Serbs must choose: EU or isolation
SERBIA has completely lost Kosovo and now needs to decide whether it will make efforts to move towards the European Union or choose total isolation, Jim Murphy, the Europe minister, warned yesterday.
"Serbia did not lose Kosovo last month, it lost it in the last decade. It's not going to keep Kosovo, it's gone," said Mr Murphy, the MP for East Renfrewshire, who is visiting Sarajevo.
The minister said that Serbia, which continues to stake vociferous claim to the southern province which declared independence last month, must make a choice about its future. Mr Murphy is the most senior British official to go on the record with such a warning.
"Serbia is at a fork in the road of the nation's history, the choice is Europe or isolation," he said.
The British government has recognised Kosovo's independence and Mr Murphy reiterated the UK's stance in no uncertain terms.
Belgrade still insists that Kosovo is part of Serbia, as stated by UN Security Council resolution 1244, which mandated Nato forces and the United Nations' entry into Kosovo in June 1999.
Serbia claims that Kosovo's declaration of independence last month was illegal under international law.
Mr Murphy's remarks put another nail in the coffin of Serbian claims. But they could further inflame Serb passions, in a week that saw the first death in the latest troubles, of a Ukrainian UN policeman killed by Serbs.
Mr Murphy has been visiting Bosnian humanitarian projects, including the International Commission on Missing Persons, acknowledged as the world leaders in DNA-assisted victim identification.
"The work they are doing with DNA here is probably the most advanced and largest in the world," he said. ICMP, which identifies the missing and disappeared in Bosnian wars, sometimes from mass graves, is co-run by Adam Boys, a former chartered accountant from Argyll.
Mr Murphy's mandate includes the Balkans, Nato and other international issues. He has been a leading Labour spokesman on EU issues at Westminster.
"Serbia has a choice: accept the EU and work with us, or frustrate the independence of Kosovo," he told The Scotsman.
He described the recent violence in Kosovo as "utterly unacceptable".
The United States and its main EU allies have recognised Kosovo's statehood, but Belgrade has Russia's backing in its bid to reclaim the territory.
Russia yesterday requested an emergency meeting of the Russia-Nato council to discuss US arms supplies to Kosovo authorised on Wednesday by the US president, George Bush.
While Mr Bush said it would promote "world peace", the Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin said the arms would not fight terrorism, but supply "former terrorists" now running Kosovo.
This week Kosovo saw clashes with hardline Serb protesters armed with guns and hand grenades that left one UN police officer dead and dozens injured.
More than 60 UN and Nato forces, and 70 Kosovo Serb protesters were wounded in Monday's clashes in the ethnically divided northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica.
UN police only began returning to the Serb-dominated part of the town on Wednesday after Serb leaders promised they would not be attacked, a UN spokesman said. Such a move amounted to tacit admission that the UN force's security rested on Mitrovica's Serbs.
Nato's K-For peacekeeping force, currently about 16,000 strong, has struggled to contain outbreaks of violence by armed Serb hardliners in northern Mitrovica since June 1999. Kosovo has been run as a de facto UN protectorate since 1999.
Larry Rossin, the deputy UN administrator for Kosovo, has accused Serbia of being complicit in the violence – a charge denied by Dusan Prorokovic, a senior Belgrade government official.
Milan Ivanovic, a hardline Serb leader in Mitrovica, has accused international forces of using violence to force the Serbs to accept Kosovo's independence.
John Sawers, Britain's UN ambassador, said this week that while most Serbs in Kosovo live peacefully "there seem to be those who are deliberately stoking trouble in the north of Kosovo because they seem to want to see violence".
The UN policeman who died of injuries suffered from a hand grenade thrown by a protester was identified as 25-year-old Ihor Kynal of Ukraine.
Mr Bush authorised supplying Kosovo with weapons yesterday, signalling the start of government-to-government relations with the new state.
In a memo to the state department made public by the White House, Mr Bush said: "I hereby find that the furnishing of defence articles and defence services to Kosovo will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace."
This week two of Serbia's Balkan neighbours, Croatia and Hungary, recognised Kosovan independence. A third, Bulgaria, said it would establish diplomatic ties yesterday.
The EU has yet to deploy a mission in Kosovo's north, though an international agreement that opened the way for Kosovo to declare independence included the mission. Serb leaders have said they would block the EU-led mission from Serb areas.
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