Kosovo Albanians must provide Serbs with sense of security – UN envoy

UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen

29 November 2004 – Although security has improved significantly in Kosovo since March's deadly violence, the worst in the five years since the United Nations took over administering the ethnically-divided province, much work remains to be done to achieve the goals needed to settle its final status, the top UN envoy there said today.

“One can expect and must demand real progress in the implementation of those standards that together contribute most to the establishment of a multi-ethnic Kosovo,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Søren Jessen-Petersen told the Security Council of the eight necessary goals.

These include freedom of movement, rule of law, functioning local institutions, and the return and protection of the rights of minorities, particularly Serbs, in the province that has been under UN administration since 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove Yugoslav troops out amid Albanian-Serb fighting.

Mr. Jessen-Petersen noted in his briefing to the Council that the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and KFOR, the multinational security force, are now better positioned to provide such protection than they were in March when an onslaught by extremists among the Albanian majority against the Serb, Roma and Askhali communities led to 19 people being killed, nearly 1,000 injured and hundreds of homes and centuries-old Serbian cultural sites razed or burned.

“But only Kosovo Albanian leaders and society can and must effectively dispel the need for such protection and create true security,” he added, presenting Mr. Annan’s latest report on Kosovo. “The authorities must ensure that all communities feel safe and secure and are able to live normal lives, free of fear and intimidation.”

He urged the Serbs to rejoin the Kosovo Security Advisory Group, set up to bring together representatives of all communities to build confidence, and the working group on decentralization. He regretted that very few Serbs took part in last month’s elections and stressed that once a new government is formed “its first act must be to reach out to improve the living conditions of the Kosovo Serbs.”

He cited the bad economic situation as “possibly the biggest threat to stability and reconciliation,” threatened to take unspecified sanctions against officials both at the central and municipal level who blocked attempts to make improvements in the area of the standards, but also held out the prospect that a final resolution might be moving into view.

“After almost five years of managing a holding operation in Kosovo, we may be moving towards the end game – talks on final status,” he declared.

Video of Council meeting [2hrs 57mins]

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