Thursday 10 January 2008

Russia says Kosovo will become model for other disputes

MOSCOW, January 10 (RIA Novosti) - Any solution for Kosovo's status will be directly used to settle territorial disputes in other regions, including in the post-Soviet area, a Russian deputy foreign minister said Thursday.

Throughout long-lasting talks aimed at finding a solution to the status of Serbia's breakaway province, Russia has backed Belgrade in opposing Kosovo's sovereignty, warning it would have a knock on effect for other secessionist areas, such as Transdnestr in Moldova, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia and Nagorny Karabakh in Azerbaijan, so-called frozen conflicts since the 1990s.

"I can not say that the Kosovo precedent will only be reflected in territorial disputes in the post-Soviet area," Grigory Karasin said in an interview with Nezavisimy Obozrevatel Stran Sodruzhestva magazine. "Currently about 200 regions are seeking self-determination in one form or another."

The Albanian-dominated Serbian province has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.

The UN Security Council failed last year to bridge divisions over Kosovo's future. Belgrade is opposed to the region's independence, and has offered it broad autonomy within Serbia. Pristina insists on full sovereignty, however.

The UN Security Council is to discuss a report on Kosovo by UN Secretary General Pan Ki-moon on January 16.

Karasin said if decisions on a time frame on the Kosovo dispute were made that did not suit both sides then it would be like opening "Pandora's box" with "unpredictable consequences," adding it could lead to "an escalation and possible bloodshed."

Most Western states have backed the volatile area's drive for independence, and said recently that Kosovo's status would now be determined by the European Union and NATO. Russia insists that Belgrade and Pristina continue to try to reach a compromise.

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