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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Serbia and Kosovo
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday to refrain from unilateral steps that could spark violence in the region.

In a RIA Novosti interview ahead of his visit to Moscow on April 9-11, Ban Ki-moon said: "At this time it would be very important to maintain peace and stability on the ground, therefore I would urge the parties concerned to refrain from taking any unilateral measures which may provoke inside violence."

He said the situation in Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in February and has since been backed by most Western powers, would be discussed in Moscow.

Russia, Belgrade's traditional ally, considers the recognition of the Albanian-dominated province illegal.

Ban Ki-moon refused to give any assessment on the recognition of the "newest state", saying it is "something to be done by member states," not the organization itself, but he pledged further UN engagement in the region which it has administered since the 1999 NATO bombings ended armed conflicts between Serbs and Albanians.

Asked whether the UN mission could share its mandate with a mission the European Union plans to deploy in Kosovo, Ban Ki-moon said "UNMIK will continue to exercise its role and mandate and authority all throughout Kosovo," but "may have to very closely consult and coordinate [activities] with all the parties concerned, for example with European Union, the Russian government, Serbian government and Kosovo authorities."

The EU plans to deploy a 2,000-strong police and justice mission in Kosovo to eventually replace the UN mission.

Serbia said on Monday it would ask the International Court of Justice, the UN's main judicial body, to assess the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence. Serbia, which considers Kosovo to be its historic heartland, has offered it a broad autonomy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week: "We will continue to consistently support the actions of the Serbs in clarifying the illegality of giving Kosovo sovereign status, and to bring the Kosovo issue back into the international legal process."

In Moscow, Ban Ki-moon will meet with outgoing President Vladimir Putin, president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, Lavrov, and other officials.

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