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Georgia & Kosovo under scrutiny at UN General Assembly

Russia-Georgia relations and the status of Serbia's breakaway republic of Kosovo are under the spotlight at the 62nd United Nations General Assembly, which has entered into its fourth day in New York. Representatives of nearly 200 countries are taking par

Meanwhile, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has been busy attending important meetings with top officials from Serbia and Georgia.
Following his meeting with his Georgian counterpart, which was originally due to take place on Tuesday but was rearranged for Thursday, Sergey Lavrov was quite optimistic about the future of the countries’ bilateral relations.

“We were very open in our discussion. Of course, we don’t agree on every issue, but we both expressed our determination to do what it takes to prevent situations like those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and not to allow provocation and violence. We agreed upon a thorough investigation of what happened in Abkhazia as well as the explosions in Tskhinvali. The most important thing is to set up our dialogue on the basis of mutual respect. We do have serious disagreements on how this dialogue should be built. We are convinced that the previous agreements on negotiations and peace-keeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were drawn up with the participation of Georgia, should be supported and respected, not undermined,” Mr Lavrov stated. 

Meanwhile, Serb leader Boris Tadic has already addressed the UN General Assembly in New York, calling for Serbian-Albanian reconciliation in his speech. He said he was hopeful both sides would come to some kind of conclusion, while reminding all concerned that any deal must be made under international law, which requires approval from the UN Security Council.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic stressed the importance of negotiations with the mediator prior to the face-to-face meeting.

“Today is the Contact Group meeting and I very much expect the Contact Group to come out with a very strong endorsement of the process of negotiations. The process of direct negotiations starts tomorrow, and I very much hope that the Contact Group is going to help us engage in the process, because so far some of the statements of some of the members of the Contact Group weren’t very helpful. The reason is that the we all know that there is an important landmark date, December 10, by which the negotiating troika has to report to the UN Secretary General. The big debate now is what happens afterwards if the deal isn’t made, and some of the Contact Group countries have said over the past few days that if the deal isn’t made they will have no other choice but to recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo after December 10. Under such circumstances I fail to see any good reason for the Albanian side to engage in these negotiations, because the only thing they have to do is just to wait. So I hope that today’s meeting is going to come up with strong and unequivocal support for integrity of the negotiations process,” he stated. 

Sali Berisha, the Albanian Prime Minister, in his turn, stated that the Russian position on the Ahtisaari plan is destructive. “Rejection of the Ahtisaari plan is unhelpful and proves that what principally matters to Belgrade isn’t the freedom and the rights of Serbs in Kosovo, but the idea of a Greater Serbia. Such a stance by Belgrade has been encouraged by the position of Russia on the Ahtisaari plan, a position which doesn’t contribute to peace and stability in the region,” Mr Berisha noted.  

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already discussed Kosovo with Boris Tadic on the sidelines of the Assembly. The Russian delegation says that on Wednesday the two men agreed on the necessity of solving the problem of the province's future in accordance with international law. They also agreed that any decision on Kosovo should be supported by the UN Security Council.

The first direct meeting between senior Serbian and Albanian officials took place on Friday. The United States, the European Union and Russia acted as mediators in the discussions.

“Acknowledging that violence, provocation and intimidation would constitute a grave risk for the Troika process as well as for the stability and security of the region, both parties reaffirm their commitment as expressed in the Vienna document of August 30 to refrain from any activities or statements that might jeopardize the security situation,” commented Frank Wisner, envoy of the U.S.

The Russian delegation says there is a good chance a compromise might be reached in the negotiations.

“Both parties seriously think of how to establish trust and co-operation. I would not like to sound over-enthusiastic and to over-estimate the outcome of this face-to-face session. These signs are not a foundation for any kind of compromise or agreement between Belgrade and Pristina, but I could say that there is a foundation for continued face-to-face discussions. The parties demonstrate their abilities to talk to each other. They seriously think about future and there is no intention to turn back,”  stated Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, Russia's Troika envoy.

Russia wants to keep an active role in the process of deciding Kosovo's final status. It supports dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Russia has repeatedly said a deal cannot be done without Serbia's backing.

Speaking at a media briefing in Sochi, President Vladimir Putin touched upon Russia's position on the future of Kosovo.

“Regarding Kosovo, the position of the Russian Federation has not changed recently. We stand for the earliest possible start of a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We don't consider it sensible to limit future negotiations and put them in a Procrustean bed of a time schedule. We think it should be a free dialogue, the aim of which should be a search for an acceptable compromise for both sides. We will maintain contact with all the participants of the process, in the first place at the UN. We will also be in constant contact with both the European Union and the United States,” he said.