U.N. Draft for Kosovo Independence Circulated

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 12, 2007

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- The United States and its European allies introduced Friday a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that would end the United Nations' administration of Kosovo and pave the way to independence for Serbia's ethnic Albanian province.

The move comes two months after U.N. envoy and former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari proposed that Kosovo be granted independence, and it set the stage for a political confrontation with Russia, which claims that only Serbia and Kosovo can determine their fate.

The resolution, which stops short of explicitly endorsing Ahtisaari's call, transfers authority for Kosovo from the United Nations to the European Union, protected by NATO forces, as part of a phased transition to autonomy.

U.S. and European officials say that continued negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo hold no prospect of success, and that any further delay in clarifying Kosovo's legal status and its relationship with Serbia could fuel a resumption of violence there. Britain, France, Germany and Italy have endorsed the text introduced Friday.

"With this draft resolution, the discussion on the future status of Kosovo now enters its final phase," said France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de La Sablière.

Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when NATO military forces launched a 78-day air war against Yugoslav troops engaged in ruthlessly driving more than 600,000 ethnic Albanians into exile. The U.N. Security Council's major powers have put off a decision on Kosovo's final status since then, citing opposition by Serbia -- and its key patron, Russia -- to its independence.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, has complained that the Security Council resolution would set a precedent that would encourage future breakaway territories. He added that Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population, failed to protect the Serb minority from being the target of violence.

Churkin has called for a new round of talks between Kosovo and Serbia, which cites a historical claim to the province.

The resolution endorses a plan by Ahtisaari, first set out in February, that envisions a decentralized Kosovar government with the authority to sign international treaties and the responsibility to protect Serb religious sites, respect the rights of Kosovo's Serb minority and pave the way for the return to Kosovo of displaced Serbs.

Ahtisaari said that a formal transition to power would be conditioned on the willingness of Kosovo's leaders to implement reforms.

To address Russian concerns, the United States and its European counterparts have included language indicating that Kosovo's bid for independence is a "special case."

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