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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter on arrival in Pristina

Pristina, 24 July 2012

Miredita.  Dobar dan.

I am pleased to be in Kosovo.

I am here as part of a larger visit to all of the former Yugoslavia.  My trip to the region is focused on the future – on common challenges and opportunities as we look ahead.

The region is evolving – and so, too is the United Nations role in Kosovo.

I am here to meet with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo – UNMIK – led by my Special Representative, Mr. Farid Zarif and with the UN Kosovo Team.

UNMIK continues to play an important role in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Together with the Kosovo Team, much has been achieved in building democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law, protecting minority rights, facilitating dialogue and promoting confidence between communities.

I am here to gain a fuller insight into the situation, in particular the status of community relations, minority rights and safeguarding cultural heritage.

I will meet with a range of local and international officials, as well as United Nations staff.  I also look forward to visiting Prizren and Decani.

One overriding theme of my visit is the importance of dialogue and mutual respect across the region. I have emphasized to all the leaders I am meeting the crucial importance of taking further steps for greater understanding.

I bring the same message to Kosovo’s leaders, and to the people of Kosovo, who I know have suffered from conflict and who yearn for a peaceful, prosperous future.

In particular, I expect strong efforts toward the normalization of relations with Belgrade, including through the same serious and sincere commitment to dialogue which I have asked from the Serbian leadership.

I also call upon all parties to intensify their efforts to resolve the issue of missing persons.  This is a fundamental human rights issue, key to reconciliation and mutual respect.

I remain concerned about the situation in northern Kosovo and the escalation of tensions during the past year.

It is essential that sensitive and complex issues related to northern Kosovo be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

The views of the communities most directly affected by tensions are paramount.  Their voices must be heard.  Their basic needs and rights must be democratically represented.

I also look forward to my discussions with our international partners, including KFOR, EULEX and the OSCE.

The European Union has taken the lead in international efforts in the region. The United Nations will continue to cooperate with all international partners in achieving our common goals for the people of Kosovo and the wider region.

Finally, I join with the people of Kosovo in mourning the sudden loss of Ali Podrimja, a great poet of Kosovo and an internationally recognized artist.  Our thoughts and condolences are with you.

Once again, I am pleased to be in Kosovo at this important time.  I look forward to a productive day.

Thank you very much.