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Kosovo Moves Closer To UNESCO Membership

  • RFE/RL

UNESCO's executive board has voted to recommend Kosovo as a full member state, despite fierce opposition from Serbia.

The membership bid is to be put to a final vote at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) general conference in November.

Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade continues to oppose any kind of international recognition of the independence of its former province.

Belgrade has launched an active campaign to undermine Pristina's membership bid in UNESCO, saying it cannot be considered a state as prescribed under international law.

It also argues that Pristina has failed to protect Serbian cultural and religious heritage sites in the former province since the war in Kosovo ended in 1999.

Pristina has rejected the accusations.

Kosovo, which Serbs consider the cradle of their statehood, is home to many of the most significant Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries.

The meeting was held behind closed doors.

Kosovo's Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said on Twitter that 27 countries voted in favor of the recommendation, 14 were opposed, and 14 abstained on October 21.

Earlier in the day, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said the executive board’s decision would "certainly not be good for Serbia," and that Serbia wanted the topic to be postponed until 2017 and discussed as part of EU-brokered negotiations to improve ties between Belgrade and Pristina.

Whatever UNESCO's executive board decides, "Serbia will continue the fight for the recommendation to be rejected," Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said.