United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette arrived today in Kosovo, where she is slated to hold talks with senior officials and meet with peacekeepers as part of her ongoing bid to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by blue helmets.
Speaking to the press at the airport in Pristina, Ms. Fréchette said she would be reviewing the situation of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) with its chief, Søren Jessen-Petersen.
“Part of my focus will be also to look at the measures that have been taken by UNMIK to prevent and ensure that there is no sexual exploitation on the part of our people here,” she said, adding that the UN is working “to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to prevent” the practice.
The Deputy Secretary-General said she looks forward to discussions with the leadership of the mission as well as with the President and the Prime Minister. “It will be a quick visit but it is a very important mission for the UN and I am sure it will be a very productive one.”
On Saturday, Mr. Jessen-Petersen said 2005 is a decisive year for Kosovo, citing broad-based agreement on the way forward, and a clear timetable that could lead to the beginning of negotiations on final status in the second half of this year.
“It is essential, not only for Kosovo but also for Serbia and Montenegro and the wider region, that we seize this opportunity to contribute to the normalisation and stabilisation of the region,” he said in an address to the Bertelsmann Foundation Forum in Zagreb.
The envoy recalled that the Security Council has strongly backed Secretary General Kofi Annan's recommendation to move ahead this month with a comprehensive review of progress in implementing standards needed to build a rule of law based, multi-ethnic and democratic society. He said there had been “tangible progress,” but acknowledged “room for significant further improvement in some areas, notably in the field of freedom of movement and returns of internally displaced persons.”
With Kai Eide, currently Norwegian Ambassador to NATO, just appointed to undertake the comprehensive review, Mr. Jessen-Petersen said that process was expected to be completed by late summer. If the review finds sufficient progress, status talks would then start later in autumn, most probably beginning of October, he added.
“Elements are in place now for tackling the Kosovo quandary,” he declared. But for this effort to succeed, he cautioned that the European Union “must remain focused, engaged, and in step with its international partners, including the United States.”
That, he said, would be the only way to “move Kosovo from what is still a holding operation toward a durable solution.”