Any delay in determining the future status of Kosovo could threaten the gains made by the United Nations in the Serbian province it has administered since Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting in 1999, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the province, known as UNMIK, has mostly achieved what it can, and “further progress depends on a timely resolution of the future status of Kosovo,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report on the Mission.
He warned that a “further prolongation of the future-status process puts at risk the achievements of the United Nations in Kosovo since June of 1999.”
The Secretary-General pledged the UN’s support for discussions between the two sides led by the Troika, comprising the European Union, Russia and the United States.
“No effort should be spared to reach an acceptable solution to the question of the status of Kosovo in accordance with the guiding principles” of the Contact Group of the US, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, he said.
During the 120-day period of Troika-led engagement, “the parties need to engage in construction and genuine discussions,” Mr. Ban noted. “The sides should be encouraged to make concrete and realistic proposals and be given ample opportunities to do so.”
However, due to the substantial gap between the parties regarding the future status of Kosovo – where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by about nine to one – consideration must be given to what to do if the sides cannot come to an agreement by the end of the engagement period, he said.
“Momentum in the process to resolve the status of Kosovo must be maintained until closure is reached,” the Secretary-General stated. “Otherwise, there is a real risk of progress beginning to unravel and of instability in Kosovo and the region.”
He also called for Kosovo Serbs to fully take part in the upcoming election scheduled for 17 November.
“The status determination process continues to polarize the Kosovo Serb political community into those who see a future in working with the international community and the Provisional Institutions and those who do not,” he said.
Although the participation of Kosovo Serbs in both the political process and in the Provisional Institutions is “minimal,” Mr. Ban said he was encouraged by the emergence of several new Kosovo Serb parties that support joining in the elections.