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Russia's UN draft Kosovo statement greeted with skepticism

RIA Novosti

12/03/2008 10:39 UNITED NATIONS, March 12 (RIA Novosti) - A draft statement on Kosovo proposed by Russia to the UN Security Council was met with skepticism by Western nations.

The statement, which aims to preserve Serbia's territorial integrity and calls for further talks on the Albanian-dominated region's status, was rejected by the countries that have recognized Kosovo's independence - including the United States and Britain - declared on February 17.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN envoy, said: "We need to launch one more effort to return the Kosovo issue to the negotiating table. The Russian delegation has proposed a draft statement to the UN Security Council which confirms resolution 1244 [Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty over Kosovo] and support for the UN mission in Kosovo...And the need for both sides to continue dialogue."

"Many Security Council members support our approach and have expressed their willingness to read our proposal. Of course, our American, British and some European countries have greeted it with skepticism," he said.

The statement needs unanimous approval to be passed.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to the UN said that Russia and Serbia needed to understand the "new reality" of Kosovo's independence.

Britain's envoy John Sawers said the Russian statement was: "based on a premise which is now overtaken," adding that "Many members of the council have recognized Kosovo as an independent country and what we ought to do is to make a success of that independence."

But Churkin rejected Kosovo's independence as a "new reality" and said Russia would continue to promote the statement.

Diplomatic sources said Russia's move has the backing of China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Panama, UAE and Costa Rica.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic urged the UN not to transfer authority in Kosovo to the EU police and justice mission, adding that the deployment of any mission must have a "clearly defined mandate by the Security Council. Therefore, we strongly demand that no further transfer of authority from the UNMIK to any other body take place."

Prior to the declaration of independence by the Serbian province, the European Union approved the deployment of a 2,000-strong police and justice mission in Kosovo to replace the UN mission which has been based there since the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces. Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the end of this conflict.

The head of the EU's mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, French General Yves de Karmebon, said Tuesday that 20 senior mission officials had arrived in Pristina.

Since the predominately Albanian province declared its independence from Serbia, 18 of the 27 EU states have recognized Kosovo. Russia, China, Spain, Cyprus and several other countries have refused to recognize the province's independence.

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