UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Kosovo's U.N. administrator told the U.N. Security Council Friday that resolving the future status of the province will benefit its economy and lead to greater freedom of movement and progress on the return of minority Serbs.
Soren Jessen-Petersen said it is vital that Kosovo be integrated into the European Union and that resolving its status will also have "real regional benefits."
Kosovo is legally part of Serbia-Montenegro, the union that replaced Yugoslavia. But it has been under U.N. and NATO control since a 78-day NATO-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999. It is governed by a Security Council resolution which leaves its political status undetermined.
The ethnic Albanian majority wants independence for Kosovo, while the Serb minority seeks to remain part of Serbia-Montenegro.
In a report to the council Thursday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations will review Kosovo's progress toward achieving standards for democracy and multiethnicity this summer, a key first step to a possible discussion of its future status.
He welcomed the "concrete steps forward" in achieving the standards but stressed that none of the standards has been achieved and warned that the outcome of the review "is not a foregone conclusion."
International officials have conditioned talks on the province's future status with progress on eight standards including establishing functioning democratic institutions, protecting minorities, promoting economic development, and ensuring rule of law, freedom of movement and property rights.
Jessen-Petersen told the council that "according to realistic and fact-based criteria, Kosovo has seen steady further improvement" on meeting the standards in the past three months.
"We are pursuing the shortcomings on a daily basis," he said.
The pace of further progress, he said, depends on the willingness of the ethnic Albanian majority "to continue to make efforts to create a multiethnic and democratic Kosovo."
"This willingness does exist, despite the recent, painful conflict, and we must and will continue to support those who display it," Jessen-Petersen said.
Progress also depends on the degree of participation of minority Kosovo Serbs in Kosovo's government, he said.
Jessen-Petersen again urged the government of Serbia-Montenegro in Belgrade to support their participation.
"I am concerned that there is still -- after more than 15 months -- no clear signal from Belgrade to the Kosovo Serbs to participate in the institutions," he said. "Dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, although welcome and important, cannot substitute for the direct involvement of the Kosovo Servs in shaping their own future in an internal dialogue in Kosovo."
Resolving Kosovo's status will also have a positive impact, Jessen-Petersen said.
"With a resolution to the status issue, and therefore an end to the uncertainty, I am confident that we will see much more significant results on issues such as returns, freedom of movement and the economy," he said. "Status resolution will also have real regional benefits, including for regional dialogue and trade."