Following a visit to the Balkans by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month, his representative for Kosovo today called on the Security Council to encourage leaders in Serbia and Kosovo to take a bolder approach to core political issues facing the region, while putting in place agreed-upon measures on practical matters.
“I believe that only by pursuing this path can we expect any real progress, along with greater success, eventually putting the unfortunate past to rest,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, Farid Zarif, said in a briefing to the 15-member body.
“A more active and deliberate international political engagement with the parties is needed very soon,” said Mr. Zarif, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which he heads.
Established in 1999, UNMIK is mandated to help ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo and advance regional stability in the western Balkans. It began its operations when North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians, but it gave up its administrative role in 2008 when Kosovo Albanians declared independence. Serbia rejects Kosovo’s declaration of independence.
Mr. Zarif said that the July visit to the region by Mr. Ban had set the stage for “an energized approach to tackling key issues in the very near future.” It was critical to take advantage of that and other opportunities for progress, he stressed: “The costs of missed opportunities can be high,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Zarif said, it is also critical to resume the so-called Belgrade-Pristina dialogue between the parties, facilitated by the European Union, which was discussing practical matters and was credited with reducing high tension over border crossings and other issues.
The dialogue was suspended due to May general elections in Serbia and the subsequent formation of a new Government, he said.
“I hope that at those involved will have used the period of the recent hiatus in order to focus upon further enhancements to this process, including dedicating increased attention to the stage of implementation,” he said.
Mr. Zarif said that although UNMIK’s operational activities continue to be limited there had been positive results from engagement with the Kosovo authorities in areas that directly related to improving people’s lives.
In the Mission’s efforts toward constructive engagement in the northern part of Kosovo, home to a high percentage of ethnic Serbs, he said that far more work will be needed to change the often divisive messages emanating from all parties and set conditions for legitimate representation of the population there.
“Achieving this will require demonstrated good will as well as political maturity from all sides,” he said.