Despite some progress in Kosovo since violent clashes in March, the province faces an uphill challenge in moving forward along the path of normalization, ethnic reconciliation, strengthening its still-fledgling democratic institutions, and creating a tolerant, inclusive society, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.
In a public briefing, Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, welcomed the commitment shown by Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb leaders to the creation of a multiethnic Kosovo, as well as efforts to move the political process forward.
"Developments since March have shown that although responsibility for progress ultimately rested with Kosovo's representatives and its people, the international community's - and this Council's - consistent support and active engagement remain indispensable," he stressed.
Two days of widespread violence in March left 19 people dead and hundreds of homes and religious and cultural sites damaged or destroyed. While there has been much reconstruction, nearly 2,400 people remain displaced as a result of the unrest.
Kosovo minority communities, especially the Kosovo Serbs, "continue to live in precarious security conditions," Mr. Annabi said, calling for the necessary improvements that would allow all the province's displaced people to "feel confident enough to return to their homes."
Mr. Annabi said that since March, work in Kosovo has focused on fostering confidence between communities and advancing their dialogue. He reported progress in the standards implementation process - a scheme to reach goals necessary to making a determination on Kosovo's status - but called on Kosovo Serbs to engage in the effort "in order to address their concerns."
The peacekeeping official also saw advancement in joint efforts by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the Provisional Institutions to reform the local government.
Looking to elections scheduled for October, Mr. Annabi stressed that operational responsibility for the polling rests with the people of Kosovo. "While the technical groundwork for inclusive elections with the participation of all of Kosovo's communities is being laid, the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the elections remains unsure," he said, pledging UNMIK's continued efforts to secure their involvement.
"Participation in the democratic electoral process and a re-engagement in Kosovo's Provisional Institutions are in the interests of Kosovo Serbs, and the international community's concerted support for efforts to ensure their participation is crucial," he emphasized.
Zoran Loncar, Serbia’s Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of Serbia, told the Council that although much of the political effort had been aimed at alleviating the consequences of the attempted “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo in March, the consequences of the pogrom by Kosovo Albanian extremists and terrorists committed against the Serbs were far from being addressed. As it was virtually impossible for international troops and the civilian presence to effectively protect basic human rights of Serbs, the Government of Serbia had proposed in April a plan for a political solution through territorial autonomy and firm institutional guarantees.
For his part, Ambassador Agim Nesho of Albania called for the rapid implementation of the “standards before status” policy and the creation of a democratic and multi-ethnic society where the rule of law and tolerance prevailed. That could only be achieved when the legitimate organs of Kosovo’s democratic institutions possessed complete responsibility for their society. For that to happen, it was necessary to transfer UNMIK’s competences to Kosovo’s executive institutions, and to restructure the Mission’s role from a monitoring and decision-making body to an advisory one, he said. In addition, he supported an expanded dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, and pledged Albania’s commitment to furthering its dialogue with Serbia and Montenegro.
Video of Council meeting [2hrs 40mins]