Kosovo Talks To Step Up Gear After Montenegro Vote – Russian MP

KOSOVO TALKS TO STEP UP GEAR AFTER MONTENEGRO VOTE – RUSSIAN MP

RIA Novosti, Russia
May 22 2006

MOSCOW, May 22 (RIA Novosti) – Discussions over the status of Kosovo
will become more intense after Sunday’s referendum on the independence
of Montenegro, a senior member of the lower chamber of Russia’s
parliament said Monday.

The elections commission has said that 55.4% (with 55% required)
of votes were cast in favor of Montenegro seceding from its union
with Serbia, which on paper still includes the province of Kosovo,
even though it has been UN protectorate since 1999.

Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the State Duma’s international
affairs committee, said the discussions on Kosovo’s controversial
status – ethnic Albanians are pushing for independence from Belgrade
– would inevitably be taken to a new level, though he warned against
making any decision without taking into account the interests of the
minority Serbs.

If this were to happen, he said it would “set a far-reaching precedent
for other situations (northern Cyprus and the Basque country).”

Kosachev said the status of Kosovo, which NATO troops first entered
after Serbian forces were accused of committing atrocities against
ethnic Albanians, should be considered as part of a UN Security
Council resolution.

The MP said the division of Serbia and Montenegro was unlikely
to provoke negative consequences. “Serbia and Montenegro have
long co-existed de facto in the form of two states with a single
supranational foreign and defense policy,” he said.

Kosachev said Russians had to obtain visas to enter Serbia but could
enter Montenegro without visas, so the process to divide the two
states had obviously been prepared.

“I hope this [process] will take place without problems,” he said. “I
do not expect any new conflict situations to emerge.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said May 19 that talks Kosovo’s
status should be concluded by the end of the year, a view that is
shared by the other members of the six-nation Contact Group: the
United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Earlier, some Russian politicians expressed concern that independence
for Kosovo in what was once Yugoslavia would create a precedent for
recognizing breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union.

Moldova is dealing with a separatist regime in Transdnestr and Georgia
has two breakaway regions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Nagorny Karabakh, a largely ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan,
has long been a source of friction between the two Caucasus states.

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