Russia says more time for Belgrade, Pristina to reach agreement
MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Belgrade and Pristina should be given more time if they fail to reach an agreement on Kosovo by December 10, when the UN is due to deliver a report on the province, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
"Russia's stance is that December 10 is not a strategic deadline," said Alexander Konuzin, director of the International Organizations Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry. "We believe that if the parties fail to make clear decisions by December 10, the UN Security Council should consider the situation and give the parties more time if required."
The diplomat said this did not imply that Russia would like the negotiations to go on forever. "We believe that the parties should be given enough time to solve such important issues as the status of Kosovo," which occupies 15% of Serbian territory, Konuzin said.
The official said Russian diplomats expected UN Secretary General Pan Ki-Moon to consider Russia's position on Kosovo at a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.
After a vote on a draft resolution on Kosovo, proposed by UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari granting the province internationally supervised independence, was cancelled by the UN Security Council a 120-day effort was launched to end the stalemate over Kosovo.
"We did not accept the fact that the Secretary General favored Ahtisaari's proposal on Kosovo, since we consider the plan almost an enforced solution, which is unacceptable to Serbia as a UN member country," the official told a UN news conference.
The diplomat said that, although "our partners in the UN Security Council have withdrawn the draft resolution supporting the Ahtisaari plan," some countries continue sending open or latent signals to Pristina that the province could be recognized if it proclaims independence unilaterally after December 10.
Moscow, a staunch ally of Belgrade, believes that granting Kosovo sovereignty would violate Serbia's territorial integrity and set a precedent for other breakaway regions, including those of the former Soviet Union.
Though negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina mediated by the so called troika of Russia, the EU and the United States have not yet made any progress, the UN set December 10, 2007, as a deadline for the negotiations. The United States has made it clear that it will recognize Kosovo's independence after the date.
A new round of Kosovo negotiations is scheduled for September 18.
Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Serb forces and Muslim Albanian separatists in 1999. The province has been striving for independence from Serbia ever since.
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