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Subtle Diplomacy Barely Conceals UN Divisions Over Kosovo

Kosovo's Foreign Affairs Minister Enver Hoxhaj
Kosovo's Foreign Affairs Minister Enver Hoxhaj
Diplomatic battles are often concealed in formal language, which rarely betrays the intense pressure and acrimony that exists between the disagreeing parties.

However, sometimes the couched language of diplomacy is not enough to conceal the powerful antipathy between them.

Even as the Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic and his Kosovo counterpart Enver Hoxhaj spoke measured, civilized words at their press appearance after the UN Security Council emergency session about Kosovo on September 15, it was clear that these two had locked horns like bulls in an enclosed barn, with little prospect of either one prevailing over the other.

It was amusing to watch how a single event (the Security Council session) could be interpreted in such radically different fashions by two intelligent, highly-educated, and highly-positioned individuals.

But diplomatic wars can also have more subtle expressions. Take, for example, the brief interaction between Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, and Mr. Hoxhaj when he spoke at the Security Council session.

Ambassador Churkin reprimanded Mr. Hoxhaj by pointing out that he should be accompanied by a UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) representative when speaking at the meeting.

The interaction was brief and without much commotion.

Kosovo's Status Still A Bone Of Contention

Nonetheless, as Ambassador Churkin later said in his press-briefing, it was important for Pristina's representatives at the UN to always remember that they are only guests there and can only be present at official UN events either accompanied by UNMIK representatives or as guests of a member-state -- and only when that member state makes an appearance at the event.

Churkin was quick to reassure reporters that he respects Pristina's representatives but would like them to abide by the UN's rules and regulations.

To date, Kosovo has been recognized by 82 of the UN’s 193 member-states.

In official UN documents, Kosovo is referred to as a "territory" or simply as "Kosovo." Its government officials' titles are usually translated as "representative" or "senior representative."

Russia, a staunch ally of Serbia and a permanent member of the UN Security Council with the power of veto, would instantly oppose any other designation.

China, another permanent member of the Security Council, has adopted a similar, if less explicit, position on the subject.

Last year, during the opening debates of the UN General Assembly's 65th session, the Kosovo Albanian authorities' highest-ranking officials, Hashim Thaci and Fatmir Sejdiu dutifully attended as guests of the United States and the European Union.

The same scenario will almost certainly be repeated during the opening debate of the General Assembly's 66th session next week.

-- Nikola Krastev

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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