Kosovo precedent takes shape as USA rules out return to the past.

Russia's defense minister said that granting independence to the Serbian province of Kosovo will set a precedent for other states across Eurasia.

" - This may spark a chain reaction," Sergei Ivanov said during a meeting with his German counterpart, Franz Josef Jung, in advance of a Russia-NATO Council meeting in the southern Spanish city of Seville.

Ivanov said: "It all depends on how we approach the principle of territorial integrity. We can approach it from the point of view of the current political situation, or take territorial integrity as an inviolable principle."

" - If hypothetically we suppose Kosovo is given independence, people in other unrecognized regions will wonder, 'So why not us as well?'"

For more than a year, officials in Moscow have repeatedly indicated that if Kosovo is granted sovereignty, the international community must also recognize as independent the unrecognized countries of the former Soviet Union, notably ex-Georgian Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as Pridnestrovie, which declared independence from the Moldavian SSR (in the Soviet Union) one year before the current Republic of Moldova was created.

Although EU officials try hard to come up with reasons for why Kosovo is supposed to be unique, international law is developed by a set of precedent-creating events. And, say officials, regardless of outcome, Kosovo will create a precedent:

" - Whether you or I like it or not, Kosovo will serve as a precedent for others," Russia's EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov told EUobserver on Thursday (8 February), explaining that a positive precedent is a negotiated solution, while a negative precedent is a solution imposed by one of the parties to the conflict, overriding the objections of the other side.

" - If a negotiated solution based on something different from independence is found then it makes Kosovo a positive precedent - it's hard to speculate, maybe a loose confederation, a union or whatever," Mr Chizhov said. "But if there is an imposed solution based on independence, it will serve as a negative precedent."

U.S. official: Look to the future, not to the past

Meanwhile, in Washington, a high-ranking U.S. State Department official rejected a return to the past, indicating that in the bigger picture, there are more important issues than a blind adherence to a territorial integrity which to all purposes is already rendered moot by events on the ground.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, a top official responsible for U.S. policy in the region, told a news conference that Russia has been a productive and full-fledged member of the Contact Group on Kosovo right from the start, and that it has been continually pushing for safeguards of Kosovo Serbs' rights to be consolidated in the final plan for the province's status.

At the same time, Daniel Fried also warned that Kosovo's unresolved status - now nearly eight years and counting - can not continue indefinitely.

" - The status quo is not sustainable, and we cannot go back to the situation of 1999," he said.

" - Eight years is a long time," explained Daniel Fried, not mentioning that seventeen years is twice as long. Seventeen years is the time during which the international status of Pridnestrovie has been left unresolved by the international community, and its nearly 600,000 citizens have been kept in limbo as a stateless people.

Pridnestrovie, which in English is often called Transdniester and Transnistria, declared independence in 1990 during the general breakup of the Soviet Union. For nearly 17 years, the unrecognized country has functioned as a de facto independent state with its own army, border patrol, police force, Supreme Court, its own flag, national anthem, car plates, postage stamps, a Constitution, passports, and a currency, the PMR Ruble. It has a democratically elected parliament which is controlled by an opposition party. With a territory twice as big as Luxembourg, it has a population the same size as Montenegro, the latest independent country to join the United Nations and it meets the requirements for statehood under international law.

[Source: The Tiraspol Times, Sevilla, 09Feb07]

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