Bush: Russia was closely consulted on Kosovo

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 11:52 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US President George W Bush Tuesday dismissed the suggestion that US recognition of Kosovo's independence was a provocation to Russia, which has opposed Pristina's secession from Serbia.

"This wasn't a surprise to Russia," Bush told reporters in Tanzania covering his six-country Africa trip. "We have been in close consultation with the Russians all along."

A transcript of his remarks was released in Washington.

Russia has opposed Kosovo independence out of fear it will inspire similar separatist movements in its own sphere - but also out of cultural and political loyalty to Serbia.

Moscow blocked efforts by the UN Security Council over the past year to adopt the so-called Ahtissari plan that laid out a plan for internationally-supervised independence for Kosovo, which has been under UN supervision since NATO intervened to stop ethnic cleansing of majority Albanians by ethnic Serbs and the Serbian military in 1999.

Despite long-term efforts by the UN, Serbia has refused to negotiate approval of Kosovo's separation and insisted on hanging on to the last remaining province of what was once Yugoslavia.

The US, France, Britain and Turkey led the way Monday in recognizing Kosovo's declaration of independence on Sunday. The European Union is divided on recognition, with Spain leading a group of countries that have concerns similar to those of Russia about separatist forces in their own nations.

Bush said the US has been "working very closely with the Russians, as we have with the Europeans and other nations on ... Kosovo's independence, because we believe it's the right thing to do."

"There's a disagreement, but we believe, as do many other nations, that ... history will prove this to be a correct move, to bring peace to the Balkans," Bush said.

Bush noted that he expected Kosovo to follow through on its pledge to safeguard the rights of Kosovo's minorities, which include a small Serb population.

"We encourage Kosovo's leaders to quickly adopt the provisions of the Ahtisaari plan, especially those designed to safeguard the rights of Kosovo's non-Albanian communities," he said.

The US president said Kosovo's independence was a "historic step for the Balkans region" and pointed the way to integration into the Euro Atlantic community, which will provide "the promise of a better life for themselves and for their children."