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UN envoy warns against delays to decision on Kosovo’s final status

UN envoy warns against delays to decision on Kosovo’s final status

Joachim Rücker
Any delay to the process of determining Kosovo’s final status could make a sustainable solution impossible to attain, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission to the Serbian province (UNMIK) told the Security Council today.

Joachim Rücker, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told a closed-door Council session that there were high expectations among Kosovo’s population for a timely solution.

“It’s very important that the momentum in the status process is kept,” Mr. Rücker told journalists after the meeting, adding that he had used his briefing to inform Council members about the perceptions on the ground about the process.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari for the future status process issued a proposal under which Kosovo 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.

Serbia rejects independence, a goal sought by many ethnic Albanians who outnumber Serbs and other minorities by 9 to 1 in the province, which has been run by the UN since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.

Earlier this month Mr. Ahtisaari’s office said Serbia and the ethnic Albanian government of Kosovo remain “diametrically opposed” on the issue, despite a week-long round of talks in Vienna. The envoy later issued a revised proposal and Mr. Ban plans to submit a final version to the Council by the end of this month.

Mr. Rücker told the Council that everyone in Kosovo deserved a clear sense of its permanent future, according to a press release issued by UNMIK following the meeting.

“The Kosovo Serbs need this clarity in order to gather the strength to take the decision they must take: to accept the hand extended to them by the Kosovo institutions and become an engaged part of Kosovo’s society,” he said.

“The Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo’s other communities also need clarity on status to feel secure that the future they and their leaders are building is permanent and is sustainable after nearly eight years of international administration.”

The envoy said Kosovo Albanian leaders had made efforts to promote patience among their own community and to encourage Kosovo Serbs to be more supportive.

“Not without success, the political leaders are intensifying efforts to reach out to Kosovo Serbs and reassure them that the status proposal contains a host of arrangements carefully designed to fully protect their rights, interests and identity,” he said.

Mr. Rücker also told the Council session that Kosovo’s provisional institutions of self-government (PISG) remained steady in their commitment to implementing the standards, eight overall targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.

But he said that in many cases this has not translated into material improvements in the living conditions of the province’s ethnic Serbs, largely because so many Kosovo Serbs were unwilling to participate in the PISG or accept opportunities offered by the government and municipalities.

“All too often, their non-participation in the institutions appears linked to the stance of Belgrade, which has continued to threaten Kosovo Serb civil servants with cutting off their salaries if they remain on the legitimate payroll of the PISG.

“Belgrade has continued to make statements discouraging returns and politicizing security incidents, which creates an objectively unjustified climate of fear,” he said, calling on the Serbian Government to support the participation of Kosovo Serbs in the PISG.