The Associated Press reports on the latest battle in the new Cold War as Russia continues to stick up for its Serbian "little brother" against which the whole of Europe is arrayed, especially NATO, once again alienating itself over an issue from which it can gain nothing, in classic Soviet style.
The United States and Europe squared off against Russia over Kosovo's future status, with key Western nations urging the U.N. Security Council to grant the Serbian province internationally-supervised independence and Moscow demanding more talks.
The deep division among the veto-wielding permanent council members — which include the U.S., Britain, France and Russia — signaled an uphill struggle to reach agreement on Kosovo's future.
The 15 council nations held an informal meeting late Tuesday at France's U.N. Mission to discuss the rival elements for a draft Security Council resolution, a session that diplomats said Wednesday was very preliminary. The council is scheduled to hold an open meeting Thursday to hear a report on the mission it sent to Kosovo and Serbia late last month for a firsthand assessment before tackling the divisive status issue.
But ahead of Thursday's report from Belgium's U.N. Ambassador Johan Verbeke, who led the council mission, the U.S., Germany and European members of the council circulated elements for a draft resolution while Russia circulated rival elements. Both proposals were obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press.
Kosovo is a province of Serbia but it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.
Last month, U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally- supervised independence — a proposal welcomed by its Albanian majority but vehemently rejected by its Serb minority, Serbia and Russia which has strong culural and religious ties to the Serbs.
Hundreds of ex-Serb militia members from the Balkan pledged Saturday to fight for Kosovo if the breakaway province is granted independence, illustrating the mounting nationalism over prospects that Kosovo will split from Serbia.
The rival proposals would both reaffirm the Security Council's commitment to "a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo which must reinforce regional stability," and oppose any form of violence.
The U.S.-European proposal would endorse Ahtisaari's recommendations for Kosovo's future status and end the U.N. administration and NATO-led peacekeeping force after 120 days. They would be replaced by a new international civilian representative and international military presence.
The proposed resolution would be under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which deals with threats to peace and security and can be militarily enforced.
By contrast, the Russian draft makes no mention of Chapter 7 or possible independence.
It calls for the withdrawal of the U.N. mission and establishment of an international civilian mission, with an increased role of the European Union to support implementation of the standards. "The U.N. Security Council will keep control over international civilian and military presence in Kosovo," the draft says.
Russia's proposal also states that there has been "mixed and insufficient overall progress" on implementing U.N.-endorsed standards. It acknowledges the "necessity to continue negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina with balanced international mediation primarily focused on protection of minority rights."
International officials had conditioned talks on the province's future status with progress on eight standards, including establishing functioning democratic institutions, protecting minorities, promoting economic development and ensuring rule of law, freedom of movement and property rights.
In October 2005, the Security Council endorsed starting talks on Kosovo's status after U.N. special envoy Kai Eide of Norway said negotiations must go ahead even though Kosovo still had grave problems, including deep ethnic divisions, a struggling economy and widespread corruption.
The U.S.-European proposal recognizes progress in implementing the standards and calls for their continued implementation. It also recognizes "the non-consensual breakup of Yugoslavia, the violence and repression of the 1990s and the period of U.N. administration that make Kosovo a special case."
The Russian draft says extra effort should be given to protect minorities, promote decentralization, create conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and to "promoting particular reconciliation and building trust among ethnic communities."