May 28, 2007 / 4:27 PM / 10 years ago

Russia and West may be ready for Kosovo compromise

3 Min Read

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Russia, the United States and European Union have reached a compromise on the future of the U.N.-run Serbian province of Kosovo, a Croatian daily on Monday quoted sources "close to the Russian leadership" as saying.

Jutarnji List, one of Croatia's biggest dailies, cited its Moscow-based sources as saying Russia would not veto a Western-backed U.N. resolution granting Kosovo independence if certain conditions were met.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority is impatient for independence after eight years of United Nations stewardship, and has the backing of the United States and its European allies.

Serbia rejects a breakaway and has enlisted the aid of Russia, which has hinted it could veto a U.N. independence resolution now being pushed by Western powers.

"If Moscow shows readiness to accept the plan for Kosovo, as proposed by U.N. mediator Martti Ahtisaari, then Brussels and Washington would in exchange accept a two-year moratorium on Kosovo membership in the United Nations," the daily said.

Another condition would be a Russian military presence in the isolated Serb minority enclaves in Kosovo, the daily said.

Russia sent peacekeepers to Kosovo after NATO intervened in 1999 to expel Serb troops and halt the killing of civilians in a counter-insurgency war. It later withdrew them.

"The third condition is that NATO, which is expected to next year invite Croatia, Albania and Macedonia to become full members, does not extend the same invitation to the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia," the daily said.

It said diplomats in Moscow thought this solution would satisfy the major powers. The West is keen to resolve the issue in time for their G8 summit in Germany on June 6-8.

But such an outcome is unlikely to be welcomed by Serbia, which says that independence for its spiritual heartland is unthinkable, and is counting on its sometime-ally Moscow to block independence and press for a 'compromise solution'.

The official Serb suggestion is that the province should be autonomous under international supervision for between 10 and 20 years, and only then a final decision made on its status.

It is not the first time that the idea of a moratorium on Kosovo's membership of the United Nations has been floated as a way to ensure Russia's acquiescence in Kosovo's independence.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report this month that a two-year delay in Kosovo joining the United Nations, would "demonstrate responsiveness" to Russia.

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