‘NO ONE BUT SERBIA MAY LAY CLAIM TO THE TERRITORY OF KOSOVO!’ – says Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica

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VLADIMIR CHIZHOV, The Russian ambassador to the EU, has warned that Moscow will react negatively to countries which recognise Kosovo independence.

‘This, above all, refers to the EU which does not have a consensus on this issue,’ he said in an interview with the Vienna daily Die Presse, when asked how recognition of Kosovo independence on the part of most EU member states would affect Russian-EU relations.

‘Of course, these negative consequences would only apply to those countries that recognise Kosovo, but I do not want to say what countries these will be,’ he added.

Commenting on possible developments following the declaration of independence, Chizhov underlined that if it happened, it would cause widespread instability throughout the region.

‘The reaction of the Serbian side can be predicted and it is probable that the remaining 100,000 Serbs in Kosovo will not recognise its independence,’ he said, adding that violence could not be ruled out.

The ambassador pointed out that Pristina’s actions might have repercussions in other regions as well, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.

‘This does not have to be the last chapter of the Balkan drama,’ Chizhov stressed.

Asked whether he expected other provinces in the world to secede, including those in the region of the former Soviet Union, following the independence declaration, he replied that that would definitely be the case.

‘Too many of them will see Kosovo as a precedent, as will certain parts of the former Soviet Union, such as Georgia,’ Chizhov warned, reiterating that experts had established over 200 cases that would view Kosovo as a precedent.

Meanwhile, the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee will draft a resolution on the dangerous situation regarding Kosovo, Speaker of the Russian State Duma (parliament), Boris Gryzlov, said last Wednesday.

Vice-Chairman of the State Duma, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Russian presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky tabled the initiative for the document at a Duma plenary session.

‘Kosovo is subversion in international law. It will be a precedent that will be used throughout the 21st century for all big and small states to break up. We must have a prompt response to that,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica has urged Serbs in Kosovo to stay ‘in their homes, in their province and in their Serbia.’

Kostunica said that the government’s decision to annul Kosovo’s unilateral independence was Serbia’s decision to reject once and for all a puppet state on its territory.

‘The government’s decision to annul Kosovo’s unilateral independence is of historic importance as it represents Serbia’s decision to once and for all reject the existence of a sham state on its territory,’ Kostunica said in a statement.

He said that as soon as the government adopted this decision, it would inform the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary-General of the nullification of all illegal acts pertaining to a declaration of unilateral independence.

‘The final word of our common state and national policy is that no-one but Serbia may lay claim to the territory of Kosovo. No policy of force can deprive Serbia of that right, nor can Serbia be forced to renounce Kosovo under threats and blackmail,’ Kostunica declared.

According to the prime minister, ‘at a time when Serbia is threatened by the province unilaterally declaring independence under the leadership of convicted terrorists and under the patronage of the US and the EU, we must focus all our forces on unrelentingly and at all times showing that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia.

‘Our people in Kosovo should stay and live in their homes, in their province and in their Serbia. For the government of Serbia, each and every man in Kosovo is an equal citizen of Serbia enjoying full rights, and it is our obligation to do absolutely everything to provide normal living conditions for our people in the province,’ he affirmed.

Belgrade and Moscow have demanded an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the ‘dangers’ of Kosovo’s moves to declare independence from Serbia, a senior EU official said Wednesday.

‘Russia and Serbia requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council for Thursday,’ Benita Ferrero Waldner, the European Union’s external relations commissioner, told reporters in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana.

The statement came ahead of a meeting there between Ferrero-Waldner, EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Leaders of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority are expected to proclaim independence from Serbia on Sunday or Monday, the day of a crucial EU foreign ministers meeting that will discuss the issue.

The US and numerous EU member countries – including Britain, France, Germany and Italy – have already expressed their intention to quickly recognise Kosovo’s independence.

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since mid-1999.

Reports in Belgrade cited Serbia’s UN ambassador Pavle Jevremovic as saying the UN session was being sought because the independence moves would violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

In a letter, Jevremovic asked the Council to assess the ‘extremely dangerous situation in the Serbian province of Kosovo, where we are witnesses to the final preparations for a unilateral declaration of independence.’

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin had said Moscow would support such a motion given the ‘dangerous turn of events’.

However, Ferrero Waldner said the European Union, which is preparing to send a mission to replace the UN administration in Kosovo, believed the session was unnecessary.

But despite the latest warnings, Kosovo leaders pressed ahead with plans for the historic announcement, putting the final touches on their declaration, constitution and celebration plans.

Kosovo’s Albanian-dominated parliament is scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss several draft laws that are believed to pave the way for ‘supervised independence,’ as proposed by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari.