NATO, UN leaders discuss Kosovo’s future

May 29th, 2008 - 4:55 am ICT by admin  

New York/Brussels, May 29 (DPA) The leaders of NATO and the UN discussed Wednesday the future of Kosovo, a former Serb province that had unilaterally declared independence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at UN headquarters in New York, and Ban’s office issued a cryptic readout on the discussion on the situations in Kosovo and in Afghanistan, where NATO maintains thousands of troops.

“The meeting focused on Kosovo, with the (UN) secretary general sharing his vision for the way forward while taking note of NATO’s concerns,” it said. “They also exchanged views on the risks ahead.”

“The secretaries-general also briefly touched on Afghanistan, praising the regional dimension of the work being done by the UN secretary general’s special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide. They also looked ahead to the upcoming pledging conference on Afghanistan to be held in Paris.”

There was little other information provided by either side. But a NATO spokesman said before the meeting that responsibilities should be well defined on each side.

NATO leaders are concerned that a delay to the planned handover of authority from UN to EU policing missions in Kosovo could leave NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping force at risk of being drawn into a civilian policing role. KFOR is the name of the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.

“We don’t want KFOR to be in the position of first responder: it’s not a police force, it should not be put in the position of being a police force. It is not mandated to play that role, our soldiers are not equipped or trained to play that role, and we should not ask them to do that,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

“That means we can ask, and do ask, other international organizations to be able to play that role,” he said.

NATO has been involved in the troubled Serbian province of Kosovo since 1999, when it conducted a bombing campaign to stop fighting between Serb security forces and ethnic-Albanian separatists.

Since then Kosovo has been under the civilian administration of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). NATO troops have been responsible for maintaining peace and stability under the Kosovo Force (KFOR).

But in February Kosovo declared independence and approved a new constitution, which is set to come into force on June 15.

Under a peace plan proposed by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari in 2007, the constitution was meant to be accompanied by a handover of power from UNMIK to the Kosovo authorities and a EU policing mission, known as EU-Lex, with the blessing of the UN Security Council.

But Serbia rejected the Ahtisaari plan, as did UN Security Council veto-holder Russia, leaving both it and the fate of the UN-EU handover in legal limbo.

Nevertheless, the EU ordered EU-Lex to begin deploying in mid- February.

Monday EU foreign ministers admitted that the EU-Lex mission was not likely to take over from UNMIK on June 15, as originally planned, and might only take up full responsibilities in the autumn.

The EU’s top foreign-policy official, Javier Solana, is set to meet Ban at a conference on Afghanistan in Stockholm Thursday and is expected to discuss the Kosovo issue.

Scheffer is also set to discuss security and international cooperation in Afghanistan with Ban, Appathurai said.

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