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Unilateral decision on Kosovo status unacceptable - FM Lavrov

RIA Novosti

19/04/2007 13:29 BELGRADE, April 19 (RIA Novosti) - Imposing a unilateral decision on the status of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo is unacceptable and talks on the issue should be continued, the Russian foreign minister said Thursday.

Sergei Lavrov is currently on an April 18-19 visit to Serbia, Russia's traditional ally, to discuss a plan proposed by Martti Ahtisaari, the UN envoy for Kosovo who is advocating internationally supervised sovereignty for the province.

"We speak for the continuation of the negotiating process to find a mutually acceptable decision," Sergei Lavrov said following his meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Lavrov said Moscow completely backs Belgrade's position on the need to observe UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

"Any decision on the Kosovo issue should be acceptable for both Belgrade and Pristina," the minister said.

Adopted in 1999, the resolution determined to resolve the grave humanitarian situation in Kosovo and to provide for the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes.

The Serbian president said in turn that, "Any form of independence for Kosovo is unacceptable for Serbia, and in this regard Serbia opposes Ahtisaari's plan, which stipulates gradual independence for Kosovo."

Ahtisaari proposed that the province be granted internationally supervised sovereignty, but Serbian authorities have strongly opposed the plan as threatening Serbia's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Serbia is strongly opposed to independence for the province, which is dominated by ethnic Albanians, but the United States and the European Union have expressed support for its sovereignty. However, only four out of 15 member-states at the UN Security Council voted for Ahtisaari's plan during the first round of consultations April 3.

Veto-wielding Russia has opposed the internationally backed plan, insisting that a decision on Kosovo should satisfy both Kosovar and Serbian authorities and that it must be reached through negotiations.

Tadic also said that "Serbia believes granting independence to Kosovo will set a most dangerous precedent and will have serious consequences for the Balkans region and other conflict zones."

Moscow repeatedly expressed its concern that Kosovo's independence could set a precedent for other breakaway republics, including in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

Kosovo, which has a population of two million, has been a UN protectorate since NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a war between Serb forces and Albanian separatists in 1999.

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