Moscow Warns Kosovo Over Move Towards Independence
The Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — Russia warned Kosovo’s leaders Wednesday that if they declare independence the territory will never become a member of the United Nations or other international political institutions.
The United States and Britain countered by reaffirming their support for Kosovo’s drive for independence from Serbia, a close ally of Russia.
The council was supposed to discuss a report on the UN Mission in Kosovo, but instead the two sides replayed their debate last month on independence vs. autonomy for the Serb province, and neither side budged.
With Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders expected to declare independence in late February or early March, the stakes were high and the key players sent top leaders to make their case again to the UN’s most powerful body — Serbian President Boris Tadic and Kosovo’s newly elected Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Tadic echoed Russia’s call for further negotiations, saying a solution that would provide self-government guaranteeing all rights to the Kosovo Albanians “is possible and attainable.” He stressed that Serbia is now a peaceful democracy and there is no reason it should be “unjustly punished again” because of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists a decade ago that led to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign.
But Thaci told the council that Kosovo — which has been run by the UN and NATO since 1999 — that Kosovo has laid the foundations to be a democratic state and independence is a “first step to regional success and our integration in the European family,” according to a copy of his speech. Later, he told reporters “very soon we will take a decision, and we hope that very soon [the] international community will recognize us — Washington, Britain and other states.”
After the Dec. 19 Security Council debate, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared the views of the two sides “irreconcilable,” and said it was time for an independent Kosovo, a stand backed by Britain, France and most members of the European Union.
On Wednesday, Khalilzad told reporters: “We know where we are heading. There is no change with regard to the fact that the council is blocked.”
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the future of Kosovo is a Security Council issue — not an EU issue — and said council members should prepare a roadmap that would “create dynamics that in our view would lead to a negotiated outcome.”
“We are respectful of the interest of the European Union to enhance its role in Kosovo, but that should not replace an international effort to find a mutually acceptable solution,” he said.