SECRETARY-GENERAL’S ACTIVITIES IN KOSOVO, 18-19 NOVEMBER
On the afternoon of 18 November, the Secretary-General and his party arrived, in Pristina, Kosovo, where they were briefed by the Head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, Michael Steiner.† Afterwards the Secretary-General addressed the assembled Mission staff.† He then held a meeting with President Ibrahim Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, President of the Assembly Nexhat Daci, and Head of the Coalition Povratak, Rada Trajkovic.† In the early evening, Mr. Steiner introduced the Secretary-General to a cross-section of Kosovar civil society at a reception he hosted at the Pristina Art Museum.
In prepared remarks, the Secretary-General said, “the vigorous civil society and vibrant cultural sector that we can see represented here this evening show us that Kosovo has the energy and vision it needs to meet the various challenges ahead”.† He called for leadership based on “tolerance, acceptance and dialogue”.† (See Press Release SG/SM/8504.)
Later that evening the Secretary-General and his wife Nane met with relatives of the missing, who had been demonstrating silently outside United Nations headquarters in Pristina.† A woman said that she spoke on behalf of more than 3,500 mothers anxious for information about missing family members.† For a mother waiting for news of a missing loved one, she said, “one hour is like a year, a year is like a century”.†
The Secretary-General replied that the issue was “important for us”.† He said he would raise it the next day when he met with President Kostunica of Yugoslavia, because it was important for the reconciliation process.† “We share your need to know”, he said.
In her programme for the day, Mrs. Nane Annan visited an Inclusive Kindergarten for Roma children in Sarajevo, supported by UNICEF and a local NGO Step-by-Step.† The Roma children, together with the Bosnian children, presented a dance and other activities they had been learning.† Yesterday evening in Sarajevo, she witnessed an interactive presentation by, and for, young people on avoiding the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.† The programme, supported by UNFPA, the International Rescue Committee and local NGOs, focused on training young trainers to educate their peers.† In Pristina, Mrs. Annan visited the Kosovo Women’s Initiative, which aims to empower women regardless of ethnicity through income-generating and capacity-building activities.† She met women working on food and laundry projects and spoke with them about their experiences
On Tuesday morning in Pristina, the Secretary-General was given a military briefing by the Commander of KFOR, Lt. Gen. Fabio Mini.† The General described a generally stable situation throughout Kosovo, and also KFOR’s current down-sizing exercise.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††
He and his wife Nane then took a helicopter to the north of Kosovo to visit the divided town of Mitrovica.† He drove across the bridge to the predominantly Serb North Mitrovica, where the United Nations runs a police academy.† He was briefed on the training programme and he asked questions of a few of the recruits.† He asked a young woman how her family had reacted to her decision to become a policewoman.† “They were confused at first”, she replied, “but now they accept it”.†
Outside the academy, the Secretary-General encountered a substantial number of journalists.† He told them he had been discussing with the recruits “the question of the rule of law and policing, the need to protect the individual and his or her property, to take steps to ensure that their human rights are protected and that all citizens are treated equally and the law is applied without fear or favour”.
The UN helicopter then took him to a pair of villages near the Serbian border, one Serb and one Albanian, Gornji Makres (Makresh i Eperm) and Donji Makres (Makresh i Ulti).† In a schoolyard in Gornji Makres, he was greeted by children, who offered him traditional bread in welcome, as well as by village leaders.†
He and Mrs. Annan walked up the hill to visit a returned Serb family with two small children who recently re-settled in a house built with the assistance of the UN Development Programme.† They then spoke to a family that had started a chicken farm with international assistance.† They stopped by a clinic and a store which served both the Serb and Albanian communities.† They then sat down with representatives and villagers of both communities in the community centre.† Freedom of movement was returning to the area, they said, and they looked forward to construction of a road that would link the two villages.† There already was regular connection to the next largest market town by UN bus.† Their concerns were similar -– unemployment and the need for agricultural loans.†
Outside the community centre, the Secretary-General again spoke to the press.† “It’s been a very interesting visit for me to come and see the village where the residents realize that they have to…make a genuine effort to put the past behind them and live together respecting their neighbours.† I think a multi-ethnic Kosovo is what we have all been working on.”
“And it is this pluralism and this respect for diversity”, he added, “that prevails in the Europe you are hoping to join”.
When a journalist asked him if Iraq’s firing at United States planes patrolling the "no-fly" zone constituted a violation of Security Council resolutions, he replied, “I don’t think that the Council will say that it is in contravention of the resolution which was recently passed”.
He then returned to Pristina, where he and his Special Representative Michael Steiner gave a short press conference.† “Kosovo has come a long way since my last visit two years ago”, he said.† Houses had been rebuilt and roads paved, but that, he said, was the easy part.† Now, the task was to build a multi-ethnic society.
He was asked when the final status of Kosovo would be decided.† “I can’t tell you exactly when that will be done”, he replied, “but that should not prevent us from moving forward”.† The fact that final status is not determined, he added, “is not holding us back”.††††††††††††††††††††
Asked if he was still optimistic that a deal on Cyprus could be reached by 12 December, he answered that he was still hopeful of having a Cyprus accord.† “The important thing”, he added, “is that the proposal is solid and it could help the parties”.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General and his party flew to Belgrade.
* *** *