Ban Ki-moon said Belgrade and Pristina need to reach a solution through compromise and embrace their common European future.On his first official visit to Serbia and Kosovo, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the two countries to continue dialogue to improve the lives of ordinary people and move ahead toward a common European future.
Belgrade and Pristina started EU-mediated talks in Brussels in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence, which Serbia refuses to recognise.So far, the two sides have reached deals on freedom of movement, mutual recognition of university diplomas and on Kosovo’s representation at regional meetings.
The UN chief observed that while 20 years ago the region was beset by conflicts, today its countries are focused on consolidating peace.
“The UN was once engaged in resolving conflicts, while today it focuses on helping build the future through partnerships,” he noted.In Pristina, Ban Ki-moon said that he remained concerned about the situation in the Serb-run northern Kosovo, and the escalation of tensions during the past year.
“It is essential that sensitive and complex issues related to northern Kosovo be resolved through peaceful dialogue,” he said upon arrival to Kosovo where he met behind closed doors with President Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
On Monday, the UN chief met Vuk Jeremic, Serbia’s outgoing Foreign Minister, who was recently elected chairman of the UN General Assembly.
Jeremic reiterated that Serbia views Kosovo as a province, according to Serbia’s constitution and the 1999 UN Resolution 1244, which authorised UN deployment in Kosovo.
He also pledged that Kosovo will not become a UN member state during his presidency. Kosovo has been recognised by 91 of the 193 UN member states, including the US and most EU countries. Earlier this month, Jeremic said that Kosovo will join UN “over my dead body”.
The UN Chief then met the Serbian President, Tomislav Nikolic.
No statements were issued after the meeting but the President’s press office said Nikolic had told Ki-moon that Serbia wanted EU-mediated talks with Kosovo to be held “with a UN presence”.
Later the UN Secretary General received the “Leader for a Better World” award, the highest form of recognition by the United Nations Association of Serbia.
The award, introduced to mark 60 years of work of the United Nations Association of Serbia, is for outstanding commitment to the ideals of the Charter of the United Nations and to building a better world.
As part of his Balkan tour, the UN chief is visiting Macedonia on Tuesday and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Earlier, he visited Montenegro and Croatia.