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Talks on Kosovo's final status should begin now - Annan

7 October 2005 Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today talks should now begin on the final status of ethnically-divided Kosovo, which the United Nations has run ever since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses in fighting between the province’s Albanians and Serbs in 1999.

Mr. Annan, who on Monday received a report from his Special Envoy for the Comprehensive Review of Kosovo, Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway, told reporters in Bern he would inform the Security Council today of his decision, adding that status options could include independence or autonomy for the Serbian province.

Stressing the need to begin the discussions, the Secretary-General said he would appoint a special envoy to direct the talks.

During his official visit to the Swiss capital, he also discussed UN reform and the outcome of last month’s World Summit with President Samuel Schmid and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.

In July, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, said there had been a slowdown in meeting the standards required for starting final status talks in the province where ethnic Albanians outnumber other communities, mainly Serbs, by about 9 to 1. These cover eight targets in such areas as building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and establishing an impartial legal system.

Among reasons he cited was the need for stronger commitment by Kosovo Albanian leaders to move forward on the return of Serbs who fled their homes, as well as on freedom of movement and decentralization, and the need for Serbia's leaders to encourage Kosovo Serbs to participate in the province's political process.

In Pristina, Mr. Jessen-Petersen welcomed Mr. Annan’s decision. “The road ahead is clear,” he said, stressing that the provisional Albanian-majority local government known as PISG must work hard to ensure that Kosovo makes further and faster progress in implementing Standards.

“The Kosovo that moves towards the decision on status should be a truly multi-ethnic society. We in UNMIK remain ready to support fully the PISG and all the people of Kosovo in every way we can,” he added, referring to UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).


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