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UN Holds Emergency Session On Kosovo

  • Nikola Krastev

NATO peacekeepers patrol in Mitrovica after the deadly explosion

NATO peacekeepers patrol in Mitrovica after the deadly explosion

The UN Security Council held an emergency session to discuss the security situation in Kosovo, after a blast last week in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica left one person dead.

Serbian President Boris Tadic told the UN Security Council that the July 2 explosion was "unprovoked violence" and a "flagrant act of terror."

Tadic was addressing a July 6 emergency meeting requested by Belgrade after the blast in north Mitrovica left a local Bosnian Muslim pediatrician dead and injured 11 bystanders.

Tadic said two bombs were thrown into the gathering "from within courtyards of homes owned by ethnic Albanian supporters" of independence.

The gathering was a protest by local Serbs against the attempt by Pristina's authorities to assert control over the Serb-dominated area by opening an official Kosovo government office.

"We call on all responsible stakeholders to avoid ever again putting themselves in a position of supporting any additional destabilizing acts by Pristina. The ethnic Albanian authorities have to be told what the consequences will be -- should they try unilateralism again," Tadic said.

"Otherwise, Serbia will have no choice but to reassess its relations with the international presence in the province."

But Kosovo's representative at the council session, Skender Hyseni, rejected Tadic's assessment of the July 2 incident as a "terrorist act" and repeated that it was an isolated criminal act that is currently being investigated by the authorities.

Hyseni also said he couldn't rule out that the explosive device might have been thrown "from within the protesters groups."

'Not A Planned Act Of Terrorism'

The U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, expressed regret over the incident and the loss of life but said it was an isolated criminal act and not a planned act of terrorism. He said that an isolated incident like this did not warrant an emergency council session in Washington's view.

"It is our understanding, that in the spirit of transparency, the government of Serbia was informed in advance of the opening of the center. It is unfortunate that the government of Kosovo's efforts to assist those most in need in the north were subsequently disrupted by attempts to politicize the Citizens Services Center and destabilize the situation in northern Kosovo," Wolff said.

"We must also emphasize that any violence and provocative actions by demonstrators are also unacceptable."

Russia supported Serbia's request for an emergency session. Moscow is Serbia's staunchest ally at the council and has repeatedly said that it will never recognize Kosovo's independence.

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that Russia is "very concerned" over the deterioration of the security situation in Kosovo and fully supports Tadic's assessment.

"The Kosovo authorities with the support of some representatives of the international community attempted to open in north Mitrovica an office of Kosovo's temporary institutions. This was a blatant provocation aimed at undermining the stability in the Serb-populated areas of the territory," Churkin said.

"We've been informed that there are in the making other similar destabilizing steps. All necessary measures must be taken to prevent similar provocations."

Kosovo's Albanian leadership unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. So far 69 of the 192 UN member states have recognized Kosovo's independence.

In his speech Tadic emphasized the importance, in Belgrade's view, of the expected decision of the International Court of Justice over the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence. The court is expected to deliver a nonbinding opinion on the subject later this year.

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