- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday approved the deployment of a European Union mission throughout Kosovo under the U.N. umbrella.

The mission, known as EULEX, was supposed to deploy soon after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17 to promote peace, justice and the rule of law. But it was stalled in part because of objections from Serbia, which insists that Kosovo remains part of its territory.

Serbia and Kosovo reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the new EU mission earlier this week. But the status of Kosovo, whose independence has been recognized by 52 countries, remains an issue of vehement disagreement.

All parties agreed that the council’s action Wednesday will finally allow the 2,000-strong EU mission to take over from the U.N. and promote the rule of law throughout Kosovo, including the Serb-dominated north.

Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Karen Pierce called EULEX’s upcoming deployment “an important step forward in the integration of the region into the European Union.” The U.N. and the EU must now agree on a detailed operational plan so all the communities in Kosovo know exactly what will happen and the timetable, she said.

Without mentioning their differences, a statement approved by all 15 Security Council members late Wednesday welcomed the intentions of Serbia and Kosovo “to cooperate with the international community.”

“I think the deployment of EULEX throughout Kosovo and the cooperative arrangements that have now been set up lessen the risk that Kosovo will be partitioned, and that has to be welcomed,” she said.

Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni told reporters that the EU mission “has been invited into an independent Kosovo by the sovereign authorities” as a rule-of-law mission to focus on the protection of minority rights.

“We will not tolerate, we will not permit, any action that does infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kosovo,” he told reporters after briefing the Security Council.

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said that “Serbia will never, ever accept the independence of Kosovo.”

But he told the council, “the European Union can and should help to build the much needed institutional and societal fabric of our southern province.”

Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO administration after a NATO-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

It was widely expected the world body would leave Kosovo after majority ethnic Albanians moved to declare independence from Serbia in a move coordinated with the United States and EU heavyweights. But Russia, which has strong ties to Serbia, vehemently objected, insisting that only the Security Council _ where it has a veto _ could end the U.N. mission in Kosovo.

Britain, which has recognized Kosovo, considers its independence irreversible and believes “these arrangements are interim and that one day there will be a bigger U.N. withdrawal and a hand over,” Pierce said.

“That day isn’t here yet but we’re certainly on the right track now to more cooperation between the UN and EU in Kosovo,” Pierce said.



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