By EDITH M. LEDERERFebruary 8, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Security Council agreed Thursday to reduce the number of meetings it holds on Kosovo under pressure from the United States and its European allies who say the U.N.’s most powerful body has more important crises to discuss.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 from Serbia, a close ally of Russia which has refused to recognize its decision and had insisted on holding open meetings every three months.

Council members agreed ahead of a scheduled Thursday afternoon meeting on Kosovo to reduce the number of meetings to three gatherings this year and two in 2020, avoiding what would likely have been a contentious procedural vote.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said: “If you look at the amount of conflict actually on the ground in Kosovo there isn’t anything like the level of the issues that are dealt with in places like Yemen, or (Congo) or Haiti.”

“So four meetings a year was clearly too many,” she said.

But the issue of the number of meetings was still raised by many speakers at Thursday’s council meeting.

U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen said the Trump administration appreciated the agreement, saying “there is much better uses for this council’s limited time and resources than to maintain the past frequency of these … briefings.”

“It is disappointing,” he added, “that at a moment when the atmosphere begs for improvement, these council meetings continue to be used to employ antagonistic language.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow rejects the Western line, stressing that “behind this is an attempt to hide from the international community the truth on the real situation in the region and the meddling behind the scenes in Kosovo.”

Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO administration after a 1999 NATO-led air war halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists. The Security Council resolution that established an interim U.N. administration left the final status of Kosovo in question, and Nebenzia said the council must remain “the main forum” to deal with the issue.

“Kosovo remains the main cradle of instability and a source of conflict potential in the Balkan region,” Nebenzia warned. “The situation in the region is extremely unstable and at any moment it might spiral out of control,”

Vlora Citaku, Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States, strongly disagreed saying: “It is astounding. Simply unbelievable, that this council has convened more sessions to talk about Kosovo, than it has for Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela.”

“There are real problems out there, real challenges that require your valuable time and attention. Real people who need your help, as we in Kosovo once did,” she said.

Citaku accused Serbia of using the Security Council as “a stage … to tell its fairytales to the world.”

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told the council “we do not ask for meetings for the purpose of upmanship, but to make a contribution to the stabilization of the situation in Kosovo … and to the peace in the region.”

He said “the most important thing is that the Security Council will go on” considering the Kosovo issue.

Pierce, Cohen and Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen all stressed that what’s needed most is for Kosovo and Serbia to normalize relations, which would open a path to European Union membership.