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UN Security Council mission could leave for Kosovo, Belgrade next week

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A UN Security Council mission could leave for Kosovo and Belgrade next week, Russia's envoy to the UN said during a New York-Moscow TV link at RIA Novosti Wednesday.
MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - A UN Security Council mission could leave for Kosovo and Belgrade next week, Russia's envoy to the UN said during a New York-Moscow TV link at RIA Novosti Wednesday.

The UN Security Council backed Russia's initiative April 13 to send a mission to Kosovo and Belgrade before continuing talks on Kosovo's status.

Kosovo, which has a population of two million, has been a UN protectorate since NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists in 1999.

Vitaly Churkin said: "Members of the UN Security Council are supposed to visit Brussels, and later to hold meetings with top Serbian officials before going on to Pristina, where meetings with the Kosovo leadership will be held."

He said it would be a brief trip and that work on its agenda was underway. He added that it was important to visit Serbian enclaves in Kosovo to verify compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

"On returning, the mission will prepare a report to be delivered to the Security Council. This will be a second attempt to analyze how the provisions of Resolution 1244 are being implemented," the diplomat said.

Adopted in 1999, the resolution determined to resolve the grave humanitarian situation in Kosovo and to provide for the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes.

Marti Ahtisaari, a special UN envoy for talks on Kosovo, has proposed that the province be granted internationally supervised sovereignty, but Serbian authorities have strongly opposed the plan as threatening Serbia's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is Russia's position that the real situation in the troubled province should be clarified once again to facilitate the search for a compromise between the Albanian majority in the region and Serbs.

"This does not mean that we distrust Ahtisaari, who is a long-standing friend of Russia's diplomacy. But we must fill the many gaps in this crossword. The problem of Kosovo's status is perhaps the most complicated one for the UN Security Council in a decade," Churkin said.

Ahtisaari's plan received the support of only four of the 15 UN Security Council members during the first round of talks April 3.

Veto-wielding Russia has opposed the internationally backed plan, insisting that a decision on Kosovo should satisfy both Kosovar and Serbian authorities and that it must be reached through negotiations.

But Churkin spoke against completely scrapping the plan. "Ahtisaari's plan contains a number of scrupulously developed aspects, and for instance, points concerning the Serbian population in Kosovo could be useful," he said. But he said the provision on granting Kosovo independence was its main flaw.

The provision was backed by the United States and the European Union.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Monday that if the UN Security Council does not adopt a new resolution on Kosovo granting the province independence, the U.S. would unilaterally support a declaration by Kosovo's Albanian authorities on separation from Serbia. The statement irked the Serbian government.

Churkin said: "In our opinion, this is an aggressive and destructive stance, and it is an instance of a psychological attack on the UN Security Council."

When asked about Russia's possible steps if the U.S. submits its own resolution to the Security Council, Churkin said Russia would not support a resolution imposing independence on Kosovo without the consent of the Serbian side.

"The country determined to force its way must understand that it can meet as strong a rebuff. That is not constructive, and we would like to believe that the U.S. will not follow this path, but will understand that aggressiveness will not help in a situation that requires patience and some diplomatic and political finesse," Churkin said.

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