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Serbia And Montenegro: UN Envoy Urges Return To Dialogue Between Belgrade And Pristina

United Nations, 9 February 2004 (RFE/RL) --The UN's administrator of Kosovo, Harri Holkeri, on 6 February urged Kosovar Albanian leaders and Belgrade to resume direct dialogue after four months of limited contacts.

Holkeri told the UN Security Council that progress toward an eventual decision on Kosovo's future status would be stalled without a return to dialogue. He made a special appeal to leaders in Pristina to break the deadlock. "It is the responsibility of the provisional institutions of self-government, in cooperation with [the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK], to actively and seriously engage, [without] further delay, in the direct dialogue with Belgrade," he said. "Dialogue constitutes a confidence-building measure as well as a demonstration of goodwill."

Dialogue on practical issues such as minority returns to Kosovo is one of the eight standards set out by UN officials before Kosovo's final status can be considered. UN officials have tentatively set a date of 18 February for new talks, but only Belgrade has signaled it would take part.

Holkeri today also criticized Kosovo Serbs for failing to participate in a work plan of action needed to reach the standards. And he said Belgrade continued to provide backing for structures of governance for Kosovo Serbs in a number of municipalities despite repeated calls by UN officials to cease the practice. "Unfortunately, Belgrade over the past few months has moved to extend and strengthen the presence of its parallel structures in Kosovo," he said. "Little is likely to change unless we respond to the challenge."

Key Security Council members reacted with concern to the lack of progress on the internationally endorsed "standards before status" process. Many council members stressed the need for the rapid completion of a plan of action to begin implementing the standards. They pointed to the deadline of mid-2005 for the first comprehensive review of the standards process.

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, warned Kosovo Albanian leaders -- who seek independence -- to take the process seriously. "If Kosovo's institutions choose to approach the standards process half-heartedly, the international community and the United Nations must not hesitate to issue a negative assessment and postpone the process to determine future status," he said.

This was underlined by British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who demanded that the province give full consideration to issues like human rights, multi-ethnicity and minority representation. Jones Parry also stressed that the standards process would not be blocked by extremists. "The process will not be derailed because some on either side object to it," he said. "Extremists have had their day in the Balkans and those who obstruct progress in our view deserve no say in the future of Kosovo."

The United States, Britain, and many of the European members of the Security Council also called on officials in Belgrade to drop their support for parallel structures and participate fully in the reform effort.

An assistant foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Zeljko Perovic, told the council that Belgrade continues to provide services to Serbs in Kosovo because they are neglected by provisional authorities. Perovic criticized the way UN officials have organized discussions on the standards process. "Unfortunately, UNMIK has not found a way to make this process all-inclusive," he said. "Hence it is already apparent that this plan will serve to further divide the communities in Kosovo and Metohija and their political representatives instead of bring them, at least somewhat closer."

Holkeri said later in response that the Serbian concerns were not being ignored. He provided his personal assurance that Kosovo Serb representatives are welcome in all groups involved in the implementation of the standards process.