BY WANG XIAOZHU
China’s UN envoy on Thursday urged Belgrade and Pristina, capital of Kosovo, to stay committed to promoting the normalization of bilateral relations through dialogue and consultation after the two sides halted negotiations last December.
China, which doesn’t recognise Kosovo’s independence, has never described the relationship between Belgrade and Pristina a “bilateral” one.
Chinese Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ma Zhaoxu said China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and understands its legitimate concerns regarding Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 unilaterally.
All parties should reach a solution that is acceptable to all through dialogue and negotiation, Ma urged on Thursday, at a Security Council meeting on Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 without the latter’s recognition.
“Achieving reconciliation and common development is in the fundamental interests of all peoples,” the Chinese envoy said, calling on all parties concerned to “put the well-being of their people first, protect the legitimate rights and interests of all communities, and promote the economic and social development of all ethnic groups.”
Dominated by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, an act not recognized by Belgrade.
The “two sides”, a term used by Xinhua, China’s state news agency, committed to a European Union-mediated dialogue with the signing of the Brussels agreement in 2013.
But the negotiations stopped last December after Pristina’s decisions to increase tariffs on goods imported from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina from 10 to 100 percent, following Kosovo’s failed bid to join the International Criminal Police Organization.
It also adopted three draft laws aimed at strengthening the role and capacity of the Kosovo Security Force.
Ma said the moves were not conducive to enhancing mutual trust and dialogue, calling on the parties concerned to refrain from any rhetoric or action that may complicate or escalate the situation.
Despite the current impasse between Belgrade and Pristina, the council members agreed Thursday to hold fewer meetings over the Kosovo issue instead of meeting on the current quarterly basis.
The UN’s most powerful body will hold three meetings on the issue in 2019, including Thursday’s session, and two annually from 2020 onward.
The frequency of reporting on Kosovo has been a contentious issue in the council for some time. The United States prefers the issue be discussed less frequently, while Russia wants to maintain the quarterly cycle.
For China, Kosovo is Serbia
China has been opposed to Kosovo’s independence since Day 1.
In Feb 2008, China expressed “serious concern” over Kosovo’s declaration of independence and called for “proper solution through negotiations” between Serbia and the breakaway province, a term used by China Daily, China’s national English media title.
Then Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao issued a statement, warning that the move could destabilize the Balkan region severely.
“Kosovo’s unilateral approach may lead to a series of consequences and create a seriously negative impact on peace and stability in the Balkans and on the efforts to build a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo, which China is deeply worried about,” Liu said.
On 15 May 2008, the Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China made a joint statement regarding Kosovo during a conference in Yekaterinburg.
It was read by the host minister, Sergey Lavrov of Russia, and it said: “In our statement, we recorded our fundamental position that the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo contradicts Resolution 1244.
On 23 August 2009, the presidents of Serbia and China, Boris Tadić and Hu Jintao, signed a joint declaration on the establishment of strategic partnerships. In point VI this document reconfirms that China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.
It considers that the best way to resolve the Kosovo issue is to develop a plan that would be acceptable for both sides, through dialogue and negotiations between the Government of Serbia and Kosovo authorities, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and relevant resolutions of UNSC, within international law. The declaration says that unilateral action will not contribute to resolving this issue, and that the international community should create favourable conditions for solving it.
In July 2010, another former Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang reiterated China’s respect for Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, when commenting on a non-binding advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released Thursday saying Kosovo’s independence declaration in 2008 “did not violate general international law.”
In November last year, China’s ambassador was quoted by Sputnik as saying the Chinese government stands by Serbia in its row with Kosovo whose police were accused of making an inroad into a Serb-run municipality.
“Serbia can count on China’s support,” then Chinese ambassador Li Manchang was quoted as saying by the Serbian president’s office.
In the same month, current Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said dialogue within the framework of related UN Security Council resolution would be “the best way to resolve the Kosovo issue”.
The writer is a foreign affairs analyst