Security Council holds emergency talks on Kosovo

17 February 2008

At the request of Russia, the United Nations Security Council today held an emergency closed-door session to discuss Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, with a formal meeting slated for Monday.

At the request of the Russian Federation, the United Nations Security Council today held an emergency closed-door session to discuss Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, with a formal meeting slated for Monday.

The Council was briefed today by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the latest developments in Kosovo, the Serbian province run by the UN since Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting in 1999.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Ban said he had been informed by his Special Representative and Head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Joachim Rücker, that the Assembly of Kosovo's Provisional Institutions of Self-Government earlier today adopted a resolution declaring Kosovo's independence.

In addition, the President of Serbia had informed the Secretary-General in a letter that his country had adopted a decision which states that the declaration of independence by Kosovo “represents a forceful and unilateral secession of a part of the territory of the Republic of Serbia and does not produce any legal effect either in the Republic of Serbia or in the international legal order.”

Other than a reported explosion in north Mitrovica, Mr. Ban said the situation in Kosovo remains “calm and no other major incidents are reported.” In addition, Serbian government officials, with the help of UNMIK, are visiting several locations in Kosovo.

The Secretary-General called on all sides “to reaffirm and act upon their commitments to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region.”

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that he expected the UN to declare the Kosovo's “unilateral proclamation of independence null and void,” based on existing Security Council resolutions and relevant documents.

“Our concern is for the safety of Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo,” he stated, adding that Russia will “strongly warn against any attempts at repressive measures should Serbs in Kosovo decide not to comply with this unilateral proclamation of independence.”

Tomorrow's meeting comes at the request of Russia and Serbia, and Mr. Churkin said he expects President Boris Tadic of Serbia to participate.

Kosovo's final status has been the subject of months of negotiations led by the troika – comprising the European Union, Russia and the United States – but to no avail. Belgrade and Pristina were unable to reach agreement with the province's Albanian leadership favouring independence while Serbia opposes it.

“Today's events thus represent the conclusion of a status process that has exhausted all avenues in pursuit of a negotiated outcome,” Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium told reporters after the closed-door meeting, adding that “it sets no wider precedent.”

Speaking on behalf of the European Union members of the Council (Belgium, France, Italy and United Kingdom), as well as Croatia, Germany and the United States, he regretted the failure to secure a mutually agreed solution. “But the status quo had become unsustainable and a coordinated and stable process with international support is better than prolonged instability,” he said.

Mr. Verbeke added that European Union foreign ministers will meet tomorrow in Brussels to determine “how to react to today's developments.”


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