Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kosovo: Serbia and Russia issue warnings

Serbia and Russia issued stark Kosovo warnings Tuesday in a last-gasp bid to stave off an imminent unilateral declaration of independence by the Albanian-majority Serbian province.
As Belgrade stepped up its rhetoric, pledging various measures in retaliation, its traditional ally Moscow warned Europe's stability would be threatened by the move, expected as early as Sunday, AFP reported.

But despite their latest warnings, Kosovo leaders pressed ahead with plans for the historic announcement, putting the final touches on their declaration, constitution and celebration plans.
"We will not let such a creation exist, even for a moment," Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said as Belgrade itself finalised an "action plan" on how to respond.

Authorities in Belgrade would "annul all illegal acts in relation to a unilateral proclamation of this fake state on Serbia's soil," Kostunica said in a statement carried by Beta news agency.
Meanwhile, pro-Western Serbian President Boris Tadic called for "peace and restraint" in his country, saying it "must remain united and responsible when defending its integrity and sovereignty".

"I call for peace, responsibility and restraint, I call on all parties to put aside their interests so the state can act responsibly in this crisis situation," he said in a statement.

In Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned any unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo would "undermine" European security and the UN Charter.
"It would result in a chain reaction in many parts of the world including Europe," Lavrov said.
Russia's first deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov earlier warned that if EU countries recognise Kosovan independence, they should also recognise the self-proclaimed Turkish republic of northern Cyprus.

Northern Cyprus is only recognised by Turkey, whose troops invaded the northern half of the island in 1974.

"What we see is an absolute prevalence of double standard, we can't skip international law," Lavrov said.

Kosovo's Albanian-dominated parliament is expected to proclaim independence ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers set for Monday.

Pristina's officials said the parliament would meet on Friday to discuss several draft laws, but with no declaration of independence on its agenda.

Kosovo's move to separate from Serbia is backed by most members of the 27-nation European bloc and the United States, but is bitterly opposed by Russia, which has long had strong ties with Belgrade.

Cyprus is among six EU member states, some with territorial issues of their own, who remain openly hostile to the idea of Kosovo's independence.

Spain, with its Basque and Catalan separatists, has also said it will not recognise Kosovo. Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia are also opposed.

Portugal's Foreign Minister Luis Amado said Tuesday it would withhold judgement to see "when and how independence will be declared", but called for a "common" EU stance on the issue.
Some observers in Kosovo fear a unilateral declaration could result in the partition of Kosovo, outbreaks of violence, and a refugee crisis.

Ahead of the expected declaration, NATO has bolstered its troop numbers in the Serb-populated north of Kosovo, where the United Nations has also increased the international police presence.
Belgrade, whose National Security Council discussed Kosovo on Tuesday, has also warned it will take legal action against nations that recognise its independence.

But Albanians from across Europe and further afar are descending on the Kosovo capital in large numbers in order to ensure they can witness the birth of their nation.
"I wanted to see and witness the creation of the state of Kosovo with my own eyes," said one of them, Sali Hyseni, a beaming 48-year-old who jetted in from Zurich, Switzerland.

Source: FOCUS Information Agency © 2008 All rights reserved