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Russia, West disagree on need to keep UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo

May 17, 6:56 UTC+3 UNITED NATIONS

As the Russian delegation pointed at numerous problems reported in the region, the United States and its allies claimed that the mission should be withdrawn

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UNITED NATIONS, May 17. /TASS/. Russia and Western powers disagreed on the need to keep the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) during a quarterly UN Security Council debate on the situation in the region on Tuesday.

As the Russian delegation pointed at numerous problems reported in the region, the United States and its allies claimed that the mission should be withdrawn, because Pristina made serious progress in maintaining law and security in Kosovo.

The deputy US ambassador to the UN, Michele Sison said the mission had already fulfilled its task and expressed her dissatisfaction with UNMIK’s request for additional financing of $2 million for its human rights programs. She also suggested that the Council hold its debates on the situation in Kosovo every six months instead of the current period of three months.

Political Counsellor at the UK Mission to the United Nations Stephen Hickey said the situation in the region was relatively calm and urged reviewing the UNMIK format.

At the same time, Russia’s deputy UN envoy Vladimir Safronkov pointed at numerous problems in the region, including Pristina’s actions "intended at misappropriating the property owned by Serbian state structures and companies," as well as the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He added that "attacks on Serbs, setting fire to their property, attempts to impede the return of refugees" continue in the region.

The diplomat said that the issue of terrorism is becoming "more and more pressing" in the region, where radical forces recruit militants for taking part in Middle East conflicts.

"Under these circumstances, we consider talks about cutting the staff and budget of the UN Mission in Kosovo to be untimely and counter-productive," he said. "The situation in the region rules out decisions of this kind, we have to admit that the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is virtually non-existent. That’s why it is necessary to back away from demands to cut the mission's numbers or close it," Safronkov said.

He added that Moscow also saw no reason to increase the interval between Security Council debates on Kosovo, because the situation in the region "still requires careful international attention and control."

Zahir Tanin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the UNMIK head said that although the situation in Kosovo remains generally stable, the international community should closely watch the developments as the peace dialogue virtually stalled in recent months.

"Escalation has been avoided in several instances due to external diplomatic interventions, but the necessary level of trust between Pristina and Belgrade has been further eroded by a number of irresponsible and inflammatory statements," he said. "Public communications, during this reporting period, unfortunately descended back to intolerant and ethno-nationalist slogans."

Tanin said added that both sides had repeatedly accused each other of provocations, while the process of normalizing ties requires cooperation.

"Improving the situation in Kosovo and the region requires leadership which transcends ethno-national divisions, rather than amplifying them," he said.

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