BELGRADE – Some media outlets in Pristina have circulated unconfirmed reports about an attempt to give the Vatican a 10 million euro bribe to officially recognize Kosovo. Russian news agency Sputnik discussed the matter with Serbian Ambassador to UNESCO and onetime envoy to the Holy See, Darko Tanaskovic.

“Well, even if Pope Francis makes a trip to Pristina, which I doubt, because from the standpoint of international law, Kosovo remains part of Serbia, this wouldn’t mean the Vatican’s recognition of Kosovo as an independent country,” Darko Tanaskovic said.

During the new round of normalization talks between Belgrade and Pristina, Kosovo representatives said that Pope Francis planned to visit Pristina and recognize the region’s independence.

“Last year we managed to prevent Kosovo’s attempt to join UNESCO, but I anticipate more such attempts in the future. On a geopolitical plane, the situation is already changing with political changes happening in certain countries and between countries and regions,” Tanaskovic noted. He added that some countries argued that recognizing Kosovo does not necessarily mean their wholesale support for everything that is going on there and for each and every demand made by this “quasi-state.”

When asked to comment on the recent announcement by Kosovo President Hashim Thaci that Pope Francis has allegedly informed him of his decision to visit Kosovo and “recognize the new reality in the Balkans,” Darko Tanaskovic advised those who take Mr. Thaci’s words seriously to recall his previous statements about the Pope’s alleged desire to come to Pristina and recognize Kosovo. “As far as I know, the head of the Roman-Catholic Church does meet with representatives of disputed territories, but only unofficially. The Vatican keeps its doors open to all and the Pope will certainly not refuse to meet anyone, especially someone who used the canonization of Mother Teresa as a pretext for showing his face at the Vatican,” Tanaskovic said, adding that a final decision on Kosovo’s recognition depended on its influential sponsors.

Commenting on some media reports about Hashim Thaci willing to pay 10 million euros in exchange for the Vatican’s recognition of Kosovo and that the money could be used to bribe some of the Pope’s close associates, Tanaskovic said that such intentions would only hamper Kosovo’s efforts to win international recognition and were an insult to the Holy See.

“Well, I think such allegations are absolutely inappropriate and insulting to the Vatican. I’m not authorized to speculate on whether the Pope’s visit to Pristina will be a certain sign of international recognition of the Albanian functionaries’ policy, but I don’t think that even if the Pope visited Kosovo, which according to international law, is part of Serbia, this doesn’t mean that the Vatican has recognized or is going to recognize Kosovo as an independent state,” Darko Tanaskovic said in conclusion.