Annan calls for more flexibility from both sides in talks over Kosovo

In his latest report to the Security Council, released today and covering the period from 1 May to 14 August, Mr. Annan said the discussions – including the first high-level meeting between both sides in July along with other talks covering boundaries and cultural sites – revealed that “the parties remain far apart on most issues.”“I am disappointed… that little common ground has been identified between the positions of the Serbian and Kosovo delegations, which remain committed to ‘substantial autonomy’ and ‘full independence’ respectively, with minimal space for negotiation.”“Both sides would be better served by more flexibility in their positions. I again call on both sides to engage in these talks in a spirit of compromise. It is the responsibility of the parties to find common ground and a sustainable solution, acceptable to both sides, although the support of the international community remains essential to ensure progress.”Mr. Annan also highlighted the continued boycott by Kosovo Serbs of the province’s local Government ‘Provisional Institutions,’ and repeated calls on Belgrade to “remove all impediments” to their participation, while also urging Kosovo’s leaders to redouble their outreach to all communities.“Now is the time to reassure all communities that they have a place in Kosovo in the future regardless of its status.” Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1 in the province, which the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has administered since 1999 when NATO drove out Yugoslav troops amid ethnic fighting.Mr. Annan says that despite the “generally stable political situation,” he is nevertheless concerned with violence targeting people or religious sites, and strongly condemns them, “particularly those that are inter-ethnic,” calling for all those responsible to be quickly brought to justice.

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