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UN Envoy Accuses Serbia of Encouraging Ethnic Tensions In Kosovo


The top U.N. envoy to Kosovo is accusing Serbia of promoting ethnic tensions to prevent the breakaway province from achieving independence. The envoy is urging prompt action to determine the region's future.

U.N. Special Envoy Soeren Jessen-Petersen says the people of Kosovo are growing impatient with the province's uncertain future. As he prepares to leave after two years on the job, Jessen-Petersen told the Security Council that after seven years of U.N. rule, the time has come to finally settle the question of Kosovo's status.

"We cannot keep Kosovo in limbo for much longer. And as I leave, this is my biggest hope is that we clarify the status and that all those who have suffered so badly during the conflicts in the region over the last 15 years can finally be the beneficiaries of a settlement," he said.

The envoy expressed fear that people's patience might run out if Kosovo's "limbo status" drags on. "For the last two years, we've been managing stability in Kosovo on the basis of hope - hope given by the launch of the status process. People have been remarkably patient. Remarkably. Because we have a status process that is moving forward. If suddenly the status process either slows down or stops, I think that patience will be running out. This is not a threat, this is not blackmail. It is a simple recognition of reality on the ground. We need to move from a limbo situation to clarity," he said.

Jessen-Petersen's comments came as the Security Council appears increasingly likely to allow Kosovo to break away from Serbia. A vote is expected by the end of the year.

But in his briefing to the Security Council, the envoy accused Serbian authorities of promoting ethnic distrust and isolationist policies in an attempt to slow or even stop the status process. "As an example, whenever there is any crime in which the victim is a Kosovo Serb, an ethnic motive is often proclaimed, usually without any evidence. This is not only unfair to Kosovo as a society. More worryingly, it perpetuates a climate of insecurity among Kosovo Serb communities," he said.

A Serbian representative rejected Jessen-Petersen's portrayal, saying it does not reflect the true picture. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, president of the Serbian Coordination Center for Kosovo charged that Kosovo Albanian authorities tolerate what she called "low intensity extremist violence" against Serbs. "It is well-known that human rights in Kosovo have been violated on a mass scale. The very right of Serbs and non-Albanians, a definite minority in the province, has been threatened," he said

Raskovic-Ivic said Serbia is offering Kosovo substantial autonomy from Belgrade. She suggested that the push to complete the status process was aimed at influencing the outcome in favor of the Kosovo Albanians' request for full independence.

The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999, after the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and Serbian police staged a brutal crackdown on an ethnic Albanian insurgency. Forces loyal to Belgrade were accused of widespread atrocities in the crackdown, which killed an estimated 10,000 people, most of them ethnic Albanian civilians.