Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kosovo: UN Security Council divided on Serb voting

New York, 22 April (AKI) – The United Nations Security Council has again demonstrated deep divisions over Kosovo on the issue of whether local Serbs (photo) should be allowed to vote in Serbia's municipal elections on 11 May.

The divisions emerged at a session of the UN's top decision-making body late on Monday, echoing the split which emerged within it over Kosovo's declaration of independence in February.

All UN Security Council members agree that Kosovo Serbs should be allowed to vote in Serbia's parliamentary elections also slated for 11 May.

But the United States and Great Britain believe that allowing local Serbs to take part in Serbia's municipal elections would be “illegal” and would further complicate relations between minority Serbs and majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

UN Security Council permanent member and Serbian ally Russia, which has backed Belgrade in opposing Kosovo independence, said its Serb population had the right to elect their representatives at local and national level.

Kosovo Serbs boycotted municipal and parliamentary elections last November.

The Security Council convened to discuss behind a closed doors a report by the chief of the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) Joachim Ruecker on the situation in Kosovo since ethnic Albanians seceded from Serbia with the support of western powers.

Ruecker said UNMIK, which has controlled Kosovo since 1999, will continue its mission “under changed circumstances”. But he said UNMIK will gradually transfer power to local Kosovo authorities by mid-June when Kosovo's new constitution comes into force.

“We must accept the fact that the situation has changed and the fulfillment of our mandate doesn’t mean the same as in 1999 when there were no Kosovo institutions and UNMIK's intervention was needed in every sense to prevent total anarchy,” Ruecker said.

Serbian president Boris Tadic criticised Ruecker’s report.

He acknowledged the report took into account “the new reality on the ground” after Kosovo's declaration of independence.

But Tadic said Ruecker's report ignored Serbian objections that such a reality was created by an “illegal act of secession” and in violation of Security Council resolution 1244 which defines Kosovo as part of Serbia.

Tadic said that the “citizens in Kosovo, who recognise the Republic of Serbia as their state, have the right to elect their municipal and parliamentary representatives”.

He stated that Serbia will never recognise Kosovo's independence and will continue its diplomatic battle to retain it within Serbian borders.

Kosovo prime minister Hasim Taci told the Security Council that Kosovo recognised “dual citizenship” for local Serbs and would allow them to vote in parliamentary, but not in local elections, as this this would be unconstitutional.

Ruecker and western ambassadors backed Taci's views.

But Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said UNMIK “should not prevent local elections in Kosovo,” meaning Kosovo Serbs being allowed to vote in Serbia's municipal polls.

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