Russia's foreign minister to discuss Kosovo in Belgrade

Other News Materials 16 April 2007 17:33

( RIA Novosti ) - Russia's foreign minister will visit Serbia later this week to discuss the status of the breakaway Kosovo province in light of current UN consultations, the ministry press department said.

Sergei Lavrov's visit to Serbia, Russia's traditional ally, April 18-19 will focus on a plan proposed by Martti Ahtisaari, UN envoy for Kosovo, advocating an internationally supervised sovereignty for the Kosovo province.

Serbia is strongly opposed to independence for the province dominated by ethnic Albanians, but the United States and the European Union have expressed support for sovereignty. Yet, only four out of 15 member-states at the UN Security Council voted for Ahtisaari's plan during the first round of consultations April 3.

Russia, a veto-wielding UN Security Council member, objects to the plan as threatening to set a precedent. Moscow proposed sending a UN mission to Kosovo instead in a bid to try and forge a compromise between the Albanian majority and ethnic Serbian minority before resuming UN consultations. The UN agreed to send an observer mission next week.

In Belgrade, Lavrov will meet with Serbian President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, and Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic. Apart from the Ahtisaari plan, the talks will highlight bilateral relations with Serbia, which split from another former Yugoslavian province of Montenegro following a referendum in 2006.

The visit will also take place against the background of increasingly intensive bilateral trade, which hit $2.45 billion last year, the Russian ministry's press service said. Another issue to be resolved is Russia's Soviet-time clearing obligations to former Yugoslavia.

The Russian minister will also attend a session of the council of foreign ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization in Belgrade. BSEC foreign ministers will meet ahead of the organization's summit in Istanbul in June.

BSEC includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, the Hellenic Republic, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Before Serbia, Lavrov will visit Spain where he will consider progress made on agreements reached during President Vladimir Putin's visit last February. The Russian minister will meet with Spanish King Juan Carlos I and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations marked this year.

The visit will also touch upon the reform of Europe's largest security organization, the OSCE where Spain is currently presiding.

"As a NATO and EU member, Spain is Russia's traditional partner in issues of international European security, and all these questions will be discussed in light of latest developments," Lavrov said in an apparent reference to the U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe.

The last leg of Lavrov's trip will be Montenegro where the minister will discuss a series of projects in the energy sector, investment, humanitarian, cultural and education issues.