Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Newly 'Independent' Kosovo, What's the U.N. to Do?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Newly 'Independent' Kosovo, What's the U.N. to Do?

Article excerpt

After more than eight years of running Kosovo, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has suddenly found itself idling in neutral.

Unable to recognize the newly declared state without a new mandate from headquarters in New York, workers on the ground are left wondering what exactly their job is - and how long they'll be here. For now, any work on a planned European Union takeover of police and justice responsibilities is on hold.

"We have received no instructions to proceed with transition," says Alexander Ivanko, the UN's spokesman in Pristina.

EU leaders agreed to send an 1,800-strong police and judiciary mission to Kosovo to replace the UN administrative mission following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Feb. 17, and it is preparing to deploy.

The UN uncertainty could complicate logistics for the EU's mission (EULEX), says Karin Limdal, press officer for the EU Planning Team laying the groundwork in Kosovo. But she remains optimistic.

"It's not a problem to deploy," says Ms. Limdal. "[The UN] will have a decision by then, but it's clearly up to them to decide and they don't have any orders yet. They should have them within a week or two."

However, Russia - a strong ally of Serbia, which has vigorously opposed UN endorsement of Kosovo independence - has insisted that the EU mission would be illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which brought the UN in to govern after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign drove Serb forces from Kosovo in 1999.

Last week, Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, pointed to a Feb. 17 statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, which disputes any EU takeover.

In the statement, Mr. Ban said that until there is a new decision by the Security Council, UNMIK will consider Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999, "as the legal framework for its mandate and will continue to implement its mandate in the light of the evolving circumstances. …

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