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Kosovo: Meeting of Working Group on missing persons held in Belgrade

16-03-2005 News Release 23

The Working Group on persons unaccounted for in relation to the events in Kosovo between January 1998 and December 2000 met today at the Federal Palace in Belgrade.

The Working Group is chaired by the ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary, and meets under the auspices of the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general in Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen. It held its first and only previous meeting in March 2004, in Pristina.

The ICRC convened today's session after the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina agreed to resume direct talks in order to elucidate the fate of nearly 3,000 persons still unaccounted for. During the meeting, both sides reaffirmed their responsibility to do everything in their power to resolve this pressing humanitarian issue.

The participants also adopted a general framework and rules of procedure, and they agreed to use a provisional list of missing persons compiled by the ICRC as a basis for deliberations.

" It's very significant that we had today's meeting after a year of stalemate, " said François Stamm, the ICRC's head of operations for south-eastern Europe, who chaired the meeting. " This marks an important step forward in what we hope will be a process that brings clarity for thousands of families still awaiting news of their missing relatives. The families of the missing will be the judge of whether this process has been a success or not. "

    

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 29 30 / ++41 79 217 32 26  

 Gordana Milenkovic, ICRC Belgrade, tel. ++381 11 344 15 22  

 Idriz Gashi, ICRC Pristina, tel. ++377 44 168 848