Martti Ahtisaari, the UN Secretary General's special envoy, who was put in charge of the Kosovo status process in October 2005, has not fulfilled a single provision of his mandate. Talks between Serbia and the Kosovo autonomy cannot stand any criticism.
Serbian and Albanian experts have refused to meet for negotiations or sign any documents. The idea of a comprehensive status process was sacrificed to attempts to come to an agreement on at least technical issues. Yet it is clear that there is no point discussing the size of protected enclaves around Serbian monasteries in Kosovo until the issue on the territory's jurisdiction has been resolved.
The culmination of Ahtisaari's international efforts is an eight-page document where "Kosovo's independence under international supervision" is presented as "the only viable option" for resolving the Kosovo problem. Clearly, no Serbian government, no matter how pro-Western or liberal-democratic it may be, will agree to cede 15% of its territory. But the former Finnish president does not seem to be interested in gaining Serbia's support. Now it is becoming increasingly clear that his main goal was to find a wording that will give Kosovo's independence the green light and will simultaneously waive objections of the Security Council's permanent members, first of all, Russia.
But Ahtisaari has failed. Without waiting for official debates on the envoy's report to begin, Russia's permanent representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that the Security Council should address a number of issues before deciding on Kosovo's status. First of all, it should analyze the implementation of its previous document on Kosovo, resolution No. 1244 dated June 10, 1999 (its preamble, incidentally, provides for "reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region"). Secondly, it should send a special mission to Kosovo to study the situation on the scene, not from Ahtisaari's reports. The Security Council should gather "as much information as possible about the situation before considering" the envoy's proposal, Churkin emphasized.
Reaction to Russia's proposal was reserved. Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu has voiced his support more enthusiastically than others, but that does not mean that Pristina is ready for a compromise. It is more likely that it wants to score propaganda points ahead of the decisive vote.
Judging by the latest statements made by Western officials, they seem to see their task not in finding a fair, stable and comprehensive solution to the problem, but in ensuring that Russia votes in a way that is safe for them. Russia's veto is today the main obstacle for proponents of Kosovo's independence. The United States and Britain have already declared their full support to the Ahtisaari plan, which will allow them to tick off the Kosovo crisis and to generously reward their allies in NATO's military operation against Yugoslavia in 1999, i.e. Kosovo's Albanian extremists.
It is Germany, which currently presides in the European Union and the Group of Eight, that is going to assume the main role in appeasing Russia. In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, State Secretary of Germany's Foreign Ministry Gernot Erler said that the Security Council should accept Moscow's proposal on sending a mission to Kosovo in order to "build bridges for agreeing with Russia" on the territory's status.
However, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov has said recently that if one of the parties (namely, Serbia) does not support the Ahtisaari plan, Moscow, guided by the principles of international law, will not "agree to alienating part of a state without this state's consent."
There is no doubt that Belgrade's response will be negative. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica intends to say at the Security Council's meeting that "a democratic sovereign state cannot be deprived of 15% of its territory" and that the plan "contradicts the UN Charter and all ensuing international documents." Only Russia can help Serbia to preserve territorial integrity, emphasized Kostunica before leaving for New York. He is right to a great extent. Unfortunately, the Security Council is not ready to solve the Kosovo problem impartially, given the failure of Ahtisaari's mission and interests of the United States, Britain and other advocates of Kosovo's independence that contradict international law. In such circumstances it would be best to reject Ahtisaari's plan and replace him with another influential international diplomat, as well as to start new, more impartial talks between Belgrade and Pristina without a pre-determined outcome.
As to hopes for the stabilizing role of the international presence in Kosovo, we need to be realistic. The 20,000 servicemen of NATO's KFOR now deployed in Kosovo have been unable to protect Serbs and ensure their interests. Serbs in Kosovo still live in a ghetto, having no opportunity to take part in the territory's political life and no real access to healthcare and education. The bombing of the medieval Serbian monastery in Visoki Decani at the end of March cannot be seen as anything but a clear signal to Serbs and the international community: there is no place for Serbs and other non-Albanian ethnic groups in Kosovo, now controlled by the UN. There will certainly be no place for them when Kosovo becomes independent.
Dr. Pyotr Iskenderov is senior research fellow with the Institute of Slavic Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.