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UN envoy tells Security Council that Kosovo operation now in critical phase

Speaking to the Security Council today, the senior United Nations envoy to Kosovo said the next few months offered great opportunities for the province’s leaders and its people to work together to decide their future, saying also that the UN mission was now in its most critical phase.In his latest report to the 15-member body, Søren Jessen-Petersen said that major developments in the province since October included the death last month from lung cancer of Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova, the start of a process to determine the province’s future status and the efforts made at decentralisation.“Much has been achieved – much more must and will be done. The next months offer an opportunity for Kosovo’s leaders to redouble their efforts, to reach out to Kosovo’s Serbs and to the other minorities, and to register solid and substantive progress,” Mr. Jessen-Petersen said.“With the beginning of the status process, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo has entered its most critical phase. Now, as in the past, our focus must remain on building in Kosovo a society that is democratic, multi-ethnic, inclusive and tolerant,” the senior envoy added.Mr. Jessen-Petersen also called on Kosovo’s Serbs to take “an active part in the central and municipal institutions” if they wish to shape the province’s future and said Belgrade must also encourage and support such participation.“Our goal must now be to make good the political wrongs of the past, with a focus on the rights of all people – of individuals and families – for the future,” he added.Mr. Jessen-Petersen noted that last week Kosovo’s Assembly had elected Fatmir Sejdiu as the province’s new President, saying this had demonstrated a “mature and dignified” political response to the recent death.The UN envoy also said that President Sejdiu had already discussed the former President’s vision on the status of Kosovo with the province’s negotiating team, ahead of a meeting on decentralisation between Pristina and Belgrade to be held in Vienna next week.“The majority in Kosovo, who suffered so much as a minority themselves in the past, has a right to expect that their aspirations will be met when Kosovo’s status is decided. The minorities, who have in turn suffered revenge and isolation, have a right to expect that their concerns will be just as seriously heard and addressed,” Mr. Jessen-Petersen concluded.Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO drove out Yugoslav troops amid human rights abuses in fighting between Serbs and Albanians.Last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Kosovo Serb leaders to work to promote government reform and other key goals in the province, saying he was “seriously concerned” by the slow progress and setbacks between May and December last year. read more