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Briefing: UN Delay On Kosovo Risks Instability

(RFE/RL) March 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations Security Council should decide on Kosovo's final status soon -- preferably by this fall -- or risk inciting regional instability, according to a regional expert with the International Crisis Group.

Sabine Freizer , ICG Europe Program Director, spoke to a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office as the Security Council prepared to discuss a plan for Kosovo put forward by special UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

Russia has opposed the plan to give the Serbian province a form of supervised independence, without saying whether it intends to veto it.

The entire briefing (about 75 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media

But Freizer said a number of other council members, including China and nonpermanent members Indonesia and South Africa, also appeared to want to delay a decision because of a number of concerns.

She said these included an argument for continued negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, and unease that the issue might be resolved before Serbia has a new government in place.

But she said their biggest concern is that independence for Kosovo would serve as a precedent.

"They fear that if Kosovo is granted independence, this will mean in international law that self-determination supersedes territorial integrity," Freizer said. "Another concern is that this would be the first time, as they see it, that a solution is imposed by the international community, that the Security Council imposes the breakup of a state."

However, Freizer said she thought aiming for delay was a "bad strategy."

"Going back to the negotiating table at this point seems little bit fruitless because it's highly unlikely the two sides will come to a common agreement," she said. "Delay will just keep the whole region in a vacuum, economic as well as political. Most importantly, delay is handicapping any movement toward the EU, not only for Kosovo but also for Serbia. Finally, delay is only more likely to incite regional instability."

Freizer said it was possible a draft UN Security Council resolution on Kosovo could be vetoed, or that it could fail as a result of seven or more abstentions.

In either case, she said, Kosovo would start entering "very dangerous waters."

"It's possible the Kosovo Albanians [would] unilaterally declare independence," she said. "It would mean no supervision, no guarantee of all minority rights and democratic processes that exist in the Ahtisaari package. This would make a very tense situation. If Kosovo politicians declared independence, it's possible Serbs there would do the same. What we would see is a de facto partition of Kosovo."

Freizer said such moves would also mean the dramatic loss of authority by current government leaders and international organizations active in Kosovo.