The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year, is “inextricably caught” between the differing perceptions of the opposing sides, which hinder its efforts to bring the majority Albanians and minority Serbian and other ethnic groups closer together, the top UN official there said today.
“Actions by Pristina and Belgrade [the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia] continue to be aimed at bolstering their respective legal positions before the court,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative Lamberto Zannier told the Security Council, referring to an upcoming advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
“As a consequence our role, although aimed at promoting pragmatic solutions to existing problems, has not been an easy one to play,” he said in presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
While Serbia expects a robust UNMIK role, Kosovo authorities believe its job is done, he added. UNMIK, deployed in Kosovo in 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians, gave up its role administrative role following the declaration of independence, which Serbia rejects.
In June, Kosovo’s authorities announced that municipal elections will beheld on 15 November, but there has been little, if any, support for these in the three northern Serb municipalities, which consider UNMIK and the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, as the only current legitimate presence.
But Mr. Zannier noted that a number of Kosovo Serb community leaders south of the Ibar River have openly called for participation in the poll.
“Putting status considerations aside, I believe that greater participation in Kosovo’s local structures could benefit all of Kosovo’s communities and foster development of multi-ethnic local institutions, leading to stronger protection of minority rights and encouraging returns [of displaced people],” he said, calling for “pragmatism and compromise” to set up fully-functioning courts and customs points in northern Kosovo.
“Although conditions remained generally stable during this period [reporting from 1 June to 15 September] the situation in northern Kosovo remains an issue of concern, with the potential to destabilize other parts of Kosovo if not kept in check,” he added.