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Restraint Urged After Kosovo Declares Independence

Ban Ki-moon urges restraint by all sides after Kosovo declares independence

18 February 2008 – As the Security Council debated Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need to ensure the stability of Kosovo, which the United Nations has run since 1999, and the safety and security of its population.

“I urge all 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,” Mr. Ban told an open meeting of the Council, convened at the request of Russia and Serbia.

“My efforts – and those of my Special Representative in Kosovo – are aimed at ensuring that the political and security situation in Kosovo and in the wider region remains stable, and that the population of Kosovo, and in particular, the minority communities are protected,” he added.

Mr. Ban said that the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has been overseeing the province since Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting over eight years ago, will continue to carry out its mandate, pending guidance from the Security Council.

In addition, the Secretary-General noted the European Union's decision to deploy a rule of law mission and an EU Special Representative for Kosovo.

Last December, the troika – comprising the EU, Russia and the United States – told the Council in a report that despite four months of intense and high-level negotiations, Belgrade and Pristina have been unable to reach agreement on Kosovo's final status. The troika was established after a stalemate emerged over a proposal by Mr. Ban's Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, for a phased process of independence for Kosovo.

Serbian President Boris Tadic appealed to the Council to declare Kosovo's “unilateral and illegal” declaration of independence “null and void,” stressing that yesterday's action by the Kosovo Parliament violates Security Council resolution 1244 which reaffirms Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Serbia will never recognize the independence of Kosovo,” he declared. “We shall never renounce Kosovo and we shall not give up the struggle for our legitimate interests. For the citizens of Serbia and its institutions, Kosovo will forever remain a part of Serbia.”

Supporting Serbia's call, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin emphasized that the declaration by Kosovo's leadership sets a “dangerous precedent,” and may lead to an escalation of tensions and inter-ethnic violence in the province, where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs and other minorities by nine to one.

“A durable and sustainable solution to the Kosovo status issue can be achieved only on the basis of a decision to be worked out with the leading role of the UN Security Council, which would fully comply with the norms of international law and be based on agreements between Belgrade and Pristina,” he stated.

Meanwhile, several Council members indicated their support for the “new state of Kosovo,” including the United Kingdom, United States, France and Belgium.

British Ambassador John Sawers noted that “it is not ideal for Kosovo to become independent without the consent of Serbia and without consensus in this Council.”

At the same time, “the unique circumstances of the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the unprecedented UN administration of Kosovo make this a sui generis case, which creates no wider precedent, as all EU member States today agreed,” he stated.

Likewise, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said it was important to remember “how we got to where we are,” noting Kosovo's independence was a culmination of a long and unique process.

Intensive efforts to settle the final status of Kosovo had left no stone unturned, but the parties had been unable to reach agreement, he stated, adding that “Kosovo's leadership acted in a mature, non-violent and responsible manner.”

ENDS

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