Divisions within the U.N. Security Council on the subject of Kosovo
were apparent yet again on Friday, when the secretary-general spoke
about his plan to transfer some responsibilities from the U.N. mission
in Pristina to the European Union. Serbia, and its powerful ally
Russia, have rejected the U.N. chief's plan, but the United States,
Britain and France support it. From United Nation's headquarters in New
York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Ki-moon told the Security Council that following Kosovo's declaration
of independence from Serbia in February and the entry into force last
Sunday of its constitution, the U.N. mission's ability to operate there
has come into serious question. The mission is known by its acronym
"I intend to adjust operational aspects of the
international civilian presence in Kosovo and to reconfigure the
profile and structure of UNMIK," he said.
His plan includes
allowing the European Union to gradually assume increasing operational
responsibilities in the areas of international policing, justice and
customs throughout Kosovo.
Saying there is no ideal solution,
Mr. Ban defended his proposal as the "least objectionable" and one that
was arrived at after lengthy consultations with the parties and other
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration since
1999, when NATO air strikes halted a Serbian crackdown on ethnic
Albanians in what had long been a province of Serbia.
Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu welcomed the secretary-general's initiative.
would like to assure the secretary-general that he will have the
on-going support and cooperation of Kosovo as he moves forward with
this initiative," he said.
Not surprisingly, Serbian President
Boris Tadic said Belgrade cannot endorse the secretary-general's
proposal, nor will it ever recognize Kosovo's independence.
"Only the Security Council can bring
a decision to reconfigure the situation," he said. "The Security
Council is the only institution endowed with the power to [enact]
legitimate changes in the composition of the international presence in
Russia, Serbia's ally and a veto-wielding Security
Council member, picked apart the secretary-general's proposal
paragraph-by-paragraph. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin insisted if the
secretary-general does not get approval for his plan in the council, it
would be a violation of both the U.N. resolution that established UNMIK
and of the U.N. Charter.
"We made it absolutely clear that
this kind of reconfiguration cannot take place without the decision of
the Security Council," he said. "It is also the position of Belgrade,
but it is certainly our position. We think that should there be
attempts to do this reconfiguration outside the Security Council,
without the express consent of the Security Council, that would run
contrary to [U.N. resolution] 1244 and to the U.N. Charter for that
But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the secretary-general does have the authority to act.
United States believes the secretary-general has the discretion to
reconfigure UNMIK and we support the initiative he has taken to do so,"
he said. "The United States has some concerns about this initiative,
but on balance, this initiative may prove to be the most practical way
Secretary-General Ban made clear the complexity and
strong emotions tied to the Kosovo issue, when he told the 15-member
council that in almost 40 years of diplomatic life he has never
encountered an issue as divisive, as delicate and as intractable.