148266 4/2/2008 16:14 08MOSCOW910 Embassy Moscow CONFIDENTIAL 08MOSCOW910 VZCZCXRO1406 PP RUEHAG RUEHROV DE RUEHMO #0910/01 0931614 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 021614Z APR 08 FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7456 INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000910
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2018 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, EAID, RU SUBJECT: RUSSIAN VIEWS ON KOSOVO IN LEAD-UP TO BUCHAREST
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells: reasons 1.4 (b, d).
1. (C) Summary: MFA Special Envoy for Kosovo Botsan-Kharchenko told us that Putin will reiterate Russian opposition to Kosovo's independence in Bucharest, but the issue is not expected to feature prominently, including during the President's visit April 5-6 visit to Sochi. The GOR will continue to adhere to a strict interpretation of UNSCR 1244, condemning the possibility of U.S. military supplies to Kosovo, urging UNMIK to ignore Serbian staging of parliamentary elections on May 11 (as was the case two years ago), and using the mid-April UNSC UNMIK review to criticize SRSG Rucker and UNMIK Deputy Rosin's planning for a EULEX transition. Russia does not support partition (notwithstanding former PM Primakov's statements in Belgrade), nor a territorial division between UNMIK and EULEX, but believes attitudes on the ground will limit EULEX's writ. Russia is contemplating participation in a Kosovo donor's conference, in the wake of its aid to Serb enclaves. Acknowledging the restrained actions of the Pristina government, Botsan-Kharchenko said Russia could not condemn Serb violence triggered by Kosovo's independence and did not see Belgrade's hand in the Mitrovica violence. With elections too close to call, Botsan-Kharchenko said there were no plans for senior Serbian visitors to Moscow, although the Serbian Embassy speculates that Radical leader Nikolic may visit.
Kosovo Not in Bucharest or Sochi Limelight
2. (C) In an April 1 meeting, Russian Special Envoy for Kosovo Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko played down prospects that Putin would refocus international attention on Russian rejection of Kosovo's independence at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, or during the subsequent April 5-6 visit of the President to Sochi. Acknowledging that there could be no "fruitful discussion" of Kosovo, Botsan-Kharchenko -- who had just finished drafting briefing materials for Putin's visit to Bucharest -- predicted a reiteration of well known positions, rather than a "sharp" revisiting of policy differences.
GOR Legal Focus on 1244; Rejects Mil-Mil
3. (C) Botsan-Kharchenko explained that Russian policy disputes with the U.S. over Kosovo would continue to be demarcated by Russia's strict interpretation of the limits of UNSCR 1244. Acknowledging that Russian press reports had hyped incorrectly U.S. sales of advanced military equipment to Kosovo, Botsan-Kharchenko pointed to statements on March 20 by FM Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to NATO Rogozin that UNSCR 1244 does not permit creation of a Kosovo army and does not allow any kind of weaponry to be supplied to Kosovo, except to international forces operating under a UN mandate. Any other supplies were "illegitimate," with Lavrov focusing on the possibility that arms would be taken up against Serbs and other minorities to compel their acceptance of Kosovo's independence. The U.S. announcement, he said, constituted a "provocation."
4. (C) Russia will not accept the unsanctioned parameters of the Ahtisaari Plan, Botsan-Kharchenko reiterated, but will hold the international community accountable to UNSCR 1244. In this context, Russia believed that the international presence should remain "neutral" during the May 11 Serb elections, since UNMIK did not interfere in their conduct in Kosovo two years ago. The GOR would use the visit of Serb FM Jeremic to New York mid-April to focus discussions of the UNMIK report on the "unacceptable" efforts by SRSG Rucker and UNMIK Deputy Rosin to prepare for a hand-off to EULEX, following the mid-June end of the Ahtisaari-envisioned 120-day transition period. The GOR position will continue to be that UNMIK must remain as the legal, international civilian presence throughout Kosovo.
