UN membership door closed for Kosovo – Moscow

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin has made it clear that Moscow will not allow Kosovo to join the organization and that UN Resolution 1244, which confirms Serbia’s territorial integrity, will not be amended.

Churkin hinted at the veto power Russia has as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which the country presides in August.

“…My words will not make anyone catch their breath while waiting for Resolution 1244 to be amended, replaced or canceled,” the diplomat stated, cites RIA Novosti. “You also know the procedures required to join the UN: a recommendation of the Security Council is required for that first of all, and the balance of forces in the Security Council is evident,” Churkin added.

In addition, the Russian Ambassador promised that Moscow will back Serbia’s draft resolution on Kosovo. Belgrade submitted the document to the UN General Assembly shortly after the organization’s highest court ruled that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, was not violating international law.

The draft calls “on all sides to find a mutually acceptable solution to all disputed issues through peaceful dialogue, with the aim of achieving peace, security and co-operation in the region,” the Sofia Echo cites the text.

Talking to journalists prior to the Security Council meeting on Kosovo, Churkin confirmed that the document will be discussed at the General Assembly session in September this year. “As for Russia’s position, we will support the resolution,” he said.

Russia has opposed Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia ever since it was declared, and underlined that The Hague court’s ruling has not changed Moscow's stance.

Belgrade & Pristina voice their positions

On Tuesday, representatives of both conflicting sides – Serbia and Kosovo – faced each other at the UN Security Council meeting in New York. Kosovar Albanian authorities urged the UN to cancel Resolution 1244 and to let Kosovo become a member of the organization. Encouraged by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, Pristina had filed a request to the UN urging its members to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

“`The time has come to replace Resolution 1244 with a new resolution reflecting realities created with the independence of Kosovo and the ICJ clearly ruling in its favor,” said Skender Hyseni, foreign minister of the separatist Kosovo government, cites AP.

“Our request for replacement of 1244 is in line with Kosovo's ultimate objective of becoming a UN member. Membership with United Nations is a goal we eagerly look forward to achieve as soon as possible, a natural step after ICJ ruling,” he added.

Earlier Hyseni applied to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with the same request. The latter, however, said that the Security Council resolutions can only be canceled by the body itself.

Belgrade, for its part, maintains that under no circumstances will it recognize Kosovo’s independence.

“This is our constitutional imperative, as well as a political and moral duty, conferred on us by the overwhelming democratic will of our citizens,” Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić told the Security Council meeting, writes Serbian broadcaster B92.

The diplomat said that Resolution 12 44 remains key to sorting out the Kosovo issue. He admitted that there is no perfect solution to the situation, but assured that they will continue working until a compromise on Kosovo is found. “There must be an equitable one to which we can all agree; the one that will enable us to move forward, and ensure the consolidation of the gains the region has made in the past decade,” Jeremić said.

He also noted that a significant majority of UN member states, including the Security Council members, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.

So far, Kosovo has been recognized by 69 states, including the US, and 22 out of 27 EU states. Serbia, Russia, China, India, Spain and Greece have insisted that the Albanian-dominated Kosovo has violated international law.

Churkin angered by British ambassador’s remarks

Passions ran high at the meeting. Russia’s Vitaly Churkin criticized British Deputy UN Ambassador Philip Parham, who threatened that Serbia may face confrontation from countries that have recognized the independence of Kosovo. The British diplomat delivered his speech after Belgrade voiced its position calling for carrying on with diplomatic efforts in the search for a compromise, reports RIA Novosti.

London’s representative stated that the legal process before the ICJ had come to an end “and this must also mean an end to debates about Kosovo's status,” his speech reads as quoted by the UK UN mission’s official website. He said that the UK’s support for Kosovo's independence remains as strong as ever and praised The Hague court’s ruling.

Parham stressed that there can be no return to negotiations “on either Kosovo’s status or its existing borders” and added that “any attempt to go down this path would lock Serbia into confrontation with those that have recognized Kosovo.”

The rhetoric sparked a rather harsh reaction from Moscow’s representative who noted that “some statements of our colleagues left us puzzled.”

“In response to Serbia’s calls for a dialogue, we heard something which came close to a threat of confrontation by countries recognizing Kosovo,” Churkin said. “We do not know whether one delegation was entrusted with speaking on behalf of all those countries. We hope that the majority of them will stick to balanced approaches.”

Security concerns

Meanwhile, Moscow has voiced its concerns over the security situation in Kosovo.

“The dramatic events that took place in North Mitrovica in early July this year directly confirm this,” Churkin said, writes Itar Tass. “All this testifies to the need for the preservation in the Kosovo settlement of the leading role of the UN Security Council that should remain the guarantor of the observance of international law, the UN Charter and decisions of the Council itself,” he added.

Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary General’s Special Representative and head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), also said that the situation is far from stable. He also referred to violence sparked by the opening of a civil service center in Mitrovica by the Interior Ministry of Kosovo. Zannier said it “reminds us of the need for all sides to commit to dialogue as a necessary precondition for addressing the challenges faced in northern Kosovo.”

Natalia Makarova, RT