New top UN envoy in Kosovo visits flashpoint city of Mitrovica

28 August 2003

The new top United Nations envoy for Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, today visited Mitrovica, a flashpoint of tension between ethnic Albanians and Serbs over the past two years, urging the people to break the cycle of violence and seek reconciliation and underlining his own commitment to bring the communities closer.

But, he added, “We cannot bring people together by force.”

Mr. Holkeri, a former Finnish prime minister was appointed Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative and head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) last month to succeed Michael Steiner, a German diplomat.

He again condemned the killing of two Serbian teenagers and the wounding of four others by unknown gunmen while they were swimming in a river in the Pec/Peja region earlier this month, and a gun attack this week in Bica/Binxhe.

“These horrendous acts were carried out by the enemies of Kosovo’s future,” Mr. Holkeri said. “No stone will be left unturned until those responsible for the crimes committed in Kosovo are found.”

Mr. Holkeri told journalists at the Cultural Centre, by the Mitrovica bridge that separates the mainly Albanian and Serbian sections of the city, that art and culture had an important role in bringing people closer together.

“Art is a universal language,” he said. “The more dialogue we can facilitate, the more people will recognize their common interest in cooperation. Let us all learn from the arts and work for reconciliation.”

“I hope this centre will increasingly function as a place where people from both sides of the Ibar River meet and discover what is common to them, through art and through culture,” he added.

 

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