02 April 2007

UN braced for clash with Russia on Kosovo

TIMES (UK), January 23, 2007 by Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor


Russia and the West were on a diplomatic collision course yesterday over the future of Kosovo, which will soon take a big step towards declaring its independence from Serbia.


As results from the Serbian election confirmed a strong showing for the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, American, British and other Western leaders braced themselves for what is likely to be a bruising showdown with the Kremlin.


The dispute centres on the fate of Kosovo, the largely ethnic-Albanian province of Serbia, which has been under Nato control since its troops seized the region from Serbian forces in 1999. On Friday Martti Ahtisaari, the UN special envoy to Kosovo, will reveal a plan to grant the province "supervised independence" that could lead to it taking responsibility for foreign affairs, defence, and a seat at the UN.


"The independence of Kosovo is a reality, so we demand recognition of Kosovo's international subjectivity without any delays," said Agim Ceku, its Prime Minister.


The main parties in the elections are opposed to independence for Kosovo, regarded as the cradle of Serb history and culture. Russia, Serbia's traditional Orthodox Christian ally, has made it clear that it would not support any plan for Kosovo that went against Belgrade's wishes.


"Russia believes it is unacceptable that a decision on the status of Kosovo be imposed from the outside," said President Putin on Sunday.


As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia could block recognition of Kosovo's independence.