Kosovo’s communities remain far apart, says head of UN fact-finding group

2 May 2007

Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian and Serbian communities continue to lead largely separate existences and have very different outlooks on the future, which means creating an integrated, multi-ethnic society in the province will require “substantial effort,” the head of a Security Council fact-finding mission said today.

Briefing the Council on the mission’s six-day trip to Pristina, Belgrade, Brussels and Vienna, Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium said the positions of the two communities on the settlement proposal for Kosovo also remained far apart.

The leadership of the Kosovo Albanian community backed the report issued in March by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the future status process Martti Ahtisaari, who said the only viable option for the Serbian province – which the United Nations has administered since 1999 after Yugoslav troops were driven out amid fierce fighting – was a phased process of independence.

But the leaders of the Kosovo Serb community, as well as the mission’s interlocutors in Belgrade, remained opposed to independence and wanted further negotiations on the long-term future of Kosovo.

Mr. Verbeke said this division was reflected in the communities’ outlook, with Kosovo Albanians optimistic about what it holds and Kosovo Serbs concerned that their rights will not be sufficiently protected.

Although the fact-finding mission was impressed with the expressed commitment of Kosovo’s political figures towards creating a more genuinely multi-ethnic society, he said the divisions between communities meant it would still require “substantial effort.”

Mr. Verbeke stressed that the mission had been very useful in providing participants with a first-hand perspective of the situation inside Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other groups by about nine to one.


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