September 29, 2015 / 5:04 PM / 2 years ago

Russian envoy complains U.N. building under 'Obama's command'

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia’s U.N. envoy complained about the presence of Kosovo representatives at a counter-terrorism summit organized by the United States on Tuesday, saying the U.N. building was under the “command” of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaks during a news conference at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“They (Kosovo officials) are sitting in the hall together with other U.N. members,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. “It is not correct, of course. To hold such meetings on U.N. premises means they have no respect for the U.N. ... It is beyond U.N. rules.”

Russia has not recognized the independence of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia in 2008. Moscow is a strong ally of Belgrade, which has urged countries not to recognize the Pristina government.

More than 110 countries have recognized Kosovo. While it is a member of a number of international organizations, it is unable to join the United Nations as long as Russia, which has veto power on the Security Council, opposes its U.N. membership.

Churkin said of the Americans inviting Kosovo to Tuesday’s conference: “They show that in this building, everything is under Barack Obama’s command.”

Obama’s summit at U.N. headquarters on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly, focused on the work of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State militants, the problem of foreign fighters joining the ranks of extremist groups and countering militants worldwide.

More than 100 countries, including Russia, were invited. The Russians are participating, though Churkin made clear Russia was not entirely pleased with the event, saying it was “seriously undermining U.N. efforts in this direction” and that “the U.N. has its own anti-terrorism strategy.”

Russia has repeatedly complained that airstrikes by the United States and other countries against Islamic State targets in Syria are illegal because they have no U.N. Security Council authorization and the Damascus government, which Moscow strongly backs, never requested them.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in recent years, mostly due to Russia’s support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine and its backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to look for a diplomatic end to the Syrian civil war but clashed over the central question of whether Assad should retain power.

Additional reporting and writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Grant McCool

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