PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP)--Kosovo's top U.N. administrator told staff Monday he is leaving the province at the end of June.
Soeren Jessen-Petersen, a Danish refugee expert and former European Union representative to Macedonia who has been in Kosovo for nearly two years, told the U.N. staff in the province he "will be departing at an important moment in the history of Kosovo.
"I am confident, however, that the political process leading toward a status decision is on track," Jessen-Petersen said in an e-mail to his staff, obtained by the AP.
"The destiny of Kosovo is clear and the future course toward a democratic, multiethnic society is more than ever in the good hands of the people and the elected political leaders of Kosovo."
Jessen-Petersen's decision comes at the most sensitive time for the disputed province since U.N. administration began in 1999. The U.N. took control after the NATO air war that forced Serb forces to relinquish control over Kosovo. Talks to determine Kosovo's future status - whether it becomes independent state or remains somehow attached to Serbia - are under way in Vienna, Austria.
It wasn't immediately clear whether someone will succeed Jessen-Petersen in the post.
Jessen-Petersen, named to the post by U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan in June 2004, was the province's fifth U.N. chief since the end of the war and was regarded as popular.
A lawyer, he had served as assistant high commissioner for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from January 1998 to December 2001. He later became chairman of a European Union initiative to manage population movements in the western Balkans.
The province is as divided as ever. Ethnic Albanian and Serbs remain entrenched in their diametrically opposed positions on the province's future status. It also remains one of the poorest regions in Europe, with an unemployment rate estimated at over 50%.
On Sunday, the chief U.N. negotiator, the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said the two sides will be invited to present their proposal for Kosovo's final status in the end of July.