Brdo pri Kranju, 25 January 2008 – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Friday of the dangers of an impasse over Kosovo’s future status, but did not say whether the EU could legally deploy a major mission there.”If this impasse continues, the situation may take its own dynamics. This will be very dangerous,” he told reporters after talks with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
When asked whether the EU’s planned mission would be legal under UN Security Council resolution 1244, Ban said: “I will have to closely consider and examine the legal implications of that.”
Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders are preparing to break away from Serbia in coming days, and while the move has wide EU support, Belgrade’s ally Russia has threatened to bloc any independence moves at the Security Council.
Earlier Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his opposition.
“Russia is categorically against a unilateral declaration of independence,” he said. “This would risk provoking serious damage to the whole of the international legal system and would have negative consequences both for the Balkans and the world.”
With progress held up at the United Nations, EU leaders decided last month to send a major justice mission to Kosovo — some 1,800 personnel in all — to help ease the Serbian province’s transition to independence.
“The Security Council still remains deeply divided on the way forward with Kosovo. This is dangerous,” Ban said.
“I will have to closely and carefully assess the situation as it develops,” he said. “My responsibility as secretary general is to preserve peace and stability in the region and I will take the necessary measures.”
Kosovo has been administered by the UN since NATO bombed Belgrade in 1999 to end a crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians, and the Albanian majority there has been impatient for independence ever since.
Serbia maintains that the southern province is an integral part of its territory and the cradle of its history, and while it rejects any move to break away, it has offered Pristina wide autonomy.
Jansa said that the European Union believes there is leeway to act under resolution 1244, and he warned of the dangers of dithering over legal issues, comparing events in Kosovo to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s.
“During this time when this discussion went on, thousands of people were killed. Tens of thousands lost their homes and the legal situation was still unsettled,” he said.
“We have to have in mind this experience,” said the premier of the former Yugoslav state, which broke away in June 1991, sparking a 10-day war with the Serbian-led army.
He said that resolution 1244, which deployed the UN’s mission and gave NATO a mandate to provide security in Kosovo, was drawn up at another time and mentions only the federal republic of Yugoslavia and not Serbia by name.
“We can behave as responsible actors or look at details and never come to the end,” he said.
“It is our firm belief, that sending the … mission to Kosovo is according to the legal basis which is set in resolution 1244. It’s not maybe a complete legal basis, but it is a legal basis,” he said.
The subject of Serbia is set to top the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.