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Ban Ki-moon receives proposals for future status of UN-administered Kosovo

Ban Ki-moon receives proposals for future status of UN-administered Kosovo

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today received his Special Envoy’s plan for the future status of Kosovo – the ethnic Albanian majority Serbian province that the United Nations has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting – after efforts to reach a compromise with the two sides ended in deadlock.

Mr. Ban will now study the proposals drawn up by Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and presented to him at UN Headquarters in New York by Mr. Ahtisaari’s deputy, Albert Rohan, and send them on to the Security Council.

Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many Albanians who outnumber Serbs and others in the province by 9 to 1, and after neither side showed any will to reach a negotiated accord at final talks in Vienna last Saturday, Mr. Ahtisaari said he would submit a “realistic compromise” himself.

The initial plan he put forward last month would give Kosovo the right to govern itself and conclude international agreements, including membership in international bodies, under international civilian and military supervision to help to ensure peace and stability.

Both sides interpreted this as meaning independence supervised by the international community. While Serbia has consistently rejected any notion of independence, some Kosovo Albanians demonstrated for immediate self-determination.

Mr. Ahtisaari himself has declined to be drawn publicly on the independence issue but has said he will make “a very clear statement” in the report submitted to Mr. Ban today.

The plan unveiled in February, which Mr. Ahtisaari said then could be refined in the light of “constructive amendments” made by the sides, addressed the needs of a multi-ethnic society and called for wide-ranging decentralization, giving Serbs a high degree of control over their own affairs such as secondary health care, higher education and finance, and setting up six new or significantly expanded Serb majority municipalities.

This was a point stressed today by Kosovo’s UN administrator Joachim Rücker, who said Serbs and other communities would have a good future under Mr. Ahtisaari’s proposals.

“A very extensive part of the status proposal is about making sure that the Kosovo Serbs and other communities feel secure and have a prosperous future in Kosovo,” he told Serbs and Croats in an outreach meeting the town of Vërboc/Vrbovac.

“The municipalities are meant to add to the cohesion of post-status Kosovo and not to divide it,” Mr. Rücker stressed, noting that the proposed decentralization will create new municipalities with clear lines of responsibilities between local and central institutions.

He called on Serbs to participate in the province’s political process, from which they have stood largely apart since the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) took over after NATO forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999.