25 July 2008 The situation in Kosovo has changed fundamentally in the past few months and events on the ground have contributed to creating a “profoundly new operating reality” for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission there (UNMIK), the world body’s top official in Kosovo told the Security Council today.
“The ability of UNMIK to perform the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration has been fundamentally challenged, owing to actions taken by the authorities in Pristina and the Kosovo Serbs,” said Lamberto Zannier, echoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments in his recent report on UNMIK.
In his first address to the Council since taking up his post as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of UNMIK, Mr. Zannier recalled that after declaring its independence from Serbia in February, the Kosovo Assembly adopted on 9 April a constitution that came into effect on 15 June.
“Since then, the Kosovo authorities continue to seek to assume powers and responsibilities of a sovereign State,” he stated. These include the recent approval by the Kosovo Assembly of funds for establishing a Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, a minister has been appointed and was present in the Security Council today.
The Prime Minister has also announced his intention to open embassies in a number of European countries and in the United States, he added.
Meanwhile, the Kosovo Serbs have continued to oppose cooperation with the authorities in Pristina, stressing that they will only cooperate with UNMIK, said the Special Representative. As a result of the Serbian local elections held on 11 May, new parallel municipal authorities are now operating in all Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo.
“As a consequence of this stark divergence of paths taken by Kosovo’s Serbian and Albanian communities, the space in which UNMIK can operate has changed,” he stated.
Mr. Zannier noted that while he and his staff continue to monitor the work of the Kosovo authorities and to mediate and facilitate in disputes between communities, his power to impose solutions throughout much of the territory has in practice “disappeared.”
He reported that UNMIK has been engaged in planning for a reconfiguration of its presence which takes account of the changed circumstances, as proposed by Mr. Ban last month.
Accordingly, UNMIK has been instructed to cooperate with the European Union, so it can assume an enhanced operational role in the rule of law area under a UN “umbrella” headed by the Special Representative, in line with the original 1999 resolution that established the mission.
An initial reconfiguration plan has been developed and forwarded to Headquarters, outlining a number of measures which will reduce the Mission’s capacity in areas where it can no longer function – for example in civil administration – and enhancing it in others, with particular attention to minorities.
Mr. Zannier said he remains optimistic that UNMIK “can continue to have an important role in facilitating dialogue among different parties on matters affecting the lives of all Kosovo’s communities.”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Special Representative said he came to New York via Belgrade, where he met with Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic and other officials. “We started laying the foundation for what I hope will develop as a positive and fruitful dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on a number of relevant issues.
“There are issues that need addressing, that need solving. It is in the interest of both parties to make progress on those issues,” he added. “I’m optimistic that we will manage, one way or another, to have all sides engaged in this dialogue.”
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