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Kosovo: UN Security Council Begins Final-Status Debate

Serbian Prime Minsiter Vojislav Kostunica at the UN on April 3 (official site) UNITED NATIONS, April 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The UN Security Council has begun debate on a proposal to give Kosovo internationally supervised independence.

The plan was put forward by the UN special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, after Serbian and Kosovar Albanian negotiators failed to reach agreement on the province's future status. The proposal has received backing from the United States and the European Union, but Russia, a veto-holding member of the council, has expressed its opposition.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, in an address to the Security Council on April 3, reiterated Belgrade's long-standing position that it is ready to give Kosovo "the highest degree of autonomy," but not independence.

Russia Pushes A 'Fact-Finding Mission'

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin described the April 3 session as "good" and said Moscow will continue to push its proposal to send a Security Council "fact-finding" mission to Belgrade and Prishtina.

"I don't think anybody expected that the Security Council will come to some sort of conclusion today," Churkin said. "There was no effort at drawing a conclusion but what one could feel, in my view, that Security Council members, most of them, were in a reflective mood. We are trying to analyze the situation and trying to find the best way forward."

Russia's proposal for a "fact-finding" mission has met with mixed reactions within the Security Council. China and some of the nonpermanent council members expressed support for the mission. But the other three permanent members -- Britain, France, and the United States -- view Russia' proposal simply as a way to delay a decision that to them seems inevitable.

Alejandro Wolff, the acting U.S. ambassador to the UN, reasserted Washington's strong support for Ahtisaari's proposal. He said the Ahtisaari plan is the "only option really available."

Not A Template

But at the same time Wolff acknowledged there is some polarization within the council on Kosovo's status. He said that concerns are mostly related to situations in other parts of the world. But he argued that the Kosovo case is "unique" and should not serve as a template.

Security Council President Emyr Jones Parry of Britain leading the discussion on April 3 (official site)

"Most of them [concerns] tend to be ones of precedent related to their own regions and areas closer to them," Wolff said. "[It has] very little to do with the situation actually in Kosovo and the realities of the situation in the Balkans. So, there is need for more information, great inquisitiveness, and we will have to continue with an education campaign to explain why the situation is unique and why the Ahtisaari proposals are the right way to proceed."

Russia has argued that if Kosovo is to be given independence then the same treatment should be applied to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, which are seeking independence from Russia's southern neighbor, Georgia.

Churkin expressed his anger when Kosovar Albanian representatives were allowed to participate in the Security Council meeting. He noted that earlier in the year, Abkhaz representatives were denied U.S. visas when they wanted to come to the council to explain their position.

Divided Council

Ahitsaari, who is a former president of Finland, has come to the conclusion -- after 15 months of fruitless negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina -- that independence is the only solution for Kosovo. Speaking after the council's April 3 meeting, Ahtisaari said he had no intention of changing his proposal, which has been described by Serbia's government as a "useless exercise."

"I totally disagree that this has been a useless exercise because otherwise we couldn't have actually made the proposals that we made, had we not come through thoroughly the different discussions," Ahtisaari said. "I don't think that the prolongation of these talks will help on the status issue."

UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of Britain said there is "considerable support" within the Security Council for Ahtisaari' proposal. At the same time Jones Parry, who is the council's president for April, said a vote was unlikely soon.

Britain's view, he said, is that an independent Kosovo means stability in the Balkans and the road to membership in European structures for both Kosovo and Serbia.

"What is on offer is a managed process, a process which should lead towards independence, but one which is done in a way which meets aspirations," Jones Parry said. "And because of the European dimension of this, we believe that what is on offer for Kosovo, and also crucially for Serbia, and for the countries of the Balkans, is actually a destination with the Euro-Atlantic structures, both, the European Union and NATO."

The Ahtisaari blueprint would give Kosovo the independence its overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian population seeks -- with international supervision -- while at the same time giving Serbian-inhabited municipalities broad self-government as well as protection for Orthodox Christian sites throughout the province.

Final Status For Kosovo

Final Status For Kosovo

Pro-independence graffiti in Prishtina (epa)

FINALLY STATUS? Sabine Freizer, director of the Crisis Group's Europe Program, told an RFE/RL briefing that deep divisions in the UN Security Council make it uncertain what form Kosovo's future status might take.


Listen to the entire briefing (about 70 minutes):
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RFE/RL's coverage of Kosovo. The website of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Language Service.