06MOSCOW12819, KOSOVO: RUSSIAN POSITION ON UNSC VETO HARDENING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12819 2006-12-07 07:02 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8633
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #2819/01 3410702
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 070702Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5701
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA PRIORITY 0136
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0300
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2357

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 012819 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/06/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEV UNMIK SR YI RS
SUBJECT: KOSOVO:  RUSSIAN POSITION ON UNSC VETO HARDENING 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 12549 
     B. MOSCOW 12351 
     C. MOSCOW 10438 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: In late-November meetings in Moscow, Kosovo 
Prime Minister Ceku failed to get assurances that Russia 
would not use its veto when the Security Council takes up the 
status issue early next year.  Russian officials have 
signaled that they might ultimately deploy a veto to block a 
UN Security Council resolution that implicitly endorses an 
independent Kosovo.  The MFA told us that Ceku made it clear 
that Kosovo was intent on independence, but pledged he would 
continue to act within the Contact Group as long as that 
framework existed.  A veto could be motivated by Moscow's 
desire to avoid a precedent for recognition of other 
separatist regions, domestic politics, and Russia's need to 
demonstrate that its views must be taken into account by the 
international community.  Former PM Gaidar warned the 
Ambassador that the U.S. and EU should not underestimate 
Kosovo's corrosiveness in Russia's overall relationship with 
the West.  At this point, it's hard to say how much of 
Russia's veto talk is bluff and how much is real -- but it's 
clear that the Russian position has hardened over the past 
few months.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
PM CEKU'S VISIT YIELDS NO CONCESSIONS FROM MOSCOW 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2. (C) In the first official visit to Moscow by Kosovar 
representatives, Prime Minister Agim Ceku sought but failed 
to get assurances that the GOR would not use its veto in the 
UN Security Council when Kosovo's status is taken up early 
next year.  Viktoria Prokhorovo, who assists GOR Special 
Envoy on Kosovo Botsan-Kharchenko, told us that Deputy 
Foreign Minister Titov advised Ceku during his late November 
visit that "it's far too early to start talking about a 
veto."  Instead, Ceku was informed by his Russian 
interlocutors that the GOR would not make a public or private 
commitment regarding a veto until after UN Special Envoy 
Ahtisaari released his proposed Kosovo status package 
sometime after the January 21 Serbian elections. 
 
3.  (C) Taking into account Serbian sensitivities, the GOR 
had billed the Ceku visit as "unofficial" and "low-key," 
Prokhorovo said.  In fact, Serbian Political Counselor Boris 
Sekulic told us, Moscow consulted closely with Belgrade 
before the visit.  Sekulic told us Belgrade was not happy 
about Ceku's visit, but did not raise objections.  In 
addition to Titov, Ceku met with Duma Foreign Affairs 
Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev and Federation Council 
International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov. 
 
4.  (C) According to Prokhorovo, Ceku made it clear that 
Kosovo would pursue independence and a seat in the United 
Nations.  However, Ceku also assured the GOR that the 
Kosovars would continue to act within the Contact Group as 
long as that framework existed.  Ceku told his Russian 
interlocutors that he wanted UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari's 
report to be made public several days after the January 
Serbian elections.  GOR officials told Ceku that, regardless 
of the status issue, Moscow expected Kosovar authorities to 
uphold international standards regarding the treatment of 
ethnic minorities in Kosovo, including the protection of 
religious sites and the return of Serb refugees to the 
province. 
. 
WHERE IS THE GOR ON A VETO? 
--------------------------- 
 
5.  (C) There are increasing signs that a veto could be in 
the cards.  President Putin's September announcement that the 
GOR might use its veto if the Kosovo final status package was 
not in Russia's interests was followed by statements in the 
G-8 Political Directors gathering in Moscow in November and 
in discussions between DFM Titov and Assistant Secretary 
Fried (reftels A and B) that represented a hardening of 
Russia views.  While underlining that the MFA had not yet 
made any final decisions, the MFA's Prokhorovo speculated 
that a unilateral declaration of independence by Pristina 
might act as a trigger for a Russian veto.  The MFA continues 
to push for a Kosovo package that has the approval of both 
Belgrade and Pristina.  The MFA sees Ahtisaari's report as a 
starting point for negotiations between Pristina and 
Belgrade, not