Putin: Imposed solution unacceptable

Published on January 23, 2007, B92

Category: Growing International Opposition to Imposed Solution

SOCHI, BRUSSELS -- After a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian president Putin said Kosovo’s status must not be imposed.

Putin warned that a decision on the future status of Kosovo must not be imposed from the outside and should be accepted both in Belgrade and Priština.

"Russia believes it is unacceptable that a decision on the status of Kosovo be imposed from the outside," Putin said.

"A long-term resolution of the problem can be achieved only if it is acceptable both to Belgrade and to Priština," Putin said. "Europe does not have an interest in one of the sides, let's say Belgrade, having to accept a decision that is humiliating for the Serbian people," Putin said

Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, has opposed independence, warning that this could lead to instability in other breakaway territories.

"If we ignore territorial integrity ... then other peoples will have the right to say 'we're going to do the same,'" Putin said. "This isn't just in the post-Soviet world but also in other countries, including European countries."

EU foreign ministers to discuss Kosovo

What to do about the breakaway province of Kosovo is top of the agenda at EU foreign ministers talks' Monday.

The meeting will come a day after Serbian elections that could decide whether the country chooses to seek closer ties with the rest of Europe or revert to its nationalist past.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country holds the EU presidency, and other EU officials said last week that stability and security in the Balkans is a priority, notably working closely with Belgrade to find a peaceful solution to Kosovo's status.

"These elections present an important opportunity for Serbia, to look ahead and fully embrace its European future," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said last week. He added the EU "hopes to see" a pro-EU, reform oriented government in Belgrade.

Monday's EU assessment also comes shortly before much-anticipated proposals by U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari on the future status of Kosovo. EU officials expect Ahtisaari to recommend limited independence for Kosovo, which has been under U.N. administration since 1999.

Diplomats said however they expect lengthy debates with Russia over Kosovo's future at the U.N. Security Council, which will make the final decision on the province's future. Moscow strongly backs Belgrade's claims that Kosovo should stay part of Serbia while Washington favors independence.

The EU itself is divided over Kosovo between countries that oppose any secession — including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia — and those that have backed it, such as Britain, the Netherlands and others.

Belgrade has insisted that Kosovo must remain part of Serbia, albeit with wide-ranging autonomy. But Albanian politicians in the provincial capital, Priština, are pushing for outright independence.

A move to declare Kosovo independent would have widespread international implications and would be regarded as a precedent in other independence-minded provinces or regions elsewhere in the world.

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