Thursday, 7 February 2008

Russia attacks 'illegal' EU mission to Kosovo

By Renata Goldirova and Elitsa Vucheva

Russia has warned the head of the United Nations against approving the EU's plans to launch a police and civilian mission to Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo this month.

Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told journalists on Wednesday (6 February) that he was "sure" that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon would "not legitimise" the EU's intention.
The nod of approval "would mean that Ban Ki-Moon was going beyond his responsibilities as secretary general", Mr Chizhov said, acknowledging that Moscow is putting the UN chief under heavy pressure.

On 18 February, EU foreign ministers are expected to give the final "operational" go-ahead to the 1,800-strong mission of policemen, prosecutors and judges to be deployed to Kosovo. Its task is to strengthen stability in the breakaway province and ensure that Kosovo's future set-up observes democratic standards. The EU believes that such a mission could be legally based on current UN Security Council resolution 1244 - the same one that introduced the UN administration over the Serbian province back in 1999.

However, an additional green light from Ban Ki-Moon is also expected, with one of the possible scenarios suggesting a written invitation for the EU to take over responsibilities in Kosovo. For his part, the UN secretary general said in January that he "would act when the moment is right", but declined to reveal any details.

But Moscow, a strong Serb ally, is insisting that the EU's mission, if deployed on the ground without a new UN resolution, will breach international law and procedures. "Any attempt to circumvent the UN Security Council would put the EU mission on a very shaky legal basis (...) resolution 1244 is not a manual for cherry-picking individual elements in order to legitimise moves, which circumvent the UN," Mr Chizhov said.

The Russian diplomat also warned EU capitals against recognising the self-proclaimed state of Kosovo, as the move "would create a serious precedent from the point of view of international law," and could cause a rift in Russia-EU relations. "With those countries that recognise, this will be a thorn in our political dialogue. With those that don't, there won't be such a thorn," he said.

According to Mr Chizhov, Russia is set to obstruct any attempts by Pristina to join international organisations such as the United Nations, the Organisation for Stability and Cooperation in Europe or the Council of Europe.

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