the international “community” in general and the United States – both under president George Bush and Bill Clinton – in particular gave the Kosovars reason to believe that an independent state was around the corner. In addition, Dr. Ibrahim Rugova was received everywhere as a statesman while, for years, few governments would receive any Serb government representative. However, with the Dayton Agreement and the international recognition of Yugoslavia, the Kosovars seem at a loss what to do. The United States now states no support for an independent republic of Kosova.

Symbolically they have long ago declared Kosova an independent state, a statement of position – rather than of interest, perhaps – from which they will have to back down when a serious negotiation process begins,” Jan Oberg continues. “But how can we help them do that, given the sacrifice by ordinary Albanians in consequence of that declaration?”

“Serbian repression continues unabated, feeding so well into the sentiments of Albanian nationalism, secessionism and terrorism that one would almost think hardliners on both sides had coordinated it – as we’ve seen elsewhere in former Yugoslavia. This state of affairs has a high moral, economic and political price for Belgrade. In addition it must be deplored that neither the student movement nor opposition parties in Serbia have anything to offer that could convince Kosovo-Albanians to change their course. Paradoxically – or perhaps logically – the Kosovo-Albanian leaders seem to think that the more hardline the message in Belgrade, the better for them. But that is a self-defeating attitude,” says Jan Oberg.

“It is time to seek constructive solutions to this potentially very dangerous situation.

The international so-called community’s and media’s attention to Bosnia and a few, selected indicted war criminals is pathetic given the problems in neighbouring republics, including those mounting in Macedonia where the Albanian minority is also in focus.

The Serbian leaders refuse any international governmental involvement in what they consider their internal affairs. But that is no longer a viable argument. One, the problems in the Kosovo region threaten potentially, inter-national stability. Second, the parties have made no progress toward a solution. Third, Serbia/Yugoslavia is now eager to become an integral part of the international community and seeks much needed aid, investment, loans, and recognition; to obtain that it has to accept economic interference by international finance and business interests. So, it can hardly have it both ways.

To break the deadlock, the best option is a combination of non-governmental mediation and involvement of the least biased and most conflict-resolution competent organization we have, namely the United Nations. A UN presence should be entirely non-military.

This is why the Transnational Foundation proposes the establishment of a civilian United Nations, or other international, Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement, UNTANS, in Serbia’s Kosovo province.

It aims to facilitate, in a context of order, safety and respect for human rights, a peaceful and longterm negotiated settlement of all conflict issues between Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on the one hand and the Albanian population in the region of Kosovo on the other.

The Authority shall take over parts of the administration of the Territory, Serbian as well as Albanian, for a period of up to three years and provide a Professional Negotiation Facility.

All military and paramilitary forces not deemed necessary for self-defence shall be replaced with Civil Police and monitors in the territory. Skilled multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Civil Affairs Officers are deployed together with qualified civilian volunteers from non-governmental organisations to monitor the UNTANS’s support among the inhabitants, serve as neutral “Third Party” mediators and instil trust. Peacebuilding, such as teaching conflict understanding, negotiations and reconciliation, is an integral part of the Authority.

This new type of international conflict management is not a protectorate. By refraining from stipulating what the final settlement should look like, it respects the rights of conflicting parties to search for their own solutions. Thus, it is violence-prevention and principled, professional negotiation in one.

The proposal consists of a draft treaty text with comments by the parties and the TFF and, thus, presents an indirect dialogue between the highest authorities on both sides &emdash; the first of its kind.

We appeal to actors in the international society to act creatively and in time. We are convinced that the parties do not want an escalation of uncontrolled violence but that it could anyhow happen. This proposal can provide the parties and the international society with an opportunity to avoid the worst and aspire to achieve the best.

The UNTANS concept is generally applicable to other conflicts, as an alternative to military or otherwise externally-imposed solutions.

 

——– Acquaint yourself with the full proposal ———


UNTANS. Conflict Mitigation for Kosovo
Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia concerning a United Nations Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement in Kosovo.

TFF, Lund Sweden 1996, 36 pages, 75 Swedish kronor or US$ 12 plus postage.

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