Solana and Ivanov clash over Kosovo independence

Russia's increased assertiveness in world affairs on Sunday was criticized by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, who said Moscow had not been constructive in efforts to secure an international agreement on Kosovo's independence.

The Kosovo Albanian leadership has said that it will declare independence from Serbia "in a matter of days." The United States and most EU nations support Kosovo's statehood, saying the southern, UN-run province, where 2 million Albanians represent an overwhelming majority, is a special case.

    First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov fired back that Russia felt to recognize an independent Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent, suggesting that if Kosovo were recognized by the EU the bloc would be obligated to recognize other states, like the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“We want to stay within the international law framework, and we don’t want to create a precedent, and we think if it comes to unilateral recognition of Kosovo that will be a precedent ... and that will be something close to opening a Pandora’s Box,” he said. Solana rejected fears that other breakaway regions would follow Kosovo’s example.

    “I’m not concerned at all,” he told reporters. “No conflict is equal, no history is equal ... this domino theory is completely wrong.”

    Earlier Ivanov said the West need not fear Russia’s growing economic and political clout, Ivanov said on Sunday in a conciliatory speech that called for a new global arms control regime.

    The warm tone was all the more striking because it came at the same Munich conference where President Vladimir Putin last year accused the United States of sparking a new arms race -- an attack he echoed in a speech in Moscow last Friday.

    But Ivanov is no longer seen as a contender to succeed Putin after a March 2 presidential election, and it was not clear whether the speech signalled a shift in Moscow’s ties with the West or simply a pause in a period of escalating tension. “Getting richer, Russia will not pose a threat to the security of other countries. Yet our influence on global processes will continue to grow,” Ivanov, speaking fluent English, told an audience including Pentagon chief Robert Gates. Of Europe’s dependence on Russia’s huge oil and gas reserves, he said: “We are not masterminding any kind of energy expansion. We simply do our best to achieve maximum economic benefits in the existing economic situation.”

    Ivanov noted revenues swelled by higher fuel prices had pushed Russian gold and currency reserves close to an unprecedented $500 billion and reaffirmed Moscow’s determination to become one of the world’s top five economies by 2020. He made only passing reference in his speech to a bitter row between Moscow and Washington over US plans to set up a missile shield in eastern Europe, a move Russian officials in the past have attacked as targeting Russia.

2008-02-11