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Kosovo resolution to be put for a final vote soon

July 17, 2007 2:56 PM

UNITED NATIONS-Britain said Tuesday a draft resolution on Kosovo will be put in final form very soon though no date has been set for a vote because the U.S. and European Union still want to persuade Russia to drop its threat to veto the measure.

The latest draft calls for four months of intensive negotiations between Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, which is clamoring for independence, and the province's Serb minority, which wants to remain part of Serbia. It dropped an automatic route to independence if talks fail, but Russia, a close Serb ally, called the new text a hidden attempt to achieve Kosovo's independence.

While Britain and Italy talked about steps leading to a possible vote on the resolution, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Brussels that international mediators are prepared to step in to try to resolve the dispute over Kosovo's future status if efforts to reach agreement on a U.N. resolution remain stalled.

Britain's U.N. deputy ambassador Karen Pierce dismissed Solana's comments, which indicated the resolution's European Union sponsors would soon drop their attempt to have Kosovo's future status decided in the Security Council if Russia doesn't quickly drop its opposition.

"The cosponsors will make their own decisions," Pierce said. "Solana doesn't speak for us on the Security Council, or in terms of what the Security Council does. So I think you should wait to hear from the cosponsors."

She said the draft resolution should be put in "blue", a final form that can be voted on, "very soon." Italy's U.N. Ambassador Marcello Spatafora said he also expected the draft to be put in blue "very soon," stressing that even then "it is not sculpted in stone" and can still be improved.

While Kosovo remains a province of Serbia, it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999. In April, U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence, a proposal strongly supported by the province's ethnic Albanians, the U.S. and EU, but opposed by Serbia and Russia, a traditional Serb ally.

There is widespread concern in the Security Council and the region that the province's ethnic Albanian leaders could declare independence unilaterally if the council does not approve a path to independence.

Under the current draft, the EU would take over administration of Kosovo from the United Nations at the end of the four-month period. It also affirms the council's "readiness to review the situation further" in light of the Albanian-Serb negotiations, but does not require further Security Council action.

After closed-door council discussions on the draft on Monday, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said chances of its adoption "are zero."

"Almost the entire text, and maybe particularly the annexes, are permeated with the concept of the independence of Kosovo, and it's kind of a hidden automaticity of the Ahtisaari plan," he said.

Solana told reporters Tuesday "if it is not a possibility at the United Nations at this time, I'm sure there will be an agreement among members of the Contact Group to open a process of negotiations."

The Contact Group on Kosovo, consisting of diplomats from the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia, is expected to meet July 25 in Berlin, according to a Security Council diplomat.

Britain's Pierce noted "the extent to which the Russians have outsourced their foreign policy to Belgrade."

"We used to have a very cooperative relationship with the Russians on the Balkans through the Contact Group," she said. "It's a source of some regret that they no longer seem to want to work through the Contact Group and bring this to a managed conclusion."

"We want the Russians to engage with us. We're prepared to go an extra mile to achieve that. We've already gone quite a long way with this latest text," Pierce said.

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