Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lavrov makes emotional plea for sanity over Kosovo independence

GENEVA, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the upcoming declaration of unilateral independence by Kosovo an irresponsible step that undermines the principles of international law.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said last Friday that the Albanian-dominated province was close to declaring independence from Serbia, and its government was closely cooperating with international organizations to alleviate any problems that may arise.

European Union officials have said they expect Kosovo's independence to be declared on February 17.

"We are speaking here about the subversion of all the foundations of international law, about the subversion of those principles which, at huge effort, and at the cost of Europe's pain, sacrifice and bloodletting have been earned and laid down as a basis of its existence, we are speaking about a subversion of those principles on which the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe rests, those [principles] laid down in the fundamental documents of the UN," the Russian minister said.

"I sincerely fail to comprehend the principles guiding our American colleagues, and those European [countries] who have taken up this position," he added.

Of the 27 EU states, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania have joined Serbia and Russia in opposing independence for Kosovo, saying the move could set a dangerous precedent for other breakaway territories.

Lavrov also accused those insisting on the uniqueness of the Kosovo problem of applying double standards.

"They are saying that Kosovo is unique, and it turns out that international law can be defied there with the approval of others. This will not happen," he said.

He said the Kosovo issue would only be able to be settled within the European Union after Serbia joins the EU.

"We will only be able to agree that the Kosovo problem is an affair of the European Union only after the entire Balkans, including Serbia, is integrated into the EU. Meanwhile, Kosovo should remain an international issue within purview of the UN Security Council," Lavrov said.

The diplomat added that Russia, which categorically opposes the unilateral independence of Serbia's province, had done all it could on Kosovo.

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov reiterated on Sunday that Russia had no intention to recognize the sovereignty of separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia if Kosovo is declared independent. South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia following bloody conflicts following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

According to Serbian media, among UN Security Council members, Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa oppose independence for Kosovo. The U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Panama have been calling for the province's independence. Of the remaining Security Council members, Libya, Croatia, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso have not yet formulated their respective positions.

Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.

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