The move, announced Monday, comes at the height of international discussions about Kosovo's status. The embattled province is legally part of Serbia, but has been administered as a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when western forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid grave human rights abuses. Formal discussions to resolve Kosovo's status began last year.
"I am aware, of course, that I will be departing at an important moment in the history of Kosovo," Jessen-Petersen said in a statement. "I am confident, however, that the political process leading towards a status decision is on track."
Jessen-Petersen added that his time in the province had given him "a great deal of hope for the future of Kosovo."
"The destiny of Kosovo is clear and the future course towards a democratic and multiethnic society is more than ever in the good hands of the people and the elected political leaders of Kosovo," he said.
Jessen-Petersen was named head of the U.N. Mission in Kosovo in August 2004 and he has served in the position longer than any of his predecessors. Prior to that appointment, he held posts at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Union and the U.N. Secretariat.
Recently, Jessen-Petersen has come under fire for unfairly taking the side of ethnic Albanians over that of ethnic Serbs. On June 7, Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told the U.N. Security Council that the mission in Kosovo was uncooperative, especially when it came to Albanian perpetrators.