Russia rejects revised Kosovo draft

Western nations introduced on Thursday (May 31st) a revised draft of a UN Security Council resolution backing a plan to grant internationally supervised independence to Kosovo, but Russia rejected it immediately.

The new document, drafted by Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and the United States, is an update of a version circulated last month and includes changes aimed at addressing some of Russia’s concerns.

The new text, which was formally introduced by Britain, says the Council “supports” instead of “endorses” UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s proposals for Kosovo’s future status and “calls for its full implementation”.

Reflecting a suggestion made by Russia, it also proposes that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appoint a special envoy to deal with the issue of refugee returns and the situation of internally displaced people in the region.

Furthermore, the new version “demands” rather than “underscores the importance” of Kosovo’s full compliance with the obligations as set out in Ahtisaari’s plan, which the province’s assembly has endorsed and accepted.

Serbia has firmly rejected the former Finnish president’s proposals, which would put Kosovo on the path to independence. Insisting that it should retain some sovereignty over the province, Belgrade has called for new UN-sponsored negotiations, a demand supported by Russia.

“The introduction of this updated version of the draft has not changed anything as far as we are concerned,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Thursday. “We should think in terms of continued effort to find a mutually acceptable solution to the future of Kosovo.”

Asked by a reporter whether his country would thus veto the new draft resolution, he hinted that such a move was possible unless some radical changes are made in the document. “Under those circumstances, unfortunately, the outcome would be obvious,” Churkin said.

According to Reuters, the main sticking point is a provision in the draft that calls for replacing Resolution 1244, which was adopted after the end of the 1998-1999 conflict and affirms Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo.

“We now need to get into serious negotiation,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters Thursday. “It is for Russia now on the basis of the [new] text to tell us what it wants. On the basis of that we can then respond to see if anything is possible.”

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the new document would be discussed by Council experts at a meeting Friday, promising also that “every effort” would be made to “accommodate the constructive ideas from our Russian colleagues”.

“The process to move forward has started, Kosovo independence is inevitable,” German news agency DPA quoted him as saying.

Western nations want the draft resolution to be put to a vote next week.

Some diplomats, however, were sceptical that this could happen before the three-day Group of Eight summit opens in Germany on Wednesday.

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