Briefing the Security Council today on efforts to engage Kosovo Serbs in the forthcoming province-wide elections, a senior United Nations official called on Belgrade to encourage Serb participation in the political process.
Addressing an open meeting of the Council, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, urged the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to "fully support" UN efforts to have "as many Kosovo Serbs register as possible and to encourage them to participate in the elections" scheduled for 17 November.
The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is in the midst of voter registration, which began on 30 July and is set to run until 8 September. Over 39,000 people have registered in Kosovo, over 25,000 in Serbia and some 500 in Montenegro, while the International Organisation for Migration in Vienna has received nearly 28,000 mail-in applications.
Calling the registration figures "disappointingly low," especially for the Kosovo Serb community, Mr. Guehenno stressed that over the weekend both Yugoslav President Kostunica and Prime Minister Djindjic had called on Kosovo Serbs to register. "We hope that now Kosovo Serbs will register in greater numbers," said the Under-Secretary-General.
Mr. Guéhenno reported progress in relations with Belgrade, primarily on the issues of missing persons and returns. Efforts were continuing to develop instruments of law and order enforcement, including legislation against organized crime and a refurbished witness protection programme, he noted.
Mr. Guéhenno said UNMIK and the international security force, KFOR, remained committed to countering Albanian extremism and severing possible ties between radical Kosovo elements and the National Liberation Army in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Since 31 May, KFOR had detained over 600 individuals and seized over 600 rifles, 1,400 grenades, 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 139,000 rounds of ammunition, mainly in the border area.
In the ensuing debate, in which 18 countries took part, speakers stressed the importance of all ethnic groups participating in the elections, and underscored the need to ensure the return of refugees, guarantee law and order, and curb the activities of Albanian extremists.