“Such cooperation is necessary for the normalization of the situation in Kosovo and for the stabilization and development of the western Balkans as a whole,” Mr. Ban wrote in his latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which took over in 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid deadly fighting with the majority ethnic Albanian population. Last February, Kosovo declared its independence, in a move rejected by Serbia, and the UN has remained neutral on the issue. Three Kosovo Serb-majority municipalities in the north have few links to authorities in Pristina, and consider UNMIK and the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, as the only legitimate international presence. Some Kosovo Serb leaders view the European Union mission (EULEX) as supporting Pristina’s interests, the report said. The UN mission has continued to engage with all of the communities daily to facilitate dialogue and ensure links with Pristina. “It is important to underscore the unique role of UNMIK in providing mediation services to both communities and international organizations operating in the north,” the Secretary-General underscored. “As the security situation in northern Kosovo remains tense, I urge all sides to show pragmatism and restraint, and to adopt constructive policies I dealing with sensitive inter-ethnic issues,” he said. In June, Kosovo’s authorities announced that municipal elections will beheld on 15 November, but Kosovo Serbs in the north have refused to recognize or accept the upcoming polls. Also, for the first time since its deployment in 1999, UNMIK has not been designated a role in the elections and is, therefore, not expected to certify the results. The mission, Mr. Ban wrote, has entered a new phase following the completion on 1 July of its reconfiguration, in response to the prevailing situation on the ground after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, reaching its authorized strength of 510 personnel. 5 October 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today commended the efforts of the United Nations mission in Kosovo for encouraging dialogue and cooperation among its communities and between Pristina and Belgrade, the respective capitals of Kosovo and Serbia.