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Serbia-Kosovo dialogue eases tensions, but challenges remain UN official

8 February 2012 – The resumption of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo has led to the easing of tensions on the ground, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today, cautioning, however, that other significant political challenges continue to emerge.

A dispute between Kosovo and Serbia over the control of two border crossings in northern Kosovo resulted in several violent clashes between local Serb residents and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) last year.

“However, as a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was resuming in Brussels following a three-month-hiatus, all sides renewed their efforts to stabilize the situation on the ground and focused their attention to achieve results through good faith engagements,” Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Council in a briefing on the latest report on Kosovo.

The emerging political challenges include a decision by leaders in northern Kosovo to proceed next week with a “referendum” on the acceptance by local Kosovo Serbs of the Kosovo institutions.

“This is another case where close cooperation between all stakeholders on the ground will be crucial in ensuring that potential tensions are kept under control and common messages are conveyed,” said Mr. Mulet.

On the European Union-facilitated dialogue, he reported that agreement on the integrated management of crossing points, while awaiting finalization of the detailed implementation modalities, represented an important breakthrough and an encouraging signal of goodwill from both parties.

Mr. Mulet stressed the need for cohesion of efforts of all international actors, including the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), to ensure that the considerable resources expended there are being applied “as rationally and efficiently as the could be.”

“In the course of 2012, it is critical that we do not miss the opportunity of jointly addressing fundamental issues of efficiency, as well as of common political purpose and vision,” he said.

Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s Foreign Minister, told the Council that “a comprehensive settlement” to the dispute between the two parties must include “ironclad, internationally-guaranteed assurances” that safeguard Serbia’s interests, including protecting Serbian enclaves in south Kosovo, preserving Serbian identity and religious heritage, and settling private commercial property claims.

“The only way to produce a viable, sustainable, and lasting solution to the problem is for the parties to negotiate with each other in good faith, on all outstanding issues,” said Mr. Jeremic.

Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo’s Foreign Minister, told the Council that Kosovo will continue to participate in dialogue with Serbia in good faith. “We will implement agreements reached and accept all solutions that are European solutions,” he said.

“Dialogue is very important for both countries as independent States and partners on their European path and my Government supports the integration of the whole region into the European Union,” Mr. Hoxhaj added.

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