Military

Russia says independence for Kosovo undermines international law

RIA Novosti

19/02/2008 15:28 ST. PETERSBURG/MOSCOW, February 19 (RIA Novosti) - Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence will destroy the entire system of international law and cause a chain reaction of similar moves, a Russian first deputy prime minister said on Tuesday.

"I am convinced that the recognition of Kosovo sets a precedent. The system of international law that we have lived under for more than a century is being undermined," Sergei Ivanov said.

He also said that the declaration would open a Pandora' Box of declarations of independence as de facto independent republics across the world asked themselves the question, "How are we any different?"

Russia insists that independence for Kosovo, where the Serb minority accounts for less than 10% of the population, would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999 after NATO bombings ended a war between Kosovo Albanians and Serb forces.

The U.S., France, the U.K., Germany, Australia, Turkey and Italy have all so far recognized Kosovo. Poland is expected to follow suit on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the U.S. Secretary of State on Tuesday that the move by Washington and its allies to recognize Kosovo threatened international stability.

"These actions could undermine the foundations of global peace and stability that have been built up over decades," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Yury Baluyevsky said on Tuesday that the proclamation of Kosovo independence "violates agreements reached in Yalta in 1945 and Helsinki in 1973 on the inviolability of borders".

He also stressed that many countries with their own separatist problems, such as China, Indonesia and Spain, could not recognize the independence of Kosovo because they were worried about the rise of separatist trends within their own borders.

Spain announced on Monday that it would not acknowledge the sovereignty of the former Serbian province. Three other EU states, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia, earlier announced that they would also refuse to recognize Kosovo.

China has expressed its "deep concern" over developments, saying that they "constitute a serious challenge to the fundamental principles of international law."

The first signs that the Kosovo issue may prove to have irreversibly altered the global political landscape came on Monday, as the president of the breakaway Georgian republic of Abkhazia said that his country was planning to ask Russia for recognition. South Ossetia, another de facto independent Georgian republic, is likely to follow suit.

Indeed, in a sign that Moscow has already taken on board the new realities introduced by the recognition of Kosovo by the U.S. and its allies, Russia's parliament had this to say on Monday, in a joint statement by its upper and lower houses: "Now that the situation in Kosovo has become an international precedent, Russia should take into account the Kosovo scenario...when considering ongoing territorial conflicts."

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, is to arrive in Pristina today to meet with Kosovan President Fatmir Sejdiu and Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.



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