Kosovo UN envoy condemns stonethrowing against returnees

Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, echoed Pristina’s strong condemnation of the harassment, which continued for several nights against returnees living in tents in the town of Zallq/Žać.“Such incidents can influence negatively the delicate process of returns of displaced people to their homes throughout Kosovo,” he said.Mr. Ban’s latest report to the Security Council on Kosovo found that although voluntary minority returns remain low, there has been an increase from 2008, with more than 1,100 people returning from both inside and outside Kosovo last year, compared with just 679 in 2008.In the first two months of this year, 259 uprooted members of ethnic minority communities – 22 Albanians, 90 Serbs, 30 Roma, 89 Ashkali and Egyptians, 16 Bosniaks and 12 Goranis – voluntarily returned to Kosovo, up from 55 in the same period last year.A registration effort last year carried out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Serbian Ministry for Kosovo and Metohija and the Ministry for Communities and Returns in Pristina, the report noted, “has revived interest among the displaced and has given new impetus to the returns process.”But the Secretary-General pointed out that in spite of the recent spike in numbers of returns compared to previous periods, “the overall numbers of returns remains disappointingly low,” calling on cooperation between all parties to enhance returns.Mr. Zannier, who heads the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), today welcomed Pristina’s strong condemnation of the attacks against those returning to Zallq/Žać.“Pristina authorities rightfully termed the incidents ‘cowardly and intolerable,’” as well as calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, he noted.In spite of the efforts by authorities to be visible on the ground and investigate the incidents, the envoy underscored the need for a “long-term commitment to the process” to ensure that there will be no more such provocative actions, with the only durable solution to the issue of returns lying in “open and honest dialogue.”UNMIK, deployed in Kosovo in 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians, gave up its administrative role after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in early 2008, a move that Serbia rejects. 23 April 2010The top United Nations envoy to Kosovo today voiced his concern over stone-throwing against people returning to a town in the east, urging dialogue between the ethnic Serb and Albanian communities “that must live side by side.”