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6 Feb, 2008 05:10

John Bolton: Kosovo's independence a danger to Balkan stability

Tough talks on the future of Kosovo over its looming declaration of independence are far from over, with the split on the issue now becoming an internal issue in Serbia.

The country's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has denounced plans to sign a trade deal with the EU which he sees as an indirect recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo has long been a headache for the international community and it does not seem diplomacy has had the desired effect.

Meanwhile, John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the region could face severe instability if Kosovo becomes self sufficient.

“The Kosovo Albanians and the Serbs will to have to understand they are not necessarily going get to their highest aspirations. I think the U.S. and European position on Kosovo has compromised the negotiations. I think Russia on its part could participate more actively. Russia is going to be a partner in western security structures and I think it should be.” he said.

The region's leadership are determined to declare unilateral independence in a matter of weeks, something Serbia and Russia have repeatedly tried to avoid.

“Any unilateral declaration of independence by Pristina would not be legal and could trigger separatist movements in the world and could undermine international order and the structure of international relations,” pointed out Russia’s special Balkans representative Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders say they would declare independence days after the Serbian election last Sunday, no matter who won.

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has encouraged Serbs to remain in the breakaway region.

“My message to Serbs of Kosovo is to stay in Kosovo. Kosovo is the country of everybody. We will respect them though affirmative action. I will stay with them, near them, for the best life to have in Kosovo for everybody,” Thaci promised.

The US and European allies are expected to recognise Kosovo's independence following the failure of UN-led efforts to negotiate an agreement between the two sides.

However, not everyone thinks unilateral independence will be the right answer.

“I do not think it is economically viable. I think its instability risks attracting Islamic extremists from around the world. I think the mix in the Balkans actually tends to destabilise other countries, like Montenegro and Macedonia, that also have Albanian populations. So this is the end result of a lot of dealing over the former Yugoslavia and I think that we've got to get to the point where attempting the carve out about new countries really threatens to exacerbate the risk of instability,” added John Bolton.

But external divisions are not the only problem. Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has denounced plans to sign a trade deal with the EU which he sees as Serbia's indirect recognition of the province's independence.

His statement has once again exposed underlying disagreements with President Boris Tadic.

Tadic and his allies have made it clear they will not back down on the EU after months of being pushed by Kostunica into making Kosovo the main issue for Serbia.