Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Kosovo: Appeal for calm following deadly violence

UN - The top United Nations envoy to Kosovo today urged all sides to pursue dialogue in the wake of recent “tragic” violence in the region’s north, which remains a flashpoint amid continuing tensions between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serbian communities.

On 2 July, Kosovo authorities inaugurated a centre providing birth, death and marriage certificates, along with identification cards and travel documents, in an ethnically mixed part of the northern city of Mitrovica.

Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told the Security Council today that the move was part of efforts by the Kosovo authorities to establish their institutions across the territory, but that such actions “are opposed by the Kosovo Serbs in the north.”

However, in other parts of area, he said, Kosovo Serbs have increasingly been making use of Kosovo’s civil registry offices.

Nearly 2,000 people protested the opening of the Mitrovica centre, with an explosion resulting in the death of a Kosovo Bosniak doctor named Mesud Džeković, who was not participating in the demonstration. Eleven others – all Kosovo Serbs – were injured in the incident.

Pristina and Belgrade, the respective capitals of Kosovo and Serbia, Mr. Zannier noted, have both condemned the event, but each side is blaming the other for provoking the incident.

He repeated the call made in the immediate aftermath of the violence on all sides to “refrain from provocative statements and to remain calm,” as well as for “all competent law enforcement authorities to take urgent measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The Special Representative, who also heads of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Council that since the 2 July incident, “the security situation in northern Kosovo is more tense than usual.”

Yesterday morning, Petar Miletić, a Kosovo Serb parliament member of the Assembly of Kosovo, was shot in the legs by an unknown assailant outside his home in northern Mitrovica. His injuries are not life-threatening.

Today, Mr. Zannier echoed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on UNMIK, in which he warns of the risk of inflamed tensions should policies for northern Kosovo not be implemented without dialogue with local communities.

“Events over the past few days point to the need to initiate this dialogue as a matter of urgency,” he said.

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 in 2008 when Kosovo Albanians declared independence. Serbia rejects Kosovo’s declaration of independence and continues to expect a robust role on the part of the UN Mission.