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Greater Dialogue Between Pristina, Belgrade Needed

KOSOVO: Greater Dialogue Between Pristina & Belgrade

Pristina and Belgrade must have direct and serious dialogue if Kosovo is to make any progress soon on such key issues as the fate of persons missing from the war of 1998-99, the senior United Nations senior envoy to the province told the Security Council today.

Harri Holkeri, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, described a fragile Kosovo marked by mistrust between communities.

The envoy said Kosovo's capital, Pristina, understands that dialogue is a standard that must be fulfilled before the province's future status is determined. He also criticized the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, for setting up parallel institutions and power structures in Kosovo.

Over 3,500 people - about 75 per cent Kosovo Serbs and nearly 20 per cent Kosovo Albanians - are still missing since the war ended, while many people have not yet returned to their former homes and villages.

Mr. Holkeri pointed out that the "Standards for Kosovo" document, launched in December, sets out what the province's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government need to achieve before permanent future status can be decided.

The standards cover a number of areas, including functioning democratic institutions, the rule of law, freedom of movement, returns and reintegration, the economy, property rights and dialogue with Belgrade.

Mr. Holkeri said Kosovo Serbs have not been participating in the standards process because of their "wholly unfounded" fears that it prejudges Kosovo's future status.

"Kosovo's undetermined status helps no one in Kosovo and it needs to be resolved sooner rather than later," he said.

Zeljko Perovic, Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister of Serbia and Montenegro, told the Council that Kosovo's non-Albanian communities were being denied any meaningful participation in the province's political life. He also charged that in the province, all of the political, economic and social advantages belonged to the ethnic Albanian community.

Albania's representative, Agim Nesho, voiced regret over the lack of participation of minorities in the implementation process. But he welcomed the recent transfer of certain specific responsibilities to Kosovo's Provisional Institutions - the presidency, the government and the Kosovo assembly - as a step forward.

All 15 Council members took part in the debate, with many stressing that Kosovo's Provisional Institutions must meet the standards timetable. A number of speakers also underscored the need for ethnic tolerance to foster returns and stability.

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