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Growing tensions in northern Kosovo highlight need for dialogue, says UN envoy

Growing tensions in northern Kosovo and lack of progress on outstanding issues has made dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade all the more necessary, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, said that inter-ethnic relations in northern Kosovo appear to be deteriorating.

“While overall the situation has remained stable during the reporting period, continuing incidents in northern Kosovo have highlighted the strong potential for instability there and the urgent need to address the issues that continue to create friction between the communities,” he said, as he presented Mr. Ban’s latest report.

Mr. Zannier said that that since the end of October, low-level inter-ethnic incidents have persisted and with them the danger of igniting widespread violence.

“Our key challenge in northern Kosovo remains to mediate between the communities, as well as to serve as a bridge between northern Kosovo and the Pristina authorities,” he stated.

Both the Secretary-General and the General Assembly have welcomed the readiness of the European Union (EU) to facilitate a process of dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo over the latter's unilateral declaration of independence in 2008.

In a resolution adopted in September, the Assembly said “the process of dialogue in itself would be a factor for peace, security and stability in the region, and that dialogue would be to promote cooperation, achieve progress on the path to the European Union and improve the lives of the people.”

Mr. Zannier, who also heads the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), noted that preparations for the dialogue are underway in Brussels, and the UN is working with the EU to provide support and contribute to this important process.

“Our overall assessment is that the tensions in northern Kosovo and the attempt to scapegoat UNMIK for the lack of progress there are reminders of the pressing need for the dialogue called for by the General Assembly,” he told the Council.

He added that two other key issues regarding which progress is falling short of expectations – missing persons and returns – can also be most effectively addressed through dialogue between the parties.

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