Claiming that Kosovo Set a Precedent for Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russia Will Open up a Pandora’s Box in Region: Director of Hudson Institute’s Center

Azerbaijan, Baku, 21 March /corr. Trend A.Gasimova / Claiming that Kosovo set a precedent for Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russia will open up a Pandora's box in the region.

"Kosovo precedent would certainly have an impact on the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with Russia effectively siding with Armenia. Moreover, and most importantly, how would Russia prevent some of its own separatist regions, such as Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushestia from declaring their own independence?," said Zeyno Baran, Director of Hudson Institute's Center for Eurasian Policy.

On 17 Feb, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. The official Belgrade is not going to recognize Kosovo's independence. Several countries including US, Great Britain, Germany, France and Turkey have already recognized its independence. But Russia, Spain, China, Greece and Georgia support Belgrade's position. Azerbaijan does not support Kosovo's independence as well.

"The Kosovo decision has clearly changed the dynamics, and Russia has already broken with the status quo by declaring it would no longer abide by the sanctions in Abkhazia. President Putin made clear that if Kosovo's independence is recognized, it would create a precedent, and he would apply it to Georgia's frozen conflicts". Baran said.

According to her, If Putin was to actually take this step, he would run the major risk of uniting the Europeans and also the trans-Atlantic alliance against him, strengthening support for Georgia's territorial integrity and further damaging Russia's international standing.

Russia intends to open its representations in the territories of unrecognized republics of South Osetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria, mentioned by the press-release, provided before the hearings in Russian State Duma's Committee for CIS with regards to 'frozen conflicts' in the post-Soviet territory. In addition, a proposal was made during the meeting with regards to changes in the format of relations with South Osetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria. During the meeting, the Russian side will achieve the participation of the representatives of unrecognized republics in all international organizations and forums, which will deal with their interests. In addition, Russia will achieve the insurance of the rights of Russian citizens living in these territories.

"This is not the first time the Russian Duma has come up with initiatives that would damage Russia's international standing, if the Government were to follow them. I hope and believe the Russian government will not take this step. I think they will keep the threat of recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the table, but mainly as leverage in negotiations with the West over Kosovo. This is a card they can use once. If they were to now start official negotiations, there will be reactions from the West, which I don't think Russia wants," she said.

On the other regional frozen conflict Transnistria, Baran said that Russia is trying to reach a deal with Moldova whereby Russia would "give" the region to Moldova, provided they agree to never join NATO. "The Russians have made a similar offer to the Georgians: give up NATO, do not insist on MAP at the Bucharest Summit, and we'll be more helpful on Abkhazia. Such a bargain is, of course, unacceptable for a number of reasons. Most importantly, because an overwhelming number of Georgians want to join NATO-not just for reasons of security, but also because they feel the alliance most closely corresponds to their own values," Baran said.

NATO Summit will take place in Bucharest on 1 April. The Summit is expected to focus on the issue of Georgia and Ukraine's membership to the Alliance.

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