Speaking at an open council session on January 16, Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed to its members to reject any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian government.
"Unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence would no doubt be a precedent," he said. "Nobody has the right to destabilize Serbia and the Balkans by hasty unilateral decisions that will have unforeseeable consequences for other regions experiencing problems of ethnic separatism as well."
Tadic said Serbia has made its "decision clear on a number of occasions: the solution must be with accordance with international law, a result of compromise acceptable to both sides, and it has to bring about long-term peace and prosperity to all citizens of my country and the region."
In a passionate speech peppered with historic allusions and examples of the dreariness of current living conditions in Kosovo for Serbian inhabitants, Tadic repeated the words of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica from the same podium four weeks ago.
"Serbia will never recognize Kosovo's independence and will preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all democratic means, legal arguments, and diplomacy," Tadic said. "I therefore confirm once again, ladies and gentlemen, that Serbia will not resort to violence and war."
Hashim Thaci, the leader of the of the Kosovar Albanians' drive for independence, was also present at the Security Council session in New York. The UN does not recognize Kosovo as an official state, which prohibits authorities like Thaci from making official statements before the council.
In a closed session that followed Tadic's remarks, however, the new prime minister pledged greater cooperation with the region's non-Albanian minorities and said Kosovo was ready to "assume greater ownership" over its future.
Thaci later outlined his intentions to reporters. "Very soon we will take a decision. And we hope that very soon the international community will recognize us, Washington, Brussels and other states," he said. "Everything what Pristina will do, it will do it in close cooperation with Washington and Brussels and other states and we will work so that process to continue as soon as possible. I am sure that the decision will be taken very soon."
East Vs. West
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said that former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari's proposal for supervised independence of Kosovo remains the best possible solution. Washington is the most vocal proponent for Kosovo's independence.
Russia's Vitaly Churkin (AFP)
"I think that Ahtisaari plan is the only game in town that's on the table," Khalilzad said. "And we believe, given the respected positions of the parties, Pristina and Belgrade, the fact that they haven't come to an agreement, that [Ahtisaari plan] is a reasonable approach and its implementation would be the right thing to do."
Trying to minimize the potential political damage for Serbia, Khalilzad emphasized that with independence or not, the main priority for both Serbia and Kosovo should remain their speedy accession to unified Europe.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, voiced his disagreement over the U.S. position and said Russia has consistently tried to persuade the members of the Security Council that there is no legal basis for Kosovo's independence.
"Going down the way of unilateral moves, Kosovo is not going to join the ranks of fully recognized members of the international community," Churkin said. "It may get some recognition, regrettably, even though it would be a violation of [Security Council Resolution] 1244 and the UN Charter. But it's not going to come to this building as a full-fledged member of the international community. It's not going to be able to join other political international institutions."
Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 specifically outlines that the territorial integrity of Serbia is inviolable. It was supported by all five permanent members of the council, including the United States.
However, the recommendation of special envoy Ahtisaari that Kosovo be given supervised independence of Kosovo has wide support, with proponents saying it accurately reflects the realities in the region.