Friday, November 05, 2010

Kosovo: Hope that potential dialogue between Pristina, Belgrade will help to consolidate peace

Serbians demonstrating against declaration of independence by Kosovo in February 2008

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the European Union’s readiness to facilitate dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, voicing hope that this will help to consolidate peace, stability and reconciliation in both Kosovo and the wider region.

On 9 September, the General Assembly adopted a resolution jointly sponsored by Serbia and 27 EU member States that acknowledged the content of advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July.

That non-binding opinion concluded that Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 did not violate general international law, a 1999 Security Council resolution following the end of fighting in Kosovo, or the constitutional framework adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on behalf of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

The Assembly’s September resolution also noted that the EU is ready to assist in a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

“I am pleased that the text of the resolution adopted was based on agreement between Serbia and the European Union, thus creating the conditions for this process to move forward in the context of the European perspective for the region,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on Kosovo which was made public today.

“This dialogue is expected to open a new phase, help build confidence between the sides and lead to the resolution of issues which are important for the consolidation of peace, stability and reconciliation in Kosovo and in the region,” he adds, calling on both sides to begin this process rapidly.

The United Nations, the Secretary-General says, is ready to support this dialogue.

In his report, he also notes that the situation in northern Kosovo has remained unstable, with tensions having risen in the aftermath of the ICJ’s advisory opinion.

“I continue to urge the sides to exercise restraint and adopt a measured, constructive approach in order to avoid further escalations in northern Kosovo,” the report says.

“In this regard, the support of the members of the Security Council for the efforts of UNMIK there, and their unequivocal messages to the sides to avoid unilateral actions that could lead to the escalation of tensions, will remain crucial.”

Mr. Ban also expresses concern over the recent report by Kosovo’s authorities and subsequent media commentaries against UNMIK’s presence in the north, potentially placing UN staff in danger.

“UNMIK would be prepared to hand over its functions in northern Kosovo to a structure which is legitimate and acceptable to all communities, in accordance with the United Nations policy of status neutrality,” he stressed. “Until then, I strongly urge all sides to continue their cooperation with UNMIK in delivering its mandate.”

The mission was established after Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting in 1999. Ethnic Albanians outnumber ethnic Serbs and other minorities by about nine to one in Kosovo.