Belgrae, 18 July 2008 – Tensions between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo are rising despite the overall security situation appearing calm on the surface, the UN Secretary-General warns.”While the general security situation remains calm on the surface, Pristina’s declaration of independence and the entry into force of the Kosovo constitution, and reactions by Kosovo Serbs and Belgrade have increased tension between the Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb communities,” Ban Ki-Moon says in a regular quarterly report, which will be reviewed by the United Nations Security Council on July 25.

The UN Secretary General reiterated that the world organisation “maintained a position of strict neutrality on the question of Kosovo’s status.”

“However, since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, (the United Nations Mission in Kosovo) UNMIK has been confronted with a substantially changed situation in Kosovo and has faced fundamental challenges to its authority and role. As I have communicated to the Security Council, in the light of these developments, it is my assessment that UNMIK can no longer perform as effectively as in the past the vast majority of its tasks as an interim administration throughout all of Kosovo,” Ban said.

“In the light of the fact that the Security Council is unable to provide guidance, I have instructed my Special Representative to move forward with the reconfiguration of UNMIK… in order to adapt UNMIK to a changed reality and address the current and emerging operational requirements in Kosovo,” Ban said.

UNMIK has begun ‘reconfiguring’ in light of Kosovo’s declaration of independence and the ceding of greater responsibilities to Pristina leaders after Kosovo’s constitution came into force on June 15.

Based on the proposal for Kosovo’s ‘supervised independence’ devised by former UN envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, a European Union-led mission must be established in Kosovo to supervise the rule of law, as a successor to the current UN mission.

But Serbia and Russia are against the deployment of EULEX, calling for the continuation of UNMIK’s mandate and arguing EULEX seeks to formalise Kosovo’s independence. Moscow and Belgrade both refuse to recognise independence as Kosovo’s final status.

Their opposition to Kosovo’s independence has seen the UN reluctant to leave Kosovo.

The UN chief notified the 15-member body that his new representative in Kosovo, Italian diplomat Lamberto Zannier “would engage in dialogue with Belgrade in six key areas of practical mutual concern”, including police, courts, customs, transportation and infrastructure, boundaries and Serbian patrimony.

The dialogue, Ban added, would be brought forward in close consultation with the authorities in Pristina and with key stakeholders.

He also warned of “a downward trend” considering the return of displaced persons to Kosovo, as just 215 people, 49 Serbs and 108 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, returned to Kosovo between January and May.

Source: BalkanInsight