Tuesday, May 03, 2005

UNMIK chief says Kosovo status talks will start in September

UNMIK chief Soeren Jessen-Petersen has said that he thinks talks on Kosovo's final status will start at the end of September or beginning of October and that they will be held between Pristina, Belgrade and an international presence. The final say will rest with the UN Security Council, which will then adopt a relevant resolution. The UN chief said that three principles will be decisive as a basis for the talks on status: There will be no return to the pre-March 1999 situation, there will be no separation of Kosovo and there will be no unification of Kosovo with a neighbouring territory. The following is an excerpt from a report on the interview with Jessen-Petersen at Koha Vision (KTV) by Adriatik Kelmendi in Pristina on 27 April entitled "Political will of Kosova citizens will determine talks on status" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 30 April:

[Kelmendi] The security situation in Kosova [Kosovo] is currently the most worrying issue for Kosovars. Over the past few weeks, we had several attacks, such as the attack on President Ibrahim Rugova, the killing of Enver Haradinaj [brother of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj], as well as the attack on The Hour [ORA] offices. How do you assess this situation?

[Jessen-Petersen] First of all, I do not completely agree that the security situation is very grave. I think that the security situation over the past 12 months has seen a considerable improvement, especially as far as the ethnic lines are concerned. Neither have we had interethnic incidents for almost 12 months. I can say that in general, the situation is calm. I think that altogether, Kfor [Kosovo Force], UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] and ShPK [Kosovo Police Service, KPS] forces, as well as the local authorities, have done a lot to ensure a calm environment in Kosova. I would start with this. However, I agree that it is a really worrying that we recently had a number of incidents. I think that we were all pleased and impressed with the difficult path that we experienced during the difficult month of March. But I think there are enough reasons to be concerned over the incidents of the past weeks. There were incidents that I was concerned about, and I have condemned these and they are being investigated. But I think that it is very important that all of us are working together to focus on placing things under control and returning to real work, which is moving ahead with the process of Standards implementation, decentralization, economy and the talks on the status.

[Kelmendi] Why did these incidents happen? Is there any connection between them?

[Jessen-Petersen] I cannot say if there was any connection between these attacks, because, as I said, they are being investigated and we still do not have the results to say if there is any connection between them. However, I think that there could be some things that we can call reasons. Even if the March events were managed well, in a way they could have caused a kind of a vacuum, and also some kind of insecurity in the direction towards which we are moving ahead. Second, I think and have said it even earlier that while we approach the discussions on the talks, the ambitions increase, therefore great ambitions could also be great risks. I think that among Kosova Albanians, between political parties and their leaders, there is an interest, an attempt to position themselves as best as possible, to make sure that they are in a good position when the talks on status begin. [Passage omitted]

[Kelmendi] In fact, there has been very little success and the word "success" is one of those words I would not connect with the arrest of criminals or with the resolution of issues that are related to crime. It is known that in Kosova more than 85 per cent of cases are still unresolved, and this means a total failure.

[Jessen-Petersen] For the incidents that we have seen recently, organized crime and the like, the international police have encountered several limitations. I feel that we have serious difficulties in penetrating society. I think that what is happening is more a local issue. I have to justify our limitations. We are obviously counting on the Kosova Police Service, which in many regions is improving day by day, and this has also been proved. But when we come to positive results from investigations, we have not been successful. Here I see a structural problem, because there are several local situations in which the international police have difficulties penetrating. We have difficulties in finding local witnesses.

[Kelmendi] So far this has been bad strategy for UNMIK - to have international police and international staff who are in charge of security in Kosova - because you are saying that the local police are doing a good job?

[Jessen-Petersen] First of all, I do not think this was a bad strategy, because this is the mandate that has been given to us. The internationals' responsibility for security and justice was stipulated by [UN Security Council] Resolution 1244. I announced a few weeks ago that I want to see an accelerated transfer of powers also in those areas, and now we are finalizing a plan of action, which we will discuss with political parties in the coming days. But there are limitations to how much can we do with transfers. We cannot transfer powers that concern sovereignty. Unfortunately, this is a structural handicap: on one hand Resolution 1244 gives international police the power to deal with security and justice, and on the other hand we really cannot penetrate without a greater inclusion and responsibility of the local authorities. [Passage omitted]

[Kelmendi] You have said that the talks on the final status will begin in September this year. However, there is confusion here, because the Kosovar party, namely President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi, say that they do not want to meet with the Serbian delegation to discuss the future status of Kosova. Can you explain how the talks on the status will be organized?

[Jessen-Petersen] It is still being discussed. Great progress has been made. I think that two or three principles that will be a basis for the talks on the status will be decisive and final: there will be no return to the situation before March 1999; there will be no separation of Kosova; there will be no unification of Kosova with a neighbouring territory. However, now we are talking about the modalities of the status. What is clear is that Belgrade and Prishtina [Pristina] will be the most important and most active participants. But nobody expects Belgrade and Prishtina to agree on their own. An international presence in the talks is necessary. This presence is still being discussed, but the final decision remains the UN Security Council's responsibility. It will adopt a resolution that will define the final status of Kosova.

[Kelmendi] You still say that the talks on the status will begin in September?

[Jessen-Petersen] I think the end of September, beginning of October. [Passage omitted]

[Kelmendi] Are you the last head administrator of Kosova?

[Jessen-Petersen] I honestly think that UNMIK's and my job should be to finish our task, and this could be done only if there is a resolution that determines UNMIK's mandate. This is our goal, because this resolution would also determine the status of Kosova.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 30 Apr 05 p 11

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