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  • Norbert Strade
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2006

      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.

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