14 October 1999


14 October 1999

Press Release



The Secretary-General left Sarajevo for Pristina on Wednesday morning. He proceeded directly from the airport to the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). He was briefed on the Mission’s work by his Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner.

Dr. Kouchner then chaired a meeting of the Kosovo Transitional Council, which was also attended by the Commander of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), General Klaus Reinhardt. The Secretary-General referred to his visit four months ago to refugee camps on Kosovo’s borders, where he witnessed the pain and despair of the people uprooted from their houses by violence. But he warned against the desire for revenge, and urged tolerance. He pledged United Nations support for building a pluralistic, democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo. He listened attentively as each of the political leaders spoke in support of that same goal.

He then met with General Reinhardt, who briefed him on the work of KFOR and its relations with UNMIK. Hundreds of UNMIK staff turned out to greet the Secretary-General and he encouraged them in their work and thanked them for their dedication (see Press Release SG/SM/7176). Over lunch, he had detailed discussions with Dr. Kouchner and the heads of the four pillars of UNMIK (civil administration, humanitarian, reconstruction and development, and institution- building) on the implementation of the UNMIK mandate, and, in particular, regarding the future administration of Kosovo. He then travelled to Gracanica, where he met with Bishop Artemije, spiritual leader of the Serb community in Kosovo.

Returning to Pristina, the Secretary-General met with representatives of a variety of civic organizations and addressed their concerns. He then met with the President of the PBD political party (Democratic Union Party), Bardyl Mahmuti, who was accompanied by a number of student supporters. After that, he had scheduled talks with Agim Ceku, head of the provisional Kosovo Protection Corps, and with Veton Surroi, the distinguished journalist and editor. That evening, the Secretary-General was guest of Dr. Kouchner at an official dinner.

The Secretary-General began his second and final day in Kosovo with a helicopter trip to the town of Pec, or Peja (in Albanian), about 80 kilometres west of Pristina, which was more than half destroyed in the fighting.

Here he met with the United Nations administrators of Kosovo’s five regions, who briefed him on progress and problems. Their principal concern was the lack of money to pay the local civil service. Doctors, teachers and

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firefighters were leaving to go into the private sector. They reported progress in forming multi-ethnic interim municipal councils, but movement was slow in integrating schools and communities. International civilian police were getting up to strength, and tomorrow would take over from KFOR in the municipality of Prizren.

The Secretary-General then did a walking tour of the devastated centre of the city, including a visit to a burned out fifteenth century mosque. He witnessed the rebuilding of homes under the winterization programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He also visited a primary school on its opening day that had been repaired by the European Community Humanitarian Office and furnished by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“You are going to be the leaders of the twenty-first century”, he told the 2,000 students who greeted him. “Good luck, get on with it, study hard, play hard and listen to your parents.”

Returning to Pristina, the Secretary-General gave a press conference. In his opening statement, he said, “I saw for myself life in the markets, in the streets, and the shops, which have been opened, and people rebuilding their lives. For me ... it was almost like a miracle of return and rebirth.

“I saw a group of people determined to rebuild their lives. But this is not just a matter of bricks and mortar. I hope we can also take into consideration democracy, good governance, human rights and eventually reconciliation and justice. We have made great strides, but we have a lot to do.”

He then had a private luncheon with his Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner, before returning to New York via London.

During a short stopover in London, the Secretary-General met with the press. He used the opportunity to express condolences on the death of President Julius Nyerere of the United Republic of Tanzania, who had died the previous night. A statement had also been issued simultaneously in New York (see Press Release SG/SM/7179).

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For information media. Not an official record.