AKI: BELGRADE CHEERED BY PUTIN’S KOSOVO R EMARKS
- SERBIA: BELGRADE CHEERED BY PUTIN’S KOSOVO REMARKS
Belgrade, 1 Feb. (AKI) - Serbian press gave big play on Wednesday to
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s statement that the international
community should apply the same criteria to all inter-ethnic disputes in
the world. Putin said that allowing independence for Kosovo, a
predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Serbia under United Nations
control since 1999, could set a dangerous precedent for other countries.
In a front page article, influential daily Politika carried his
statements in Moscow Tuesday, under the headline “When I say Kosovo, I
mean Caucasus”. Other papers also carried Putin’s statement in front pages.
“The international community should apply unique, universal principles
in solving multi-ethnic problems,” said Putin, referring to Kosovo
province, where majority ethnic Albanians demand independence. “If, for
example, Kosovo can become independent, why couldn’t Abkhazia or South
Ossetia,” said Putin, referring to the turbulent Caucus region.
Serbian officials, who oppose Kosovo independence, interpreted Putin’s
pronouncement as a sign that he would oppose the partitioning of Serbia
and stand for the preservation of its sovereignty over Kosovo. Russia
is, with the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, a
member of a powerful Contact Group for Kosovo, which is expected to
influence Kosovo’s final status.
The talks on the future of Kosovo were set to begin in January, but have
been postponed for the end of February because of the death of Kosovo
president Ibrahim Rugova. “It is a good message for Serbs, and I hope
that Putin’s views will be respected by the entire international
community,” said a Kosovo Serb leader Dragisa Krstovic.
Sanda Raskovic Ivic, Serbian government coordinator for Kosovo, said
that Putin has given a “signal and warning” to those in the
international community who would like to treat Kosovo as an exception
and grant it independence. “Such a quasi-solution would destroy
international law and cause a chain reaction in many European and
non-European countries, including the post-Soviet states.”
But James Lion, controversial director of Belgrade office of the
International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization that deals
with prevention of conflicts, said that Serbian interpretations of
Putin’s statement were wrong.
“Russia has more or less given up on Kosovo,” Lion told Belgrade radio B92.
He said it would be in Serbia’s interest to give up Kosovo, just as it
was in Russia’s interest to give up some Caucasus republics, like Chechnya.
“Russia sees in Kosovo a sort of a precedent which it might use in the
Caucases and which would be in its interest,” said Lion.