UN urges Serbia's leaders to encourage Kosovo Serbs to join in political process

UN urges Serbia's leaders to encourage Kosovo Serbs to join in political process

The United Nations administrator of Kosovo met with top Serbian leaders in Belgrade today and urged them to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in the political process in the province where Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities 9 to 1.

"Dialogue is not only the right platform for resolving all practical issues but also a good way to build mutual confidence and trust as Pristina (the Kosovo capital) and Belgrade (the Serbian capital) are moving closer to the issue of status," Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen said.

It is hoped that talks will start later this year on the final status of the Serbian province, which the UN has run since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between Serbs and Albanians.

Terming his talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica as "encouraging and constructive," Mr. Jessen-Petersen said: "I told the leaders that I personally will not comment on the final status – it is not within my mandate to do so; but I made it clear to them once again that partition of Kosovo is not an option as we move forward."

He welcomed the fact that several European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers agreed with this position, and also welcomed their statement that there should be no return to the situation before 1999. The administrator has repeatedly called for a free, democratic, multi-ethnic, stable and prosperous Kosovo.