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UN: Annan Expresses Concern About Minority Rights In Kosovo

UN leader Annan United Nations, 3 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed renewed concern about a lack of progress on reforms in Kosovo and appealed to ethnic Albanian leaders to improve conditions for minorities. Annan devotes much of a new 16-page report to urging improvements for minorities, including freedom of movement, employment opportunities and media treatment.

Annan says in a new report that physical and psychological scars remain from the March outbreak of violence in which Kosovo minority groups were targeted.

Annan appealed to ethnic Albanian leaders to improve efforts to prosecute those responsible for the violence, which caused 19 deaths and damage to more than 900 structures.

Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said the report reiterated concerns about the Kosovo assembly's move to propose amendments to the constitutional framework, over UN objections.

"Attempts by the Kosovo assembly to amend Kosovo's constitutional framework are clearly outside its competencies and reflect a worrying unwillingness to focus on Kosovo's immediate priorities," he said.

The UN Security Council will discuss Kosovo on 5 August. The province has been a virtual UN protectorate for five years. New recommendations from a UN envoy call for revisions to the UN reform policy to improve compliance by ethnic Albanian leaders.

UN officials recently briefed the council on the report by the envoy, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide. A council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Eide recommended the "standards before status" policy be adjusted. He suggests focusing on the most important standards -- improving conditions for minorities -- and seeking their rapid fulfillment.

If these standards are achieved, the diplomat said, there would be a quicker devolution of powers to ethnic Albanian authorities in areas such as economic controls, justice, and local administration.

Russia will preside over the Security Council this month. Its new ambassador to the UN, Andrei Denisov, told reporters today that Kosovo would be a featured issue.

"The importance of this period as far as [the] Kosovo issue is concerned is very high because we still remember the outbreak of violence in this province in March, which is very disappointing. And also we envisage very active discussions within the Security Council this month."

Russia has called for postponing the deadline for reviewing the standards beyond the middle of next year and also supports Belgrade's cantonization plan for the province.