UN envoy to Kosovo finds mixed progress on returns of Serbs

UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen

9 October 2004 – Visiting areas where Serbs have returned to Kosovo, the senior United Nations envoy to the troubled province today observed minority populations facing an uphill climb on the road to integration.

Søren Jessen-Petersen expressed dissatisfaction at the situation in Bica, where Kosovo Serb villagers are protected by barbed wire barricades and the 24-hour presence of peacekeeping troops. He pledged to work with the local community and municipal authorities to find more sustainable solutions to the current problems.

"In Kosovo in October 2004, a Kosovo that is determined to move towards review of standards and status talks, there should and must be no places where people are forced to live behind barbed wires and protected by KFOR," he stressed, referring to the multinational Kosovo Force.

KFOR Commander Yves de Kermabon accompanied the UN envoy during the trip, which also took them to the village of Vidanje, where they found measurable progress Mr. Jessen-Petersen said the situation for Serbs there "is the way forward for Kosovo," noting that local authorities are providing "all the necessary facilities that will allow the returnees and the community to integrate."

In the first phase of a project funded by the Kosovo Government and implemented by the Danish Refugee Council, 33 Serbs have returned to Vidanje to begin reconstructing their homes before bringing the rest of their family members back to the village. The €970,000 (euros) project involves reconstructing 25 homes, repairing infrastructure like the village's water supply, and providing assistance to needy families in the community.

KFOR Commander de Kermabon praised the progress in Vidanje and pledged that KFOR would work with UNMIK and the local representatives in Bica to restore trust between the people there.

"The future of Kosovo is in this confidence, confidence between the inhabitants and confidence between the two ethnicities," Gen. de Kermabon said.

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