Skip to comments.US says UN chief can reconfigure UN mission in Kosovo
Posted on 06/20/2008 12:09:29 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
(UNITED NATIONS) - The United States on Friday defended UN chief Ban Ki-moon's plans to transfer some powers from the UN mission in Kosovo to the European Union despite opposition from Serbia and its ally Russia.
US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told the Security Council that Washington backed Ban's plan to reconfigure the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) by transferring responsibilities in the areas of police, justice and customs to a EU mission.
He told Ban that despite objections raised by Serbia and Russia, "You have to act. 1244 gives you that discretion," referring to the Security Council adopted 1999 as the basis for the UN stewardship of Kosovo.
Last Sunday, a new constitution went into force in Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian majority territory which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17.
The new state has been recognized by more than 40 countries, including the United States and most but not all EU members. Serbia and its ally Russia, a veto-wielding Security Council member, are both strongly opposed to recognition.
UNMIK, which has run Kosovo under Resolution 1244 since a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 ousted Serbian forces then waging a brutal crackdown on separatist Albanians, has also transferred some powers to authorities of the new state.
The new constitution paved the way for the introduction of EULEX, a 2,000-strong European Union police and justice mission.
Earlier Serbia and Russia told the meeting that any decision on Ban's plan required the approval of the 15-member council.
Serbian President Boris Tadic told the council that Serbia "cannot endorse" Ban's plan although he said Belgrade was "prepared to continue engaging in a dialogue with the United Nations in order to arrive at a satisfactory agreement."
"Reconfiguration must be decided by the Security Council. It is the only institution endowed with the power to legitimate changes in the composition of the international presence in Kosovo," he told the meeting, also attended by Kosovo's president Fatmir Sedjiu.
"Until the process envisaged in Resolution 1244 to determine Kosovo's future status is complete, the international community, led by the United Nations, has to retain its central role in the maintenance of peace and stability in Kosovo," the Serbian leader added.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin backed Tadic's stance, saying: "We hope that the secretary general will respect the UN Charter and the mandate confirmed by Resolution 1244 and will refrain from any unilateral actions regarding the reconfiguration of UNMIK without the consent of the council."
But Khalilzad said Washington backed Ban's reconfiguration plan as "the best practical way forward" even though it had some concerns about it.
Britain and France also expressed support for Ban's blueprint.
The council was not expected to make any decision on the issue.
Sedjiu for his part reiterated that his government was fully committed to a democratic future for all its citizens as well as to the "supervised independence" plan crafted by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari.
Earlier, Ban told the council that the EU would take on "increasing operational responsibilities in the areas of international policing, justice and customs, within a reconfigured UNMIK."
He said this would occur "within the mandate established by Resolution 1244, and under an umbrella headed by" his new special envoy to Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier of Italy.
France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert meanwhile said the EU was "fully aware of its responsibilities" regarding Kosovo and "will attempt to move forward in the coming months on the way toward a common future for Serbs and Kosovars within the EU framework."
“The United States on Friday defended UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s plans to transfer some powers from the UN mission in Kosovo to the European Union despite opposition from Serbia and its ally Russia.”
White flags on order.