The United Nations administrator of Kosovo today called on Serbia to reverse its calls to ethnic Serbs to boycott institutions in the Albanian-majority Serbian province which the world body has run ever since the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 after grave rights abuses.
“I am deeply disturbed by Belgrade’s continued policy to urge Kosovo Serbs to boycott and now to leave the institutions in Kosovo,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen told a two-day workshop on the new ‘Strategy and Action Plan on Communities and Returns for Kosovo’ in Pristina, the provincial capital.
“We are here today to lay the foundation for return. Belgrade’s policies work in the opposite direction. I appeal to Belgrade to act in the interest of the people of Kosovo,” he added.
The return of Serbs who fled Kosovo, where Albanians outnumber other minorities 9-1, and the establishment of confidence between the communities are considered essential steps for restoring stability to and deciding the final status of the province.
It is vital that “the painful chapter of displacement must be closed for the families, for the society and for Kosovo,” Mr. Jessen-Petersen said, calling for a “rights-based approach” that allows free and informed decisions for all displaced people.
Actions and initiatives must instil confidence into each and every person, irrespective of ethnicity, to remain in Kosovo or to return to Kosovo in safety and dignity, he added.
He stressed the importance of addressing the key concerns of the displaced in such areas as their own personal and family security, housing, access to commercial and agricultural property, jobs, education, healthcare and access to water and electricity.
He thanked Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Çeku, who inaugurated the workshop along with him, for his unequivocal support to solving the plight of displaced Kosovars, particularly the special needs of minorities who want to return to a peaceful life.
Final status talks have already begun with delegations from Kosovo and Serbia meeting in Vienna under UN auspices to discuss decentralization. Independence and autonomy are among the options. Serbia rejects independence.