Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kosovo: Serbia says Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is illegal

Serbia's president told the U.N. Security Council that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is illegal and violates Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. But despite his demands that the council reject Kosovo's independence, several members expressed their support for the new state. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

During Monday's emergency meeting, Serbian President Boris Tadic told the 15-member Security Council that recognizing Kosovo's independence would be a dangerous precedent. He is heard here through a translator.

"There are dozens of various Kosovos in the world and all of them lie in wait for Kosovo's act of secession to become a reality and to be established as an acceptable norm. I warn you most seriously of the danger of the escalation of many existing conflicts, the flaring up of frozen conflicts and the instigation of new ones," he said.

He reiterated Serbia's commitment to a peaceful and negotiated settlement and said his government would not resort to force. But he repeated Belgrade's position that it would never recognize the independence of Kosovo, and he called on the U.N. secretariat to declare Kosovo's independence null and void. But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that is not a decision for the secretariat.

"I note that the independence of Kosovo has been recognized by a number of countries, and I would like to remind you that the recognition of States is for the States, and not for the U.N. Secretariat," he said.

As for accusations that Kosovo's declaration of independence is illegal, the U.N. chief said it is not for him to say what is or is not legal.

Britain, France and the United States -- three of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council --expressed their support for Kosovo's independence. They rejected President Tadic's argument that it would set a dangerous precedent, saying Kosovo is a unique case because of the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and the history of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo's ethic Albanian majority.

Earlier Monday, President Bush recognized Kosovo's independence and welcomed its assurances that it would respect U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan to build a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo.

But Russia and China, which hold the other two Security Council vetoes, expressed their strong opposition to Kosovo's declaration. Russia's ambassador called Kosovo's actions a "threat to peace and security in the Balkans," while China called for a negotiated settlement of Kosovo's status.

Monday's emergency meeting ended after more than two hours without agreement on a resolution or a joint statement.

Speaking after the meeting, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, announced that his country was at that moment recalling for consultations all of its ambassadors from the capitals that have recognized Kosovo.

Kosovo has been under United Nations administration since 1999, when NATO-led air strikes halted Belgrade's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists and drove Belgrade's security forces from the province.

By Margaret Besheer United Nations, 19 February 2008
Published with the permission of Voice of America