UNITED NATIONS, Oct 7 (AFP)
ATTENTION -details, background ///
A comprehensive UN report on the situation in Kosovo urges caution in proceeding with talks of the future status of Serbia's UN-run province as well as steadfast world backing for the process and the outcome.
The report, prepared by UN chief Kofi Annan's special envoy to the ethnic Albanian majority province, Kai Eide of Norway, was handed over to the UN Security Council Friday along with a letter from Annan indicating his intention to appoint a peacebroker to lead the future status talks.
"The future status process must be moved forward with caution. All the parties must be brought together - and kept together - throughout the status process," said the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
"The end result must be stable and sustainable. Artificial deadlines should not be set. Once the process has started, it cannot be blocked and must be brought to a conclusion," the report added.
The key issue in the talks will be whether or not the province, still technically a part of Serbia, should be allowed to become independent.
Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and NATO since a bombing campaign by the military alliance forced Serbian forces to end a 1998-1999 crackdown against separatists in the province's Albanian majority.
The Eide report warned that while the UN had done "a credible and impressive job" in fulfilling its mandate in Kosovo, "its leverage (there) is diminishing."
It underscored the need for the European Union, NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to play a key role in the status process.
"A future status process should be accompanied by a clear expression by the international community that it is determined to stay and support this process as well as its outcome," it said.
It added that the EU should in the near term consider stepping up its presence on the ground while NATO should also continue its presence.
The report made it clear that a US contribution to KFOR, the NATO force in Kosovo, was also essential "to provide a visible expression of continued engagement."
"A High Representative or a similar arrangement (like in Bosnia) should be considered, firmly anchored in the EU and with the continued involvement from the broader international community," it noted.
The report also highlighted the need to give Belgrade "incentives for integration into Euro-Atlantic frameworks of cooperation" and said the world community must ensure that "whatever the status becomes it does not become a failed status."
"As indicated in the report, Mr Eide has concluded that, while (democratic) standards implementation in Kosovo has been uneven, the time has come to move to the next phase of the political process," the UN chief said in a letter to the Security Council.
And while on a visit to the Swiss capital Bern, he told reporters that the Kosovo status talks would begin "soon" and that he was about to appoint a peacebroker to lead them.
"The question of autonomy and independence has been raised, and we have to talk to Belgrade and Pristina. We will start soon," said Annan after he received Eide's report.
"In undertaking this sensitive exercise, the (future) special envoy will be conscious of concerns in the sub-region," Annan added in his letter to the council.
"I would emphasize that, at the same time, standards implementation must continue with greater commitment and results. Progress in this regard is essential for the success and sustainability of any future status process."
The standards cover targets to foster trust between majority Albanians and minority Serbs in such areas as building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and establishing an impartial legal system.