Serbia, Kosovo 'never going to be one again': Rice

2007

Russia must accept the reality that "Serbia and Kosovo are never going to be one again" or risk instability there, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview published Wednesday. "I hope that the Russians are as committed as we are to a stable outcome in the Balkans and to being constructive in the Balkans," Rice said after talks on Kosovo in Brussels last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "But the fact of the matter is Kosovo and Serbia are never going to be one again, and that's the reality," Rice was quoted as saying in USA Today. "And if you don't deal with that reality, you're only going to sow the seeds of considerable discontent and considerable instability," Rice said.

The Albanian-majority Serb province of Kosovo is seeking independence while Russian-backed Serbia is willing to grant its southern province no more than autonomy. Rice endorsed a plan presented early this year by the UN special envoy for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, that calls for independence under international supervision for the province. "Both Kosovo and Serbia need to get on with their futures, their separate but related futures. And the way to do that is for Serbia to have a strong European perspective," Rice said. "I have been encouraging our European allies to do as much as they can to encourage that European perspective," she added. The focus now is on ensuring that Kosovo fufills its obligations under the Ahtisaari plan -- such as the protection of minority rights and religious sites -- "because there isn't any more point to further negotiation," she said.

A negotiating deadline expired on Monday after a diplomatic troika of the United States, Russia and the European Union failed to broker a compromise between the ethnic Albanians and Serbs on Kosovo's future. European Union leaders are to meet over Kosovo at a summit Friday, ahead of a UN Security Council debate on the thorny issue on December 19. Russia said Tuesday it will demand that the UN Security Council annul any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. Following the expiry of the UN-set deadline for a negotiated settlement, Kosovo's Albanian leaders said they would immediately begin coordinating a move to independence with international partners. A declaration on breaking away from Serbia is widely expected next month.

Source: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5...montwgOwr3z4Qg

Georgia fears impact of Kosovo crisis


Georgia, the former Soviet republic struggling to assert its independence from Russia, appealed on Thursday for US and European support in the event that a crisis in Kosovo should spread to the Caucasus and threaten Georgia's territorial integrity. "We hope our friends and allies in the west take a firm position on the inapplicability of the Kosovo case to Georgia. In other words, Kosovo is sui generis," Lado Gurgenidze, Georgia's prime minister, told the Financial Times in an interview. He was referring to the risk that if the US and most European Union member-states recognise Kosovo's independence, Russia might retaliate by recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Russian-backed separatist enclaves in Georgia.

Months of fruitless negotiations between Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders are due to end on Monday. Russia backs Serbia in its insistence that Kosovo can have autonomy under Serbia's sovereignty but not full independence. Mr Gurgenidze won support for his position on Kosovo on Thursday from Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, with whom he held talks in Brussels. "We do hope also that Russia will understand that, certainly on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, things should remain as they are," she told reporters. Some EU officials doubt that Russia, beset with restive minorities of its own on its southern borders, would go so far as to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. But few are under any illusions about Moscow's desire to retain influence over Georgia, especially since its pro-western leadership took power after the Rose Revolution of November 2003.

Referring to Russia, Mr Gurgenidze said: "So long as there is unequivocal respect for our territorial integrity and our sovereign Euro-Atlantic choice, which is not at all at the expense of anyone else, everything else can be discussed and addressed and negotiated." Mr Gurgenidze, 36, a US-educated former investment banker with ABN Amro, was appointed prime minister one month ago after the Georgian authorities drew criticism even from their western allies for suppressing opposition street protests and imposing a state of emergency. He travelled to Brussels to ease the concerns of EU and Nato about the turmoil in Georgia and to stress that the presidential election, scheduled for January 5, will be free, fair and open to foreign observers. Mr Gurgenidze said monitors from the Council of Europe, the European parliament, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and anyone else that wanted to observe the election was welcome. "The more the merrier," he said.

● Nato is set to heighten the readiness of 1,600 additional troops in order to be able to respond to any increase in violence following the failure of status negotiations for Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo, according to people familiar with the plans. The troops are part of Nato's operational reserve force, standing by in case Nato's 16,500-strong Kosovo Force, known as Kfor, needs reinforcements.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22139735/

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