US diplomat does not expect Russia to veto UN resolution on Kosovo

photo1.jpgCiting the level of co-operation with Russia in the process of determining Kosovo’s final status so far, a senior US diplomat said on Monday (March 12th) that he does not expect Moscow to veto a Security Council resolution that would likely put the province on the path to independence.

Russia — a member of the six-nation Contact Group — has warned that it might block a decision that is unacceptable to Belgrade.

US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried, who was in Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia last week, voiced hope on Monday that Russia would remain as co-operative as it has been as a Contact Group member.

“Obviously, Russia has expressed its concerns and they can speak for themselves,” the US official said. “I would not assume there will be a Russian veto.”

After 14 months of negotiations between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials, which ended in deadlock on Saturday, the question of Kosovo’s status is to be resolved by the Security Council on the basis of UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s settlement proposal. The plan envisions internationally supervised statehood for the province with broad rights for its Serb minority. It would also allow Kosovo to have its own constitution, flag, anthem and army, as well as to apply for membership in international organisations.

Ahtisaari is due to submit his proposal to the Council before the end of this month Discussions on a resolution are likely to kick off as early as April.

Insisting that all it can agree to is granting substantial autonomy to Kosovo, Serbia has flatly rejected Ahtisaari’s plan. Kosovo Albanian leaders have accepted it, although it does not provide for the outright independence their community has been demanding.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Fried dismissed concerns that putting Kosovo on the road to independence would set a precedent and encourage separatists in other parts of Europe.

“The precedent simply doesn’t apply,” the Voice of America quoted the senior US diplomat as stressing. “We have said before, and will say again as many times as we have to, that Kosovo is not a precedent for any other area, whether that’s Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Trans-Dniestria, Corsica or Texas … It just isn’t and it won’t be.”

Although the Kosovo Serbs strongly disagree with Ahtisaari’s proposal, most of them are not planning to leave the province after its final status is resolved, Fried noted.

“My impression is that the Kosovo Serbs … are determined, for the most part, to stay in Kosovo once the status process is completed,” he said. “They want to live in peace and security, but they want to live in Kosovo. I did not hear the mayors talk about mass exodus. I did not hear threats of violence.”

He did not, however, rule out the possibility of “provocations” being staged by armed extremists on both sides in Kosovo. “This is the Balkans, people have guns,” Fried said.

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