20 June 2008 The proposal to reconfigure the United Nations' presence in Kosovo is “a practical and workable solution” to one of the world's most intractable issues, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, warning that reaching a mutually acceptable settlement will not be easy.
Addressing a Security Council debate on Kosovo, a week after unveiling plans to adjust the profile and structure of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Mr. Ban said he had rarely encountered such a delicate or divisive issue during his 40-year diplomatic career.
“Legally, politically and morally, it is a landscape of enormous complexity and sensitivity that required the exercise of extraordinary objectivity and balance,” he said, adding that such developments this year as the declaration of independence in February and the Kosovo Serb community's overwhelming rejection of a new constitution in Pristina have brought lasting changes to the situation.
“It is my assessment that, taken together, these developments have created a profoundly new reality in which UNMIK is no longer able to perform as effectively as in the past the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration. This needs to be acknowledged as a fact of life.”
Under Mr. Ban's plan, the UN is neutral on the question of Kosovo's status. The European Union would also play an enhanced operational role in the area of rule of law under a UN “umbrella” headed by the Secretary-General's Special Representative and in line with the 1999 Security Council resolution that established UNMIK.
A reconfigured and restructured UNMIK would continue to carry out many functions, including those related to a dialogue with Serbia on provisions in six areas: police, courts, customs, transport and infrastructure, boundaries and Serbian patrimony.
To lead this new phase, Mr. Ban said he intends to appoint Lamberto Zannier of Italy to be his new Special Representative, succeeding Joachim Rücker.
“He will help to carry forward the vision I have presented in my report, and to lead a new phase of dialogue, and he will be scrupulously balanced in his approach.”
Mr. Zannier is currently on secondment from the Italian Government to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as director of its conflict prevention centre, and has worked closely with the UN system since joining the Italian foreign ministry in 1978.
The Secretary-General stressed to the Council that his package of changes is aimed at finding “an operational modus vivendi to help move Kosovo a few steps back from the brink of further conflict.”
He said he now awaited the reaction of Council members and the other participants in today's debate, saying that dialogue was critically important for all of Kosovo's communities.
“The package is a practical and workable solution – a concrete and sustainable response to a complex and difficult situation. It is founded on the imperative, overriding need, as I said, to maintain international peace and security and stability in Kosovo and the region, while responding and adapting to changing circumstances on the ground.”
UNMIK has been in place since mid-1999 after NATO forces drove Yugoslav troops out of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one, that year amid deadly inter-communal fighting. On 17 February this year, the Assembly of Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government adopted a resolution declaring independence from Serbia.
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