Kosovo: UN envoy urges leaders to avoid ‘unilateral actions’ after delay on final status

13 November 2006

Just days after a United Nations proposal for the future of Kosovo was postponed, the top UN envoy there warned its leaders against talk of “unilateral actions” in the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.

Just days after a United Nations proposal for the future of Kosovo was postponed, the top UN envoy there warned its leaders against talk of “unilateral actions” in the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.

“It is paramount that all Kosovo leaders continue to fully subscribe to the Guiding Principles set out by the Contact Group in November 2005,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker said after meeting with Prime Minister Agim Çeku and the commander of the international KFOR force Lt.-Gen. Roland Kather.

The Guiding Principles agreed to by the Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States), which is seeking to resolve the issue, stress that a settlement must conform with international standards of human rights and democracy and contain constitutional guarantees for the full participation of all ethnic groups.

Independence and autonomy are among the options for the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, but Serbia rejects independence.

“Any statements that allude to Kosovo taking unilateral actions are in contradiction to the Contact Group’s Guiding Principles,” Mr. Rücker said. “Such statements can undermine support for Kosovo at this crucial time.

“It is important that Kosovo leaders continue to reach out to the minority communities and work to promote reconciliation and dialogue. All communities should exercise restraint and show understanding at this sensitive stage of the status process.”

On Friday, Mr. Annan’s Special Envoy for Kosovo’s future status process, Martti Ahtisaari, who had been expected to present his proposal for Kosovo’s future to the parties soon, announced that he would now not do so until after Serbia’s parliamentary elections on 21 January.

Since his appointment a year ago, Mr. Ahtisaari has been holding talks with Kosovo and Serbian delegations in Vienna but these have not progressed beyond technical issues such as the decentralization of municipalities, dashing his hopes that the process would be completed by the end of this year. A major issue is providing sufficient security to encourage Serb refugees to return.

In his latest report in September Mr. Annan said he was disappointed that little common ground had emerged between the Serbian and Kosovar delegations, noting that they remain “committed to ‘substantial autonomy’ and ‘full independence’ respectively, with minimal space for negotiation.”

In early 1999, the province was the scene of atrocities and the forceful displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. After a three-month intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), culminating in the arrival of troops, most of the Albanian population returned to their homes within days.

But only some 15,600 returns of ethnic Serbs, Roma have been registered out of the estimated 250,000 who fled after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in 1999.

 

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