UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Kosovo and Serbia will cooperate with a European Union justice and police mission that Brussels hopes will be deployed in Kosovo by early next month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said.
In February, the EU agreed to send the mission, known as EULEX, to Kosovo to take over from the United Nations and oversee the police, the judiciary, and customs, but its deployment had been delayed by opposition from Serbia, which refuses to accept the secession of its former province.
Ban Ki-moon said in a report that Kosovo had rejected his amended six-point plan for the deployment of EULEX, which Serbia has accepted. However, its government had indicated it was "willing to cooperate with EULEX."
Ban had instructed UN personnel to prepare for EULEX to take an enhanced operational role in Kosovo.
Police, customs officers, and judges in the Serbian-run areas of Kosovo would be under the UN umbrella, while their Albanian counterparts would work with EULEX.
Despite its pledge of cooperation, Kosovo has officially rejected Ban's plan as violating its constitution and resulting in a de facto partition of the fledgling state.
Kosovo's population is 90 percent ethnic-Albanian. The remaining 120,000 Serbs refuse to cooperate with Albanian-run institutions.
Western diplomats in New York from countries that supported Kosovo's independence welcomed Ban's report.
"This is good news," said one diplomat. "It shows that both Kosovo and Serbia are willing to cooperate with EULEX."
He said the Security Council hoped to meet possibly this week and may issue a statement supporting EULEX's expanded role in Europe's youngest state.
Serbia and its ally Russia strongly opposed Kosovo's independence, which left the 15-nation Security Council deadlocked for years and unable to agree on a way of ending UN administration of the former Serbian province.
But with Belgrade supporting Ban's interim plan for the deployment of EULEX, diplomats said they hoped the council would be able to agree on a statement supporting the mission.
Kosovo declared independence in February, nine years after a UN administration was set up to run the province after a NATO bombing campaign compelled Serbian forces to leave.