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UN envoy welcomes election of new government in Kosovo

UN envoy welcomes election of new government in Kosovo

The United Nations administrator of Kosovo today welcomed the Kosovo Assembly's election of a new government, following the previous prime minister's resignation and surrender on war crimes charges earlier this month, as reflecting the province's democratic process and the proper functioning of institutions which have shown political maturity within the constitutional framework.

"I also welcome Prime Minister (Bajram) Kosumi's expressed intention to reach out to the opposition, pledging to involve them fully in the important issues facing Kosovan society," Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Søren Jessen-Petersen said.

The UN has run Kosovo since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave human rights abuses in the fighting between Serbs and Albanians. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo outnumber other ethnic groups, mainly Serbs, by about 9 to 1.

On 14 March ethnic Albanian Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj entered a not guilty plea at the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the Netherlands, after having been indicted on 17 counts of crimes against humanity and 20 counts of war crimes for his role as a guerrilla commander in the 1998-99 fighting.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen noted that in a few months the next technical assessment had to be produced on the progress of the so-called Standards, eight targets to build trust between Albanians and Serbs, such as democratic institutions, minority rights and an impartial legal system, that have to be met before talks start on the final status of the province later this year.

"We have less than three months before the next assessment of Standards implementation and it is critical that the new government build upon the hard work of the past few months and maintain both the momentum and focus on the priority Standards," he said.

"We need to make even greater and faster progress in those Standards that have to do with improving the living conditions of the minorities, especially the Kosovo Serbs," he added.

Those issues would involve the return of displaced persons and direct dialogue between officials in Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, and in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, the administrator said.