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Ban calls on Serbia, Kosovo to focus on regional cooperation, not status issues

15 January 2010 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on Serbia and Kosovo, which unilaterally declared its independence two years ago, to find ways to put aside status considerations in the interest of pursuing regional cooperation.

“I urge flexibility in continuing to define a modus operandi with regard to Kosovo’s participation in regional and international mechanisms and forums that are essential to the economic and democratic development and the long-term stability of the region,” he says in his latest report to the Security Council on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

He reports an improvement in UNMIK’s relations with the Kosovo authorities after they had maintained very limited contacts with his Special Representative Lamberto Zannier during previous months and terms the overall security situation “relatively calm, but potentially fragile.”

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 following the declaration of independence, which Serbia rejects while expecting a robust role on the part of the Mission.

“UNMIK remains committed to facilitating the engagement of all sides in order to find practical solutions to issues of mutual concern,” Mr. Ban stresses. “Despite the cooperation with all sides, agreement has proved difficult in such areas as justice, customs and cultural heritage.”

The Mission has continued its efforts to find durable solutions for protecting Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo, but without success, although the issue “is in the interest of all parties and has been discussed extensively for many months,” he says. During the 1999 fighting and outbreaks of violence since, Serbian Orthodox churches and Albanian mosques have been destroyed or damaged.

While pleased that tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs have significantly decreased in the northern Kosovo community of Kroi i Vitakut/Brdjani, he notes that the situation in northern Kosovo remains fragile. “In particular, inter-ethnic incidents continued to occur in northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, which is a cause for concern,” he says.

“UNMIK has continued to support minority communities, to encourage reconciliation and to facilitate dialogue and regional cooperation,” he adds, stressing that the Mission’s strategic goal “remains the promotion of security, stability and respect for human rights in Kosovo and in the region through engagement with all communities in Kosovo, as well as with Pristina and Belgrade [the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia] and with regional and international actors.”

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