MOSCOW WILL ACCEPT A SOLUTION FOR KOSOVO ONLY IF IT SUITS BELGRADE’S INTERESTS: This is the message of the Russian and Serbian foreign ministers *

*Note: Internal CEAS translation of the joint article by Ivica Dacic and Segej Lavrov Foreign Ministers of Serbia and Russian Federation

In the last several months, the EU and the US have been very active in promoting the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We certainly support resolving the dispute with political methods, but we believe that the negotiations should be based on the principle that previously reached agreements must be implemented in good faith.

A possible solution to the Kosovo problem has been a hot topic of public debates lately. The activities of the US and the European Union are increasing, as they attempt to take over the resolution of this issue exclusively upon themselves, competing for the leading role in that process. At the same time, as has happened before, they often do not take into account the opinion of all parties involved, which calls into question the possibility of finding a fair solution. To avoid making new mistakes, it is useful to look back at the recent past and analyze the unfortunate experience of external interferences in regional issues. In addition, we believe that it is important to present a joint assessment of the current state of affairs and put forward a principled approaches in regulating the Kosovo issue - stated for “Kurir” foreign ministers of the Russian Federation and Serbia, Sergey Lavrov and Ivica Dacic, whose joint author's text we are publishing in full.

"Slow-ticking bomb"

The unresolved Kosovo issue has been an obstacle to the proper stabilization of the Western Balkans for more than twenty years, and is the cause of new escalation of tensions.

The "slow-ticking bomb" was planted when the Western states, that bombed Yugoslavia in 1999, set the goal of securing the province's independence, circumventing the international law. This was done under the cynical slogan of "multi-optionality" - with or without the consent of Belgrade. In other words, Serbia's opinion was not taken into account from the very beginning. This misguided approach, which grossly violates UN Security Council Resolution 1244, is aimed solely at satisfying the separatist aspirations of Kosovo Albanians.

Harmful precedent

When Pristina unilaterally declared its "independence" in 2008, Moscow and Belgrade were tenaciously persuaded that the negotiating potential was allegedly exhausted. The appeals of Russia and Serbia, including the ones at the highest level, to continue negotiations on the grounds of international law and UN Security Council Resolution 1244, were largely ignored. After only a few years, new developments forced the parties to return to the idea of ​​resuming dialogue. Brussels had taken on the role of mediator, which was approved by the UN General Assembly Resolution 64/298 from 2010.

In recent years, the international community repeatedly had the opportunity to be assured that a sustainable version of the solution can be found only with respect of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and with a balanced and realistic consideration for the parties’ interests.

The concept of Kosovo's self-proclaimed "sovereignty" has failed. This concept does not have unanimous support neither in the Balkans, nor in Europe and other parts of the world. More than half of the UN member states do not recognize the controversial Kosovo’s "independence" and their number is increasing. A growing number of states are becoming aware of how harmful is (including to themselves) the precedent created in Kosovo, of a powerful external interference in the affairs of an independent state, under a fabricated pretext.

The unsustainability of Kosovo's independence is reflected in the current situation in the province.

The political chaos rules in Kosovo: local parties are deeply mired in a dirty power struggle, intrigues, mutual accusations and clan conflicts, accompanied by an economic downturn and an increase in crime. In such conditions, the "state-building", that the local officials and their external sponsors love to talk about so much, has become a make-believe. 

Murders and kidnappings

The growing criminality in Kosovo, linked to terrorist groups in the Middle East, primarily in Syria, as well as criminal communities in the Balkans and other parts of Europe, testifies to the transformation of a region with rich historical and cultural heritage into a hotbed of criminals and bandits.

However, should that surprise us, considering that the top ranking government officials in Pristina are all former leaders of the "Kosovo Liberation Army"? A special court was established for the investigation of crimes committed by some of them, including murders and kidnappings for illegal trade in human organs, following the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s member Dick Marty, and at the initiative of the European Union. We are still expecting this judicial body to start working and raise indictments against these criminals.

International forces should contribute to the normalization of the situation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. KFOR has been passive for years when it comes to ensuring the security of Serbs, and that is its primary task. One of the consequences of such restrained action is the escalation of the issue of preservation of the Serbian Orthodox Church shrines in the province. Vigorous, focused action by UNESCO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe is required in order to guarantee their protection.

The efficiency of KFOR, mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, is faring no better. One can hardly expect anything else when Pristina shamelessly ignores this Security Council decision. In a like manner, the West is obviously turning a blind eye to the actions of Kosovo Albanians, tolerating their arrogant behavior, and letting it slide when they intimidate UN officials. 

When all this is taken into account, the fact that the operations of Bondsteel facility, initially created as a base for peacekeeping forces, has become usurped and turned into a closed zone and a training ground for Kosovo's "military forces", is raising grave concerns. Actually, it is a form of reestablishment of the "Kosovo Liberation Army". This armed structure provoked a conflict that later became the reason for the province's secession from Serbia.

Greater Albania rhetoric 

The question of the responsibility of NATO member countries for the use of depleted uranium ammunition during the 1999 bombing of Serbia, especially in Kosovo, has remained open to this day. The local population continues to suffer en masse from the consequences of radioactive contamination, whose devastating effect was also felt by international peacekeepers. A recent court decision from France, confirms that the NATO aggression has left a long-term grim and deadly mark on Serbian soil. 

Irresponsible politicians, who use Greater Albania rhetoric, regularly add fuel to the fire of the smoldering conflict. Western colleagues are in no rush to silence the supporters of creation of "Greater Albania", the idea endorsed by Pristina and Tirana. Meanwhile, destructive potential of this ideology could undermine the system of regional stability, which has been established for decades.

In the last few months, the EU and the US have been very active in promoting the resumption of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. We certainly support resolving the dispute with political methods, but we believe that the negotiations should be based on the principle that previously reached agreements must be implemented in good faith. The key issue is the formation of the Community of Serbian Municipalities, with all the necessary powers. The European Union, as a mediator in the negotiation process, is directly responsible for influencing the Kosovo authorities to meet their obligations. So far, there has been no progress on the establishment of CSM.

Before the start of the new phase in the dialogue, it was necessary to abolish anti-Serbian discriminatory measures, which were introduced by the Pristina authorities in recent years. The European Union, as a mediator, must guarantee that Kosovo Albanians will not resort to this sinister tactics again. We hope that the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, and the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, will act as "fair brokers". 

Absurd demands

However, we notice that there are those who use Serbia's accession to the European Union as a lever of pressure on Belgrade to recognize Kosovo's "independence". It turns out that, in order to get the EU membership, the candidate country must give up a part of its territory. At the same time, the authors of this absurd request see apparent danger in the possible correction of the Kosovo’s administrative line. Such concerns seem exceedingly hypocritical, especially when we remember who tore Yugoslavia apart and in what manner.

In any case, Russia and Serbia remain of the opinion that it is necessary to respect UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Finding a compromise in the negotiation process is exclusively within the competence of Belgrade and Pristina. It is up to them to formulate and make the final decision, which would be approved by the UN Security Council. Moscow will agree only with the variant of the solution that is acceptable to Belgrade.

As for the external support of the negotiations, it should imply objective concerns for the respect of the international legal framework for the dialogue, without imposing ready-made solutions.

Moscow and Belgrade are strategic partners. We are focused on deepening mutually beneficial cooperation in the broadest range of areas. Such approach is irrespective of Serbia's intention to lead EU accession negotiations. Serbia will continue to develop ties with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union.

We continue to work closely together to resolve the Kosovo issue, under UN Security Council Resolution 1244.