Global support vital for UN conciliation role in Kosovo Ban says

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The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) “remains uniquely placed” to facilitate dialogue between the communities more than two years after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the issue as he calls for ongoing international support for the operation.“The continuing support for UNMIK activities by the communities on the ground, by Pristina and by Belgrade, as well as by the Security Council and the broader international community, is of crucial importance,” he writes in the report to the Council, in which he voices concern at possible increased tensions in northern Kosovo, where many ethnic Serbs live.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 after the independence declaration. The declaration was rejected by Serbia, which still seeks a robust role from the mission.“The strategic goal of UNMIK remains the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights through engagement with all communities in Kosovo, as well as with Pristina and Belgrade and regional and international actors. During the present reporting period (starting in January), UNMIK continued to support minority communities, encourage reconciliation and facilitate dialogue and regional cooperation,” Mr. Ban writes.“The longer-term stability and development of Kosovo and the region rests on a successful process of reconciliation between communities,” he says, noting that the security situation remains relatively calm but fragile.“Overall, there has been no increase in the number of incidents, including those affecting the minority communities, in comparison with the previous reporting period; however, the persistence of incidents continues to represent an obstacle to returns [of those who fled the earlier fighting] and perpetuates a perception of insecurity among the minority communities.“Bringing perpetrators of crimes to justice, publicly condemning such incidents and reaching out to the victims, as occurred in a few instances during the reporting period, would serve to alleviate some concerns among the communities and foster a feeling of increased security.”Although voluntary minority returns remain “disappointingly low” in absolute numbers, they increased from 2008, with 1,153 people returning from displacement in and outside Kosovo in 2009, compared with 679 in 2008. UN statistics show that 259 returnees, including 90 Kosovo Serbs and 89 Kosovo Ashkali, between January and February 2010, compared with 55 in the same period last year.Mr. Ban notes that several Serbian cultural and religious sites were vandalized during the reporting period. “Securing respect for the rights of all communities continues to be a challenge, as evidenced by continued reports of security-related and other incidents affecting minority communities,” he says.He notes that UNMIK maintains close cooperation with the 3,200-strong European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which has 1,400 international police officers and operates under the overall authority and within the status-neutral framework of the UN. 21 April 2010The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) “remains uniquely placed” to facilitate dialogue between the communities more than two years after Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the issue as he calls for ongoing international support for the operation.

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