STRASBOURG, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will veto a United Nations resolution on Kosovo if Europe's human rights watchdog supports a draft proposal granting independence to the historically Serbian province, a senior Russian lawmaker said Wednesday.
"If today the assembly [the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe] gives its backing to proposals granting Kosovo independence [on certain conditions], then the Russian delegation will not be able to support the resolution as a whole," said Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the Russian delegation to PACE.
Russia has always supported territorial integrity in the Kosovo issue, he added.
Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and a traditional ally of Belgrade, has repeatedly said that sovereignty for the UN-administered Serbian province of Kosovo, which is sought by the ethnic Albanian majority but opposed by Belgrade, could have negative consequences for unresolved conflicts in the former Soviet Union that erupted in the early 1990s.
U.S. negotiators earlier signaled that they would back a draft proposal from United Nations special envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Kosovo's future, which is expected to recommend some degree of independence for the region. The UN Security Council is expected to vote on a final draft resolution in March.
The Russian politician said PACE should draw a clear line between the right of a nation for self-determination and a government's right for territorial integrity.
Kosachev also said: "It is not within the competence of the Council of Europe or PACE, but with the competence of the UN Security Council to determine the status of Kosovo."
The final status of the province, home to two million, was to have been determined by the end of last year, but a decision was put off until after a general election in Serbia held on January 21.
Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a decision on the sovereignty of Kosovo should satisfy both Kosovo and Serbian authorities, adding that a forced decision on the status of Kosovo was out of the question.
"The decision on Kosovo's status should be balanced and reached by means of negotiations, and should be acceptable both for Kosovo authorities and Belgrade," Lavrov said.
Last November, thousands of Kosovo Albanians attacked the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Pristina, over a delayed decision on their demand for independence. The region has been a UN protectorate since NATO's military campaign against Belgrade to end a war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists in 1999.