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Kosovo FM: Serbia Interfering in Upcoming Local Elections

Kosovo FM: Serbia Interfering in Upcoming Local Elections

The foreign minister of Kosovo has accused Serbia of interfering in next month's municipal elections by urging Kosovo-Serbs to boycott the vote. The election is the first local election since Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Belgrade last year.

Kosovo's Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni told the U.N. Security Council that campaigning for municipal elections began Thursday and that the Kosovo Central Election Commission is fully responsible for organizing and conducting the November 15 vote.

"Comprehensive preparations have taken place to make sure this coming municipal election is successful and in full compliance with the set standards. With over 70 political entities that have been duly certified to participate at the election, we are confident that this will be another democratic, free, fair election in the Republic of Kosovo," he said.

He added that he hopes there will be "sizable and substantial participation" from the Kosovo-Serb community, but he noted that the government is concerned Serbia is trying to influence them not to take part. "Regrettably, as we could hear today, there are clear indications that the government of the Republic of Serbia has been doing quite the opposite, calling on Kosovo-Serbs to boycott the elections," he said.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the situation is "deeply regrettable" but that under the current circumstances the vote is illegitimate. "Unfortunately, the legitimacy of the entire electoral process has been lost by the failure to hold them within the status-neutral framework of Resolution 1244. According to the report before us, the SRSG [special representative of the U.N.secretary-general] did not call them, the OSCE will not monitor them, and the U.N. cannot certify them. Under such circumstances, it is simply impossible for us to support them," he said.

Serbia rejected Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on February 17 last year and has asked the International Court of Justice to rule on its legality.

The sensitivity of Kosovo's growing international recognition was apparent in the council, when Russia's ambassador protested the presence of Kosovar representatives at the United Nations during last month's annual debate in the General Assembly.

Vitaly Churkin said it was "unacceptable" that Kosovar representatives had what he termed "illegal, unfettered" access inside the General Assembly and also held bilateral meetings with other states, a privilege he said, that is intended only for official delegations and member states.