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U.N. Security Council Begins Debate on Kosovo Resolution

10 May 2007

U.S. officials press for independence; Russia favors more talks

Washington -- The United States and Europe have submitted a preliminary draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council that would set the groundwork for internationally supervised independence for Kosovo, a move that senior U.S. diplomat R. Nicholas Burns says is “inevitable.”

Russia, which wants talks to continue between Serbia and Kosovo, has submitted a separate preliminary draft. The joint U.S.-European draft proposal includes a suggestion by Russia to create a special envoy to safeguard the rights of Kosovo Serbs, and Burns said he would welcome other Russian proposals for Kosovo. However, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that some points in the two drafts "clearly cannot be reconciled."

The Security Council held a public discussion May 10 on its April fact-finding mission to Serbia, Kosovo and European capitals. Council diplomats also are beginning work on a resolution that would endorse U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari's proposal for supervised independence for Kosovo. (See related article.)

“We want the Russians to work with us,” Burns said in an interview with Bloomberg Television May 9 in Berlin. “We hope that Russia in the end will decide to be with the mainstream in the world and lead the way towards peace and security for the people of Kosovo.”

Russia’s views are important because Moscow holds a veto vote in the Security Council. The United States holds the rotating Security Council presidency for the month of May and would like the Kosovo resolution to pass before the end of the month.

“We want to push very hard at the United Nations over the next several weeks to see the way forward so the U.N. will support a process that will lead to Kosovo’s independence,” Burns said in a separate news interview with Reuters. Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, was in Berlin May 9-10 for talks in preparation for the Group of Eight Summit scheduled for June in Heiligendamm , Germany.

Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been administered by the United Nations since 1999. Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s 2 million people and strongly favor independence. Kosovo’s minority Serb population is protected by the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR). The United States and European allies seek a new U.N. resolution to replace Security Council Resolution 1244, which currently governs Kosovo. The new resolution would not grant independence. Instead, it would replace U.N. administrators with a European Union administrator, would continue the deployment of KFOR and would allow Kosovo authorities to declare independence while remaining under international supervision.

“We think this process is inevitable,” Burns said May 9 in Berlin. “We know this is a difficult issue for Serbia. We want to maintain very good relations with Serbia. I think you will see us pressing for protections of the minority rights of Serbs in the resolution; and making sure that the United Nations and the EU and NATO are all focused on the issue of Serb minority rights. It is very important that the future of Kosovo be one where Serbs can live freely, where their churches and historic sites and monasteries are protected from any kind of threat.”

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, president of the Security Council for May, said that Kosovo "is a difficult issue, a delicate issue" for the Security Council. The council’s mission to the region showed that there was no potential for compromise between Serbia and Kosovo on independence, Khalilzad said May 10. "Nothing further from talks can come about," he said, adding that the passage of time will not change the polarization.

Delay could destabilize Kosovo and the Balkans, Khalilzad said.  "More delay is a prescription for rising resentment and economic stagnation and unsupervised independence."

"In my judgment the majority of the council members support [Ahtisaari's] proposed plan," Khalilzad told journalists after the meeting.  He called for "open-mindedness" during the negotiations to reach the broadest possible support for a resolution that would move the status of Kosovo forward.

"The set of circumstances that brought us to this point exist nowhere else in the world.  We recognize this is a unique problem and Mr. Ahtisaari has proposed a unique solution," the ambassador said.

The United States "does not find the path forward to be perfect or easy," Khalilzad said, but Ahtisaari's plan "is the best option for bringing an end to the last chapter in the resolution of the former Yugoslavia."

Transcripts of Burns’ comments to ARD, Bloomberg Television, at a press roundtable and Reuters are available on the State Department Web site.

See also "Independent Kosovo Only Solution, U.S. Envoy Wisner Says," "Draft U.N. Plan Would Protect Minority Groups in Kosovo" and "U.S. Believes an Independent Kosovo Would Not Set Precedent."

For more information on U.S. policies in the region, see Southeast Europe.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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