The United Nations envoy for Kosovo today said that while great strides have been made since last year toward normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, close vigilance remains essential to safeguard achievements and continue dialogue.
Briefing the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report, Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Farid Zarif, expressed concern over recent developments.
Incidents which took place in and around Kosovo during the past 36 hours had resulted in three fatalities, including a Serbian police officer. Preliminary information suggests armed persons involved in illegal wood-cutting were likely responsible for the incidents. He called for great care to be taken not to give reign to speculation of political motives, so that authorities can do their work to bring perpetrators to justice.
Commending the 8 June elections which were carried out in a “peaceful and well-organised manner,” Mr. Zarif acknowledged the constructive role of Belgrade, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU) in facilitating the organization of the polls and enhancing their overall transparency.
In the same vein, he urged Kosovo political leaders to treat the formation of Kosovo’s next government with pressing imperative. The Constitutional Court has ruled as unconstitutional the election of the Assembly President and asked for the Assembly to elect someone in compliance with the Rules of Procedure.
“Moving forward expeditiously in the wake of this decision will best serve the interest of the people of Kosovo, and will be further manifestation of the maturing political processes,” Mr. Zarif said.
Moreover, acts of lawlessness and violence, committed during a demonstration on 22 June in South Mitrovica, highlighted the volatility in the north-south divide in Kosovo’s Mitrovica region. In that regard, Mr. Zarif urged parties to address issues through respectful dialogue.
“As I continually stress the crucial importance of respecting judicial independence, I cannot but note that public confidence in the system will be enhanced greatly when justice is perceived to be conducted professionally and expeditiously,” said Mr. Zarif.
He was pleased that the trial of five Kosovo Serbs, charged with war crimes and murder, began its proceedings on Tuesday at the Basic Court in Mitrovica. Additionally, the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Investigative Task Force released a statement on 29 July of findings which represents another “milestone in strengthening the rule of law and healing scars of war.”
The latest report, Mr. Zarif said, also shows how the interconnectedness of ongoing crises throughout the world is affecting Kosovo’s capacity to tackle trends of violent extremism and prevent participation of some Kosovars in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
UNMIK has continued to focus its resources on strengthening reconciliation efforts throughout Kosovo. Protection of cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo must be resolute and effective to ensure such sites are not destroyed, the envoy noted.
Mr. Zarif said that little progress has been observed with regard to the returns and reintegration process of internally displaced persons (IDPs), with 35 per cent fewer IDPs returning to Kosovo compared to last year. He also called on authorities in Pristina to find durable solutions for the 50 Kosovo Serb IDPs staying at a Collective Centre.