/ 25 March 2008

Serbia asks UN for partitioning of Kosovo

Serbia has formally proposed partitioning Kosovo along ethnic lines for the first time, asking the United Nations to ensure that Belgrade can control key institutions and functions in areas of the newly independent country where Serbs form a majority.

In a document sent to the UN in New York, proposed to the UN in Kosovo last week and published in the Belgrade press on Monday, the government in Belgrade insists that Serbia be allowed to control the police, the courts, the judiciary and customs in the Serbian enclaves in Kosovo and in the northern strip around the tense Serb-controlled town of Mitrovica.

Described as a blueprint for the ”functional division of Serbs and Kosovo Albanians” by the Serbian minister pushing the policy, the proposal is the nearest Serbia has come to calling openly for partition, although it is working on the ground on Kosovo to make the division a reality.

The Serbian government of Vojislav Kostunica, which utterly rejects Kosovan independence, never officially urges the ethnic partition since to do so would be to forfeit its claim to Serbian sovereignty over all of Kosovo. But the proposal acknowledges the UN as the sole authority in Kosovo, rejecting the legitimacy of both the Kosovo government and the EU mission that is supposed to take over from the UN over the next three months.

Clashes between Serbs and UN and Nato forces in Mitrovica last week left one Ukrainian dead and scores injured. The UN said Belgrade was behind the trouble, which erupted over a Serbian takeover of a local courthouse. Mitrovica Serbs are promising to stage a large demonstration again on Tuesday in the town, which Serbia has controlled for most of the nine-year UN mission in Kosovo.

Slobodan Samardzic, the Serbian minister running the partition policy along with Kostunica, implicitly threatened more unrest in Mitrovica if the demands were ignored. ”If [the UN] wants peace and stability, they must reach a lasting agreement with the Serbs, and not try to put out a fire every other day through violence,” he told the Belgrade newspaper, Politika. — Â