Annan ‘seriously concerned’ at slow progress, violence in Kosovo

31 January 2006 – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on Kosovo Serb leaders to work to promote government reform and other key goals in the UN-run province, saying he was “seriously concerned” by the slow progress and setbacks in recent months.

In his latest report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan also highlighted increased violence in a province that has been run by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since 1999, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization drove out Yugoslav troops amid human rights abuses in fighting between Serbs and Albanians.

“I strongly urge Kosovo’s leaders to renew their efforts to ensure substantive, accelerated and sustainable progress in the implementation of the standards,” the Secretary-General said, referring to eight targets that also include creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.

“The increase in serious security incidents, including of incidents that may have targeted Kosovo Serbs for ethnic reasons, is a further cause for concern,” he cautioned, calling on the province’s leaders and institutions “to work closely with UNMIK to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

The Secretary-General also urged Serbian authorities to encourage Kosovo Serb leaders to take part in the province’s institutions, such as local government, and called for support to Kosovo Serbs who wished to return to the province, noting that the number of refugees and internally displaced people going back home remained “very low.”

In this latest report, which covers the situation in the region from May to December last year, Mr. Annan also welcomed the Security Council’s decision to launch a process designed to determine the future status of Kosovo, but said there was much work to be done in this area.

“The challenging period ahead will require the full political engagement of the international community,” the Secretary-General emphasized. Earlier this month, Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova died of lung cancer, and in tribute, the senior UN envoy to the province urged its people to carry through with the late leader’s vision of unity and stability.

Søren Jessen-Petersen stressed that the path laid out by Mr. Rugova “led – and still leads – towards a Kosovo that is democratic, multiethnic and free. A Kosovo that is firmly integrated into Europe, and which retains the strong links to the United States that he did so much to build.”

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