27 March 2006

UN: Minority rights will be guaranteed in any settlement for Kosovo

AP, Feb 28, 2006 11:44 AM


BRUSSELS, Belgium-Minority rights will be guaranteed in any final settlement for Kosovo, the top U.N. official in the province said Tuesday, calling on Kosovo Serbs to take an active part in shaping the province's future.


"The (ethnic Albanian) majority will have to understand they can't stabilize Kosovo if they don't recognize the right of the minority to be protected," Soren Jessen-Petersen said after meeting senior EU and NATO officials.


"In the status settlement there will be a provision for minority protection that can be monitored and verified" from outside, he said.


Jessen-Petersen said a federal government, based in Pristina, and a regional government for Kosovo's Serbs would be the best way to protect the rights of the Serb minority. He urged Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs to stop what he called "boycotting" the idea.


"There will be a limit to how much you can achieve in the area for the minorities if the minorities are not taking an active part in the process. As long as you continue the policy of boycott it's very difficult," he said.


Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since a 1999 NATO bombing campaign ended a Serb crackdown on independence-minded ethnic Albanian rebels.


The first round of negotiations between Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and Serbian officials on the province's future status was held Feb. 20-21 in Vienna, Austria, and the dispute over its future is expected to be resolved by the end of 2006.


Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on full independence, while the Serbs want it to remain part of Serbia.


Western diplomats have said Kosovo's quest for independence is conditional on the province becoming a democracy that respects minority rights.