Kosovo: UN envoy to present ‘very clear statement’ on future status by end of March

8 February 2007

The United Nations envoy for the future status of Kosovo said today that any suggestion implying that the provisional plan he presented last week meant independence for the Albanian-majority Serbian province, which the UN has run since 1999, came from the parties, and he hoped to make his own view “very clear” by the end of March.

Under the plan Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for the status process, Martti Ahtisaari, presented to Serbian and ethnic Albanian Kosovo authorities on Friday, the province would have the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, with an international civilian and military presence supervising the new arrangements and helping to ensure peace and stability.

At a news conference today at UN Headquarters in New York, where he was meeting with Mr. Ban and other senior officials on the status issue, Mr. Ahtisaari was asked if he would characterize his proposed plan as independence in all but name.

Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians who outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1 in the province, which the UN has run ever since North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid brutal ethnic fighting.

“Both parties have drawn the conclusion supposedly on the basis of this package that if I were to interpret them and not say what my view is, or either say I approve it or not… it looks like they are seeing this package as meaning independence which will be supervised by the international community,” Mr. Ahtisaari replied.

He noted that he was discussing his plan over the coming weeks with the parties for possible constructive amendments and, allowing for a week to 10-days delay that Serbia is reportedly seeking after its recent election, he hoped to be able to send a final version, elaborating on the status issue, to the Security Council before the end of March. “There will be a very clear statement on that,” he added.

Mr. Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president with long UN experience in a wide range of areas, stressed the grave economic state the province is in. “Everyone in Kosovo agrees that the dire economic situation needs most urgent attention,” he said, noting that his settlement plan outlines provisions enabling sustainable economic development.

“The aim of the settlement is to lay the foundation for a future Kosovo that is viable and stable, a future Kosovo where members of all communities, Albanians, Serbs and other communities can live a dignified, safe and economically more sustainable life,” he declared.

Under the plan presented to the sides last week, European Union (EU) Special Representative would act as an International Civilian Representative, with ultimate supervisory authority over civilian aspects of the settlement, including the power to annul laws and remove officials whose actions are determined to be inconsistent with it.

A European Security and Defence Policy Mission will monitor all areas related to the rule of law, helping to develop efficient, fair and representative police, judicial, customs and penal institutions, and having the authority to assume other responsibilities to ensure the maintenance and promotion of the rule of law, public order and security.

An International Military Presence led by NATO will provide a safe and secure environment and support of Kosovo’s institutions until such time as those institutions are capable of assuming the full-range of security responsibilities.

Other provisions call for a constitution enshrining the needed principles to protect cultural, language, religious and education rights, and wide-ranging decentralization focusing in particular on the specific needs of the Serb community.

All refugees and internally displaced persons will have the right to return and reclaim their property and possessions, with Kosovo and Serbia cooperating fully with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resolve the fate of missing persons.

In 1999, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians fled, returning only after NATO’s intervention, when an estimated 250,000 Serbs and others left after the withdrawal of Serbian forces. Only some 16,000 of these have so far returned.

 

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