Serbia: Security Council team's meetings in Kosovo cause for confidence, official says

The head of a United Nations Security Council team travelling in the Balkans today said its meetings in Kosovo give cause for confidence on the future of the Serbian province that has been run by the United Nations since Western forces drove Yugoslav troops out in 1999.

Following talks with the President and Prime Minister in Pristina, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke said the delegation he is leading "got a message of confidence, a clear and articulated view on what the current and future policies may be."

Commenting on meetings with Serbian political leaders, he added: "We saw that their view is also one which is one of a belief in the future of Kosovo, but that still we will have to work on further confidence and willingness to work together for a multi ethnic society."

The aim of the trip is to provide Council members with a first-hand understanding of the social, political and economic situation in Kosovo. In particular, the mission will assess whether agreed standards - a set of eight overall targets that include building democratic institutions, enforcing minority rights, creating a functioning economy and setting up an impartial legal system - have been implemented.

Last month, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the future status process Martti Ahtisaari asserted that the only viable option for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one, is independence in a phased process with initial supervision by the international community.

Calling Kosovo "a unique case that demands a unique solution," Mr. Ahtisaari said in a report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that independence is the only way the province, where unemployment is close to 60 per cent, can become politically stable and economically viable.

Council members "are now seized by these reports and will have to act upon them," said Ambassador Verbeke. "Acting is for the future; where we are now is collecting all the necessary elements of information which must enable us to act responsibly in the coming weeks."

While in Kosovo, administered now by the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK), the delegation met also with members of different communities and visited the divided city of Mitrovica.

"The most important message which we registered was one of confidence, of willingness of building a strong multiethnic society, work to the future, make sure that commitments and engagements are being properly kept so that all communities living here can trust each other, work together with each other for the better future of Kosovo," said Ambassador Verbeke.