Russia Opposes Kosovo Independence Plan

Published on April 19, 2007, The Associated Press

Category: Growing International Opposition to Imposed Solution

By DUSAN STOJANOVIC

BELGRADE, Serbia -- Russia's foreign minister reiterated his country's opposition to a U.S.-backed plan granting independence to the breakaway province of Kosovo, and warned Thursday that imposing the solution is "absolutely unacceptable."

"We are very interested in the stability of the Balkans and Serbia," Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic.

"Any solution for Kosovo must be acceptable to both Belgrade and (Kosovo's capital) Pristina," Lavrov said. "Any unilateral imposing of the solution is absolutely unacceptable."

The stability of the region "can be jeopardized by attempts of unilateral recognition of the independence of Kosovo," Lavrov said, reacting to suggestions by U.S. officials that they may recognize Kosovo even without consent by the U.N. Security Council.

Lavrov's meetings in Belgrade are being held before a crucial session of the Security Council _ expected next month _ which will consider the independence plan prepared by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

The plan envisages granting internationally supervised independence to Kosovo, which would remain under EU and U.S. supervision.

Russia, which is a permanent member of the Security Council and holds veto power, opposes the U.N. plan. It says the proposal would set a dangerous precedent for separatists elsewhere by dismembering a sovereign U.N. member against its government's will. It wants the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to reach a compromise agreement, something that the U.S. and Ahtisaari say is impossible to achieve.

Russia was prepared to take any action necessary to block a U.S.-drafted resolution that will be offered to the Security Council, Russia's U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin said in Moscow Wednesday. Churkin stopped short, however, of saying Moscow would veto the proposal.

Washington insists that the Security Council must act quickly in the next weeks to finish the job by helping to lead Kosovo to independence.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said earlier this week the U.S. considers independence the only option for Kosovo and has suggested that Washington may recognize Kosovo's split from Serbia, even if Russia carries out its threat to veto the U.N. plan when it comes to a vote at the Security Council.

Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war that halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of Kosovo's 2 million people, are seeking independence from Belgrade. But Serbia and Kosovo's Serb minority say the province is the heart of Serbia's ancient homeland and should remain within its borders.


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