Belgrade, 22 March 2008 – A Serbian minister proposed the ethnic division of Kosovo to the UN mission in the disputed territory which proclaimed independence from Serbia last month, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The key point of the accord offered to the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) was to create “the functional separation of Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo,” Serbia’s minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, told the pro-government daily Politika.

“We accept the (UN Security Council) Resolution 1244 and authority of UNMIK police, judiciary and customs, but after the unilateral proclamation of independence, only Serbs, aided by Serbia, could carry that out,” Samardzic was quoted as saying.

The minister, a member of nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica’s party, was acting without the consent of Serbia’s caretaker government when he made the proposal in a meeting with the deputy head of UNMIK, Larry Rossin, last weekend.

The proposal, he told Politika, referred to all Serb-populated areas of Kosovo and not only the northern Serb stronghold including the flashpoint town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Since Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian dominated parliament proclaimed independence on February 17, hardline Kosovo Serbs have incited a series of violent incidents in the territory’s north.

In the worst such incident on Monday, a Ukrainian member of the UN police was killed and more than 150 people — among them 64 international security officials — were injured.

“If they want peace and stability, they have to reach a sustainable agreement, and not only to extinguish fire with violence every two days,” said Samardzic.

The minister’s decision to present the proposal to Rossin without informing coalition partners led to a stormy cabinet session in Belgrade on Thursday.

However, Samardzic told Politika the proposal was part of an action plan “adopted by the government on January 14.”

According to Kosovo’s independent daily Express, which published the draft, the key demands were related to police, judiciary and customs control.

“Serb police officers are accountable to local Serb authorities and under executive command of the police of UNMIK,” read the first article of the proposal, the newspaper reported.

The proposal included that “Kosovo Serbs have the right to govern their judiciary matters” and “to establish their own customs authority” in case the government in Pristina “imposes barriers” to free trade with Serbia.

After the meeting with Samardzic, Rossin told reporters that the document was sent to UN headquarters in New York “for discussion.”

Source: AFP