A large part of the troubles that Serbia is facing today in finding a solution to the issue of Kosovo arises from a long-standing blind belief that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 is some sort of solid anchor that holds Kosovo to Serbia.
In Serbia, the number 1244 became, step by step, the myth of almost the same magic power as the number 1389 (the year of the Battle of Kosovo). However, not many have read with an open mind the famous Resolution and tried to rationalize it in the context of life, to which they were personally exposed. Back in 1999, it was easier not to read what was written, but rather to accept Milosevic’s reading that Resolution 1244 preserves the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the FRY / Serbia and that this decision of the Security Council is actually a thumbs up at the just struggle of Serbia and its people.
And Serbs have been holding to such an interpretation of Milosevic’s losing policy, without checking it again, for 24 years. And in that time, Kosovo strengthened its independence more and more, and Serbia increasingly lost connection with its former province.
Today, on the eve of big decisions, it would be very helpful to turn to Resolution 1244. Because, we should finally ask ourselves – why are the Kosovo Albanians pushing the Resolution 1244 when defending their own thing and why each state that recognized Kosovo’s independence did so by referring to Resolution 1244? Why is that decision by the Security Council, for many Serbs, still a Holy Bible?
First, Resolution 1244 did not fall from the sky. Just over a year before it entered into force, it was preceded by four Security Council resolutions that dealt with the conflict in Kosovo, civilian casualties, refugees and warnings that peace was dangerously at stake. The Security Council made all these decisions by referring to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which discusses the involvement of the world organization in the resolution of armed conflicts.
The first of the four resolutions preceding 1244 was from March 1998, a year before the NATO bombings. Even then, the Security Council seriously warned Serbia that its forces use violence against civilians, and also warned the KLA to suspend its actions.
The embargo on arms imports was introduced to the FR of Yugoslavia at the time, and the United States froze assets and accounts for those close to the government and Milosevic. The Security Council has already asked the Hague Tribunal to collect information about possible crimes committed against civilians in Kosovo.
Where can you find stronger warning that there is something wrong with your policy, especially if you have in mind that for this resolution (No. 1160) Russia also voted (Russia will not be against any of the four following resolutions dedicated to Kosovo).
In the next resolution 1199 of September 23, 1998, the Security Council condemns the use of the force of Serbian security forces and the Army, resulting in the exodus of 230,000 Kosovo Albanians (according to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan)!
Again, the Security Council calls for a peaceful, political solution that will provide Kosovo with “autonomy and self-determination”, pay attention here, since these pre-1244 decisions and recommendations will later bring forth the legal framework for the declaration of Kosovo’s independence. Once again, all members of the Security Council (and Russia) vote for this resolution, except for China, which traditionally considers this to be an internal rather than an international issue.
Just a month later, the Security Council, dramatically concludes that peace is threatened, calls again on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, urges the FRY to implement earlier resolutions, and the occasion was a massacre in the village of Gornje Obrinje in Kosovo, where Serb security forces killed more than 20 Albanian civilians, including women and children. The Security Council accepts and supports the agreement that the OSCE Verification Mission comes to Kosovo, whose chief then was William Walker.
Finally, in the midst of the bombing, on May 14, 1999, the Security Council, with a new resolution, dramatically warns of a humanitarian catastrophe on and around Kosovo and calls for access to its staff in endangered areas.
After three months of bombing, an “immortal” Resolution 1244 arrives, which reminds and refers to all these previous warnings and in particular to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the World Organization to use non-armed methods to resolve the conflict which threatens the peace before reaching for the arms.
This was precisely what was done before the bombing (arms embargo, constant warnings, calling for political talks, sending humanitarian missions …), but we have ignored that.
Resolution 1244, the Serbian “Holy Bible”, says that peace is violated by “acts of violence against the inhabitants of Kosovo”, which were, therefore, committed by government forces, as well as “terrorist acts of any side”. The same resolution in many places gives solutions for Kosovo from the Rambouillet Agreement (1999), which Serbia triumphantly refused to sign. Nevertheless, it was later accepted, through parts of Resolution 1244, after the destruction of the country in a three-month bombing.
It is true that Resolution 1244 respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the then FRY, but also demands “full respect” of the Rambouillet Agreement! It is precisely this agreement that calls for launching an international mechanism to determine Kosovo’s final status after three years.
And look based on what – “the will of the people, the opinions of the relevant authorities, the Helsinki Final Act and the participation of all parties in the implementation of the Rambouillet Agreement”. So – the will of the people of Kosovo (Albanians), the principle of self-determination (Helsinki Final Act).
Therefore, Resolution 1244 can be a completely legitimate “Holy Bible” for the Kosovo Albanians and their declaration of independence, as well as for all those in the world who have recognized this independence.
Resolution 1244, therefore, is not an anchor that binds Kosovo to Serbia; it’s more like something insecure that Serbia held on to in 1999, in the wake of the propaganda of a losing and disastrous policy, which seamlessly sought an excuse for its own defeat. It should not be the Serbian “Holy Bible”, because its significance in today’s real political relations is irrelevant.
This resolution resides on the fact that it is the only remaining political tie that connects the interests of some in Serbia and all in the Kremlin, and in this lies the only secret of its longevity. If Serbia gives up the figure 1244, as an argument in the really difficult and crucial phase of the struggle for lasting peace between Serbs and Albanians, it will be a great service both for Serbia and its future.