30 January 2007The top United Nations envoy in Kosovo today briefed the Council of Europe on latest developments in deciding the final status of the Albanian-majority Serbian province that the world body has run since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999 amid ethnic fighting. “Status will be a new beginning for Kosovo,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Joachim Rücker told the Council’s Committee of Ministers’ Deputies in Strasbourg, France, stressing the importance of a timely resolution of the issue that will help greatly enhance stability in the region.Mr. Ban’s Special Envoy for Kosovo’s future status process Martti Ahtisaari is to present his proposal for final status to the Serbian Government and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian- led provisional authorities on Friday, but no details have been released. Independence and autonomy are among options that have been mentioned for the province, where Albanians outnumber Serbs and others by 9 to 1, but Serbia rejects independence.“Status continues to be the dominant issue for everyone concerned with Kosovo and the region of the Western Balkans,” Mr. Rücker said today.He also discussed with the Committee and with the Council’s Secretary General Terry Davis security, minority returns, protection of cultural heritage sites and the general state of human rights, including the expected appointment of an Ombudsperson.In early 1999, the province was the scene of atrocities and the forceful displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians. After a three-month intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), culminating in the arrival of troops, most of the Albanian population returned to their homes within days.But only some 15,600 returns of ethnic Serbs, Roma and other minorities have been registered out of the estimated 250,000 who fled after the withdrawal of Serbian forces in 1999.