Annan lauds reform efforts in Yugoslavia

Noting the UN’s long and constructive – but sometimes painful and difficult – ties with Yugoslavia, the Secretary-General said both sides are ready to put the past behind them as the country begins to rebuild and create a nation based on the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights.”I think you are making progress, progress that I think if pursued and sustained will strengthen your country and the region,” he told reporters following his meeting with President Vojislav Kostunica. “And I am also particularly pleased that you are taking measures to improve relations with your immediate neighbours.”The Secretary-General said that he and the President had discussed the country’s relationship with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and ongoing work to reconcile national law and relations with the UN court.Turning to Kosovo, which he just visited, the Secretary-General said he could attest to good progress there. “But we have difficult problems that we need to tackle and my team on the ground is working very hard to do just that,” he said. “We are working hard to create a multi-ethnic Kosovo where rights of minorities are respected, where their human rights are respected and they feel secure.”Mr. Annan said that he also discussed with President Kostunica refugees, noting that the situation in the region naturally brings up the question of their return home, as well as the plight of internally displaced persons, and what individual countries or the international community is doing to help.As for the painful issue of missing persons, the Secretary-General stressed that the relatives all want answers. “We will work with all concerned in these countries through programmes that have existed and we are trying to strengthen to get to the truth,” he said. “That is essential.”

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