Northern Kosovo remains a flashpoint of tensions, top UN envoy warns

Lamberto Zannier, Head of UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

22 January 2010 – Northern Kosovo remains a flashpoint amid continuing tensions between Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Albanian communities there despite a greater understanding over reconstruction of destroyed housing by the communities, the top United Nation official there said today.

“Even this peace remains tenuous,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier told the Security Council, noting that Kosovo Serbs recently hurled rocks and set a truck ablaze when they thought Kosovo Albanians were building beyond what had been agreed in talks facilitated by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

“It is clear that UNMIK must continue to shepherd the reconstruction process and monitor the situation closely to ensure that all communities respect existing arrangements to preserve stability and that effective communication is maintained at all times.”

UNMIK administered Kosovo from 1999 when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians, but it gave up its administrative role in 2008 when Kosovo Albanians declared independence. Serbia rejects this and continues to expect a robust role on the part of the Mission.

“Over the years we have learned that dealing with the situation in northern Kosovo requires sustained effort, constant engagement with the communities on the ground, and continuing consultation and coordination with all relevant actors,” Mr. Zannier said.

In his most recent three-monthly report released earlier this month, Mr. Ban noted that while tensions had significantly decreased in the community of Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani, inter-ethnic incidents continued to occur in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica – “a cause for concern.”

Mr. Zannier said that while returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees rose significantly in comparison to previous quarters, they were still low in absolute terms due to tensions, lack of economic prospects and concerns over freedom of movement.

“Kosovo’s leadership states that it is committed to a multi-ethnic Kosovo and open to returns. Nevertheless, more needs to be done to make this a realty,” he added, noting that UNMIK is staying in contact with authorities in Pristina and Belgrade, the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia, to encourage returns.

He also cited a greater understanding and tacit acknowledgement by the Kosovo authorities of UNMIK’s potential role in promoting economic development and stability.

“The longer-term stability and development of Kosovo lies in a successful process of reconciliation between the communities,” he said.


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