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EU fails to narrow rift with Russia over Kosovo

The European Union and Russia failed at a meeting here on Wednesday to narrow their differences over Kosovo’s status.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference after talks with the so-called EU troika that the two sides still fundamentally differ. The EU troika was represented by EU presidency Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and EU Commissioner for External Relations and European neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner. “Where our positions differ, and differ fundamentally, it is Kosovo,” Lavrov said, adding, “Those differences have not been overcome, because those deal with fundamentals of international law. I do not feel great optimism about tomorrow’s session,” he said, referring to the emergency UN Security Council meeting on Kosovo to be held on Thursday in the request of Serbia and Russia.

On the EU side, Ferrero-Waldner told reporters upon her arrival at Brdo for the meeting that the EU believed the UN security emergency meeting was not necessary. “We do hope to be able to convince Russia that the status quo (in Kosovo) is unsustainable,” she said. She also justified EU’s would-be deployment of more than 1,800 police and judges in Kosovo by saying “The legal ground for us in the EU is very clear. It’s the 1244 UN Resolution.”

Most EU nations and the United States prepare to recognize it, but a group of EU members, including Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Spain, have not been in favor of one-sided declaration of independence for Kosovo, which is likely to occur on Feb. 17. Serbia and Russia strongly oppose the move, saying it would trigger similar ones in other parts of the world and recognition of it would violate international law and Serbia’s territorial integrity. Only a solution forged in the UN Security Council without bypassing Belgrade’s wishes could be acceptable. Though Lavrov said that Russia was convinced that it would be a mistake if Kosovo’s unilateral independence was recognized, Moscow was not planning to take any punitive measures against the EU for recognition. “As for whether Russia intends to introduce any repressive actions with regard to the European Union, that sounds a bit wild, of course,” he said. “Russia does not have any punishment measures in the arsenal of its foreign policy tools,” Lavrov added. (