Kosovo fails in a bid to gain UNESCO mem­ber­ship

Rus­sia has warned of us­ing UNESCO for po­lit­i­cal ends

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: The United Na­tions’ cul­tural agency UNESCO nar­rowly voted against grant­ing Kosovo full mem­ber­ship yes­ter­day in a de­ci­sion that Ser­bia hailed as a diplo­matic vic­tory. The vote had been fiercely op­posed by Rus­sia and Ser­bia, which at­tempted to get it post­poned ear­lier in the day. Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov had warned on Fri­day against us­ing UNESCO to le­git­imize what he called Kosovo’s self-pro­claimed state.

Kosovo de­clared in­de­pen­dence from Ser­bia in 2008 al­most a decade af­ter NATO went to war to halt the killing and ex­pul­sion of eth­nic Al­ba­nian civil­ians by Ser­bian forces try­ing to crush an in­sur­gency. Ser­bia does not rec­og­nize Kosovo as sov­er­eign but signed up to an ac­cord in 2013 de­signed to set­tle re­la­tions be­tween the two as a con­di­tion of Bel­grade’s fur­ther progress to­wards mem­ber­ship of the EU. The new coun­try is so far rec­og­nized by 111 states, but not by Ser­bia or UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers Rus­sia and China.

To win UNESCO mem­ber­ship, Kosovo needed a two-thirds ma­jor­ity. Of the 142 coun­tries that voted, 92 backed the mo­tion, 50 voted against and 29 ab­stained, mean­ing the bid fell short by three votes. “The vast ma­jor­ity of the coun­tries in the world have voted for Kosovo,” For­eign Min­is­ter Hashim Thaci wrote on his Face­book page. “Un­for­tu­nately, for only three votes we did not win the needed ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity.” Kosovo is a mem­ber of the World Bank, In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund and the Olympic Com­mit­tee, but has been strug­gling to join other in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions due to Ser­bia’s ob­jec­tions. “Kosovo’s road is un­stop­pable and we will ap­ply and join other or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing UNESCO once again,” Thaci said.

With a wealth of cen­turies-old Ortho­dox churches and monas­ter­ies, Kosovo has long held al­most myth­i­cal sta­tus for Serbs which con­sid­ers it the cra­dle of its faith. Ser­bian Pres­i­dent Tomis­lav Nikolic de­scribed Kosovo’s fail­ure to se­cure UNESCO mem­ber­ship as a diplo­matic vic­tory. “This is a just and moral vic­tory in al­most im­pos­si­ble con­di­tions,” Nikolic said in a state­ment.

The Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church wel­comed the de­ci­sion call­ing for a di­a­logue on the preser­va­tion of Ser­bian cul­tural and reli­gious her­itage in Kosovo. “The is­sue of reli­gious and cul­tural her­itage can­not and should not be solved through pol­i­tics es­pe­cially in a sit­u­a­tion where so many Chris­tian places of wor­ship and grave­yards have been de­stroyed af­ter the (1998-1999) war,” it said in a state­ment.

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