Monday, January 17, 2005

UNMIK chief "disappointed" over Serbian president's, premier's choice of topic

Following a one-day visit to Belgrade and his meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] chief Soeren Jessen-Petersen has reiterated his invitation to the Serbian leadership to join UNMIK and Kosovo institutions in high-level talks regarding the issues of joint interest, such as the issue of security.

A statement from UNMIK said that Petersen had informed the president and the prime minister about progress made regarding decentralization [in Kosovo] and he reiterated his invitation for a continuation of direct dialogue about missing persons.

"Prime Minister Kostunica and President Tadic almost completely focused on the issue of electricity supply to Batuse and Lipljan villages populated by the Serbs. These villages have been without electricity since there has been a fault in the grid, following villagers' refusal to pay their bills to the KEK [Kosovo Energy Corporation], which is a condition for fixing the problem, and this is a policy applicable to all KEK consumers", the statement said.

The UNMIK chief said that he "understood their concern, especially regarding individual cases where people face difficult living conditions. He asked his former adviser for minority issues, Craig Jenness, to visit these villages in company of Kosovo Serb representatives in order to establish precise reasons why these inhabitants were unable to pay for their bills".

"The KEK has a policy which I support, and this is that the people should pay for the services they use, which is the way these things are being done everywhere in the world. However, if there are individual cases of people living in difficult conditions, of course, we would immediately focus on them as humanitarian cases that must be solved through mechanisms of social protection," Petersen said.

Petersen said that he was "disappointed that the Serbian leaders did not focus on other equally important issues which he was ready to discuss".

"Such an attitude was inappropriate. Progress is being made over numerous issues which are of direct interest to Kosovo Serbs, especially with regard to decentralization. The clock is ticking, and we must move on. We believe that Belgrade could play a very useful role if it were to constructively engage regarding these important issues and this is why I am very sorry that they did not feel capable of doing this today. However, we must move on, which is what we are going to do," the statement said.

Petersen was also "disappointed with non-existence of a resolute devotion on part of the prime minister with regard to humanitarian issue of missing persons, despite an invitation by International Red Cross chairman Jakob Kellenberger last week and his personal invitation today that direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade be urgently continued".

UNMIK chief "nevertheless, intends to propose a date for a continuation of dialogue soon," the statement said.

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