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Top UN envoy calls for Kosovo Serbs to participate in upcoming polls

Top UN envoy calls for Kosovo Serbs to participate in upcoming polls

Joachim Rucker
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo today appealed for Serbs in the United Nations-administered province to take part in next month’s elections, adding that he has asked the Serbian prime minister to refrain from calling for a boycott of the upcoming polls.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council in a closed session, Joachim Rücker said that it was “very reassuring for us on the ground that many members of the Council stressed how important… it is that the Kosovo Serbs participate in the elections.”

The 15-member body also underscored that “there should not be any direct or indirect calls for [the] boycott of these elections” scheduled to take place on 17 November, he noted.

In the past, the envoy said that “it was our impression that Belgrade has actually called for such boycotts directly or indirectly,” and in response has asked Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to ensure that there will be no calls to stay away from polls.

Mr. Rücker said he also asked Mr. Kostunica to make sure that internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo currently living in Serbia can vote in the November elections.

In a report made public earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “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 also underscored that any delay in determining the future status of the province – where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by about nine to one – could threaten the gains made by the UN in Kosovo.

Mr. Ban pledged the world body’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.”

The UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), which Mr. Rücker heads, has been deployed since 1999, when Western forces drove Yugoslav troops out of the province amid inter-ethnic fighting.