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UN urges resumed talks between Kosovo and Serbia on conflict’s toll of missing

UN urges resumed talks between Kosovo and Serbia on conflict’s toll of missing

UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen
The United Nations administrator for Kosovo today called for a resumption of direct talks between Serbia and the province to resolve the issue of more than 3,000 people still missing five years after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid ethnic fighting between Albanians and Serbs.

“This is above all else a humanitarian issue,” Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen said in Geneva, where he met with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger.

“The families of missing persons have been suffering for a long time. I am grateful for the ICRC’s offer to take a lead role in facilitating dialogue because we now need to move on this issue. It has been dormant for too long.”

Further delays, he added, would only aggravate the suffering of families in all the communities involved. They had a right to know what had happened to their loved ones.

The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has run the province since 1999, “is ready to move on this issue straight away with the backing of the international community,” Mr. Jessen-Petersen said.

A resumption of direct dialogue between the two sides would accelerate the process of returning mortal remains. Better exchange of information would also help overcome technical difficulties and make it easier to determine the whereabouts of missing persons, as well as improve coordination between the different agencies involved.

Mr. Kellenberger reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to chairing a working group bringing together representatives of the two sides, which has only met once since it was set up in March 2004, to find out what has happened to the missing.