Russians reject U.N. council’s Kosovo plan

Times Staff Writer

Russia rejected a draft Security Council resolution Wednesday designed to win its support for an independence plan for Kosovo, saying it will not back statehood for the province until Serbia does.

The United States and several European countries had proposed four more months of talks to allow leaders from Serbia and Kosovo to agree on a plan for the Serbian province’s future. If they did not come up with a new alternative, the Security Council would automatically endorse a U.N. roadmap for Kosovo’s phased independence under the supervision of the European Union and NATO.

The resolution contained several other concessions to gain Russia’s backing, including a new special envoy to monitor the return of Serbian refugees to the province.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the resolution “unacceptable,” in part because of the limited time for talks.

“This in my mind is not good enough, because such kind of formula is not going to provide sufficient incentive for the two parties to negotiate seriously,” Churkin said.


Diplomats suggested that a compromise might be forged in a meeting between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin early next month in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Russia, a longtime Serbian ally, also is concerned that having the Security Council grant independence to a province of a sovereign country might set a dangerous precedent. Moscow is dealing with rebellions among its own restive minority regions, including Chechnya.

Churkin arranged a Security Council trip to Kosovo in April so diplomats could see firsthand the depth of the rift between the province’s majority ethnic Albanian and minority Serbian communities.

Many diplomats came away convinced that Kosovo, which has been governed by the U.N. since a devastating civil war eight years ago, cannot continue much longer in its uncertain status.

In late March, U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari gave up after 14 months of talks and said that independence was “the only viable option” for Kosovo. He suggested a transition period overseen by an EU representative and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops while Kosovo builds political and legal institutions to ensure its autonomy and guarantee rights for the minority Serbian community.

There is a strong sense among most council members that Kosovo is moving steadily toward independence and that it is better for the Security Council to help guide it than for it to unilaterally declare itself free of Serbian rule. That might spark violence or lead to a secession from Kosovo by its Serbian population, diplomats say.

“I think it is fair to say that one way or another, Kosovo’s independence is going to be inevitable,” said Karen Pierce, Britain’s deputy ambassador to the U.N. “One should bear in mind the ability of events on the ground, particularly in the Balkans, to overtake what we might want to do here in New York if we don’t address the concerns of the people of Kosovo.”