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UN: Russia, China Raise Concern About Kosovo Resolution

  • Robert McMahon

Russia and China are repeating charges that the UN mission in Kosovo is failing to implement the UN resolution that provides for the administration of the province. Representatives of both countries complain that the exclusion of Yugoslavia from affairs in the province violates the resolution, which asserts Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo. UN correspondent Robert McMahon reports.

United Nations, 12 May 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russia and China have again expressed concern that the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, is not properly following through on the resolution setting up the administration of the Yugoslav province.

The Russian and Chinese concerns center on what they perceive as a growing lack of recognition of Yugoslav sovereignty in Kosovo. They believe armed ethnic Albanian rebels are being allowed to intimidate the remaining Serbian population in Kosovo and that the UN mission is excluding Yugoslav officials in Belgrade from sharing in any important decisions.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, repeatedly called for the full implementation of Resolution 1244 during an open discussion by the Security Council on Thursday about the recent trip of council members to Kosovo.

Lavrov spoke of the need to engage Yugoslav officials in resolving important matters, such as the missing persons question. Lavrov and other council members who made the trip last month said they came away concerned about the missing persons issue, which affects both ethnic Albanian and Serbian families.

"This is a serious, emotional, very sensitive problem. But we're convinced that the key to the solution of this consists in establishing a normal and final working relationship with Belgrade."

Senior Russian officials at two other locations on Thursday also expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of Resolution 1244. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the failure to carry out the resolution could create a "breeding ground" for international terrorism in the Balkans. He was speaking to Interfax in Strasbourg, where the Russian delegation conveyed its concerns about Kosovo to the Council of Europe.

And in Moscow, First Deputy Chief of General Staff Colonel-General Valery Manilov told ITAR-TASS that the UN mission has failed to demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army and cease the flow of weapons to ethnic Albanians in the province. He said Russia will end its participation in the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo if it amounts to "complicity in partitioning Yugoslavia."

China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Yingfan, on Thursday also warned the council against what he called the "undermining" of Yugoslavia's sovereignty. He said moves by the UN mission to issue travel documents for Kosovars and postage stamps for the province are starting to give the wrong impression that Kosovo was on its way to independence.

The UN's top administrator for Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, has defended the moves, saying they are necessary for the day-to-day functioning of the province. He is supported by the Western states which are permanent members of the Security Council.

A majority of council members on Thursday stressed the importance of broad participation in the local elections planned for this autumn. Serbs in Kosovo have not participated in the election process so far, partly out of concern for their safety at voting registration places.

France's UN ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, told the council it is essential to prepare the way for Serbian participation in the elections.

"At stake is the integration of the Serbs in the political life of Kosovo. It's also the preparation of the conditions for their future in Kosovo. At stake in a more general way is the participation of all communities in Kosovo's future."

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, praised the UN mission and Kouchner for their progress so far. He said they are focused on the proper goals -- the consolidation of the rule of law and developing a political framework. But Cunningham said Kosovo needs more police, prosecutors and judges.

"There unquestionably continues to be a security gap in Kosovo. Additional international judges and resources for the judicial sector will help make fair trials and effective criminal prosecution the rule rather than the exception in all of Kosovo." Cunningham said he hopes the Security Council mission to Kosovo last month made it apparent to the ambassadors that Yugoslavia is not sincere about cooperating with the UN mission in Kosovo. That was his only reference to the central government, but helped highlight some of the fundamental differences some council members have about the Yugoslav leadership.

The Chinese and Russian representatives on last month's trip drew criticism from council colleagues for a visit they made to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He has been indicted by a UN tribunal as a war criminal.