05 June 2007

Ivanov rejects Kosovo independence, warns of chain reaction

Deutsche Presse Agentur, Feb 9, 2007, 8:11 GMT


Seville, Spain - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday warned that granting full independence to Kosovo would open a Pandora's box of similar demands for autonomy across the post-Soviet region.


At a meeting with German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung during the NATO defence ministers' meeting, Ivanov said Kosovo's independence could provoke a chain reaction.


'Other nations, namely those in non-recognized territories and regions (will ask) why we are being treated worse than the others,' said Ivanov, adding: 'This naturally applies to the post-Soviet region but also areas in Europe.'


Moscow has repeatedly said that giving independence to Kosovo, which is still legally part of Serbia, would set a precedent which could be applied to other breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union which are backed by the Russian government.


These include the Transnistria region of Moldova, and the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, all of which have been dubbed the 'frozen conflicts.'


'We must be careful not to open a Pandora's box,' said Ivanov.


The Russian minister again questioned a plan for near-independence for Kosovo put forward by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari.


NATO forces ejected Serb troops from Kosovo in a 1999 war and the province has since been administered by the UN, backed up by 16,000 NATO peacekeepers.


Jung told reporters that all sides needed to accept the Ahtisaari recommendations for near-independence in order to ensure peace and stability in the region.


NATO defence ministers on Thursday urged a swift resolution of Kosovo's final status and underlined that alliance troops would stay on in the province.