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Russia's UN envoy says EU Kosovo mission illegal

Russia's UN envoy called the planned police and justice mission to Kosovo "illegal," during a closed-doors UN Security Council meeting.
UNITED NATIONS, February 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's UN envoy called the planned police and justice mission to Kosovo "illegal," during a closed-doors UN Security Council meeting.

Prior to the declaration of independence by the Serbian province on February 17, the European Union approved sending a 2,000-strong civilian mission to Kosovo to replace the UN mission, which has been deployed there since the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999.

"I quoted UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which outlines the mandate for international presence there. In line with the resolution, the deployment of an EU mission would be illegal and contrary to the resolution, and none of the Security Council members objected," Vitaly Churkin said on Thursday.

Media reports emerged earlier that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has forwarded a letter to EU leaders, which stated that a number of Security Council members were opposed to the EU taking over the UN mission in Kosovo.

But Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas denied the reports, saying the letter did not exist.

The secretary general earlier said he had been informed by the EU of the plans for the mission, he had no objections, but said the UN Mission in Kosovo, or UNMIK, would continue to operate under Resolution 1244 as the legal framework for its mandate.

"Without a new resolution by the UN Security Council, the UNMIK will remain in Kosovo with all the ensuing consequences from the viewpoint of illegitimacy of the unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition by some countries," Churkin said.

Churkin said Russia, which considers Kosovo's independence a violation of international law, will continue to insist on a compromise between Belgrade and Pristina to solve the status of the province.

Kosovo independence has been recognized by the United States, Australia, Japan, Peru, Malaysia and most EU countries, but Serbs reacted angrily to the declaration with mass protests, leading to street riots and attacks on embassies in Belgrade.

Churkin also cautioned international organizations operating in Kosovo, where the Serb population accounts for less than 10%, against repressing Kosovo Serbs who are against the province's independence.

He said such attempts had been made, referring to a mooted move to close the Kosovo-Serb border. "This would be in breach of Resolution 1244 and could lead to grave humanitarian consequences for Kosovo's northern Serb-populated regions, which are mostly supplied by the rest of Serbia.

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said the NATO-led international Kosovo force, deployed in the province to safeguard security since 1999, must continue operating under the UN mandate.

"Russia insists that NATO forces in Kosovo continue complying with the UN mandate and UN Security Council Resolution 1244," Rogozin said.

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