GOR Practical Focus on Serb Rejectionism
5. (C) At a practical level, Botsan-Kharchenko maintained that the March 17 events in Mitrovica proved the necessity of a continued UNMIK presence. In Mitrovica and other Serb enclaves, EULEX was not recognized and Russia saw "no chance" for cooperation with EULEX to emerge. Describing as "legitimate and understandable" the Serb position to reject Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, Botsan-Kharchenko said that it necessarily followed that Belgrade and Kosovar Serbs would differentiate between the internationally sanctioned civilian presence (UNMIK) and EULEX personnel. Rejecting Russian designs in using UNSCR 1244 to create a "new Abkhazia," Botsan-Kharchenko said UNMIK
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should operate throughout Kosovo and that Russia opposed territorial demarcations between UNMIK and EULEX personnel. However, the reality confronting the international community was that Kosovar Albanians would not cooperate with UNMIK, and Kosovar Serbs would not work with EULEX.
Russia Rejects Partition, Targets Aid
6. (C) Botsan-Kharchenko pushed back strongly against speculation that former PM Primakov's advocacy of partition during a late March visit to Belgrade was driven by official Russian support for the initiative. Primakov's views were his own, and there was no official Russian encouragement of Belgrade to consider partition as an option. Botsan-Kharchenko stressed that formal and informal Troika discussions of partition had foundered on Serbian opposition. Russia saw no change in Serb positions, with Belgrade incapable of ceding its claim to the whole of Kosovo. While Botsan-Kharchenko acknowledged the carrots and sticks deployed by Belgrade to harden ties with Kosovar Serbs, he took issue with the recent assessment by the International Crisis Group that a de facto policy of partition was being pursued. The Serbs have no such strategy, he insisted.
7. (C) Botsan-Kharchenko continued to depict Russian policy as dictated by Belgrade. If Serbia were to endorse Kosovo's independence, embrace working with EULEX, or seek partition, Botsan-Kharchenko maintained, Russia would fall in line. "Russia has no allergy to EULEX," he said, but the legal argument over UNSCR 1244 and Belgrade rejection of Kosovo's independence would set Russia's agenda. Botsan-Kharchenko repeatedly denied that Russia was opposed to Serbia's integration into European institutions, pointing to Russia's strong and mature relations with Slovakia and Slovenia as evidence that European cooperation did not run counter to Russian interests.
8. (C) Clearly uncomfortable with questions over Russia's decision to announce humanitarian assistance to Serb enclaves (which the Serbian Embassy learned about through press reports), Botsan-Kharchenko stuck close to Putin's language that the aid was not targeted at one ethnic group, but to specific regions that had requested Russian help. Conceding that the aid would de facto benefit one ethnic group, the Serbs, Botsan-Kharchenko stressed that Russia was still considering participation in the next Kosovo donor's conference (since it had been agreed upon prior to Kosovo's declaration of independence) and clarified that Russian humanitarian assistance would be distributed in coordination with international organizations and Belgrade. The "previous procedures," involving UNMIK and KFOR, would be used.
No Condemnation of Serb Violence
9. (C) Botsan-Kharchenko conceded the absence of Kosovar Albanian-instigated violence and agreed that Pristina authorities had behaved responsibly to date, which he attributed to concerted U.S. and EU efforts. Nevertheless, the potential for violence remained. Mitrovica was a reaction to UDI, and Russia could not condemn the actions of Kosovar Serbs, who rejected efforts to undermine Serbia's sovereignty. Botsan-Kharchenko took issue with charges of Belgrade's complicity in provoking violence, responding that Russia's examination of events in Mitrovica concluded that spontaneous demonstrations had led to the death and injuries.
Elections Too Close to Call
10. (C) Russia believed the political situation in Serbia was too fluid to predict the outcome of the May 11 elections, and Botsan-Kharchenko said there were no plans at present for senior Belgrade officials to visit Moscow. Serbian Embassy contacts told us that Radical leader Nikolic could visit Russia the second half of April at the initiative of the Russian Ambassador to Serbia. Botsan-Kharchenko disavowed knowledge of any such plans, but noted that the previous visit of Nikolic had come at the "initiative" of the Duma and was not official.