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UN Security Council Starts Discussions On Kosovo's Future


http://gdb.rferl.org/C671A708-91E2-4497-ABC0-4082B1F9E04B_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/C671A708-91E2-4497-ABC0-4082B1F9E04B_mw800_mh600.jpg Pro-independence graffiti in Pristina (epa) The UN Security Council meets on December 19 in New York to discuss Kosovo's future, a week after the end of internationally mediated talks that failed to secure agreement on the status of the province.


Top Serbian and Kosovo Albanian leaders will be present at today’s UN deliberations. The meeting is due to consider a report by U.S., EU, and Russian mediators, who oversaw the past two years of talks between Pristina and Belgrade. The negotiations ended with both sides as entrenched as ever in their respective positions.


Belgrade says it is ready to offer Kosovo a high degree of autonomy -- but not independence.


But for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders and 90 percent of the province’s population, nothing short of independence is acceptable.


As Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu told RFE/RL earlier this month, Kosovo’s majority Albanians will not back down before any threat, and are ready to make sacrifices for that goal.


"Kosovo can live without the economic links it currently has with Serbia," Sejdiu said. "Serbia is trying to test our sustainability; whether we'll have the alternative channels and internal forces needed to resist whatever blockade Serbia imposes. We're ready."


"The citizens of Kosovo know that you can't put a price on independence," he continued. "And if Serbia tries to use violence in Kosovo, through military or intelligence pressure, who will it have to confront? NATO forces in Kosovo have given strong guarantees that they will not allow any use of violence."


A Council Divided


The province’s leaders are expected to restate their case at the Security Council. But the world body itself remains as split as ever.


Permanent Security Council members France, Britain, and the United States say the time for negotiations is over and it is time to resolve the issue of Kosovo’s status once and for all. But China, and especially Russia, oppose independence for Kosovo against Belgrade’s wishes and argue that more talks should be held.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned that an independent Kosovo could serve as a precedent for the frozen conflicts in Georgia, whose pro-Moscow regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia seek independence, and in Moldova, whose pro-Moscow Transdniester region also wants statehood.


Today’s Security Council meeting takes place against a backdrop of rising diplomatic tension.


On December 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of “holding Pristina’s hand” throughout the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, encouraging the Kosovo Albanians’ uncompromising stance.


He earlier warned that a declaration of independence by Kosovo -- outside the UN framework -- could have dangerous consequences.


"A unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo and illegal recognition of this independence will definitely have consequences because I'm sure it will trigger a chain reaction in the Balkans and other regions," Lavrov said. "And those who nurture such plans should be fully aware of their responsibility for such consequences."


But if the deadlock continues at the United Nations, as expected, it appears likely that the focus will move to the United States and the European Union.


At a summit in Brussels last week, EU leaders issued a declaration saying the 27 member states believe the negotiation process has been “exhausted” and that the current status quo for Kosovo is “unsustainable.”


Unofficially, European diplomats indicated that all EU member states -- with the notable exception of Cyprus -- are ready to recognize Kosovo’s independence. Washington has indicated it is prepared to do so as well.


EU states have agreed on plans to send an 1,800-strong police and security mission to Kosovo to replace the current UN administrative mission.


Kosovo’s leaders say they will act “in coordination” with Brussels and Washington.


(RFE/RL’s South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service contributed to this report.)

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