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SRSG and Prime Minister visit returns site

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Srecka/Sredska - SRSG Michael Steiner and Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi visited the returns village of Sredska today in Kosovo's southern Zhupa Valley. Accompanying them was a delegation from the donor community. Sredska, although in an area of multi-ethnic coexistence before the conflict, was left battered and empty after the summer of 1999.
Several Serbs who had returned to Sredska in the past six months accompanied the Prime Minister and the SRSG on their tour of the village. The group discussed ways to make life better in Sredska and to encourage more returns.

"We are engaged for the return of all citizens of Kosovo and for their good treatment," said Kosovo Prime Minister Rexhepi. "Kosovo institutions, along with UNMIK and UNHCR are committed to encouraging the population to return to their homes in Kosovo."

"It means a lot to us that the Prime Minister is here because we expect a lot from them," said 70-year-old Zoran Stevanovic, who returned to Sredska five months ago and says the village still needs improvements in such areas as health care, transportation and communication.

Stevanovic says he has good relations with Albanians in nearby villages, who come to socialize on a regular basis, he says.

Another returnee, 64-year-old Ratomir Sofitic,says his wife is to join him in April. Sofitic says his main complaint is that he does not yet have the freedom of movement to go shopping in Prizren.

Concluding the visit, SRSG Michael Steiner said, "We call upon all those who want to return to do so, because as we saw for ourselves, they can return and find a suitable environment. We are creating these conditions."

Also on the visit was Milorad Todorivic, Kosovo government Coordinator on returns and Nenad Radosavljevic, advisor to the SRSG on returns.

The visit reflected UNMIK and UNHCR's rights-based Returns efforts in Kosovo which espouse a bottom-up approach with engagement at the local level and the need forinter-ethnic dialogue within communities.