13 June 2006 – Despite some progress in talks to decide the final status of Kosovo, the parties remain far apart and compromise is crucial, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report on the Albanian-majority Serbian province, which the United Nations has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting.
“I echo the calls made for both sides to demonstrate flexibility, generosity and a spirit of compromise in the talks,” he writes of the dialogue between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs which began in Vienna in February under the auspices of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and have been held about twice monthly since.
“Though initial positions will naturally differ, mutually beneficial arrangements can be found if both sides pursue negotiations in this manner. Without such an approach, progress will be difficult and neither side will benefit,” he adds.
Independence and autonomy are among options that have been mentioned for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1. Serbia rejects independence and Kosovo's Serbs have been boycotting the province’s local government the ‘Provisional Institutions,’ a fact Mr. Annan laments in the report.
“It is equally essential that the Kosovo Serbs rejoin the Provisional Institutions at all levels and actively engage in them,” he writes. “Remaining outside the Institutions will not bring their communities any benefit, and in fact negatively affects their ability to bring meaningful improvements into the lives of their communities.”
He voices concern at reports of pressure on Kosovo Serbs to withdraw from the Institutions and calls on Serbia to facilitate, not to hamper, their participation.
As he has in previous reports, he stresses the need for implementation of the so-called Standards, eight targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system.
He welcomes efforts by Kosovo’s new Prime Minister Agim Ceku to accelerate the process, calls on the Kosovo government to tackle the challenges in their implementation without delay, and cites the Serbs’ unwillingness to participate in the Institutions as “an increasing obstacle” to their fulfilment.
“Real progress in this regard (the Standards) remains an essential factor in determining progress in the political process to determine Kosovo’s future status,” he says.
Mr. Annan stresses that reconciliation remains essential and although all communities have a role to play in that effort, the principal responsibility rests with the majority. He welcomes the increased outreach to minorities, particularly the Serbs, and voices disappointment that so few of those who fled in the aftermath of the ouster of Yugoslav troops have so far returned.