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Kosovo Seeks To Become UNESCO Member; Serbia Objects

  • RFE/RL

Kosovo applied for membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a move immediately opposed by Serbia which argues that it's not qualified because it isn't a state.

Kosovo's Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said at a Security Council meeting August 21 that Kosovo is eligible to become a member of the UNESCO before it becomes a UN member state, if UNESCO's executive board recommends it and two-thirds of its members approve.

Thaci said Kosovo is also seeking to join INTERPOL and the Council of Europe.

Kosovo and Serbia fought a war in 1998 and 1999. Kosovo came under UN and NATO administration after a 1999 NATO-led air war halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, but its final status was left in question.

Kosovo's predominantly ethnic Albanian leadership declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and has been recognized by 111 countries, including the United States and a majority of European Union member states.

Serbia rejects its secession, however, and its close ally Russia has blocked Kosovo from becoming a UN member state.

Thaci said UNESCO will decide on its application in November.

Kosovo is already a member of two UN agencies, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, he said, adding that many countries, including Austria and Vietnam, became UNESCO members before they joined the UN.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic insisted that Kosovo is still a UN-administered territory and said its membership in UNESCO would violate UN rules.

Dacic also charged that the desecration of Serbian monasteries in Kosovo is continuing, calling this one way "of intimidating the remaining Orthodox population in the province."

"Since June 1999, 236 churches, monasteries, and other sites owned by the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as cultural-historical monuments, have been targets of attacks," Dacic told the council.

Thaci responded that UNESCO World Heritage sites in Kosovo "are safe, or safer than they have been in the last 1000 years," adding that "our police force protects 95 percent of the sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church."

With reporting by AP and AFP
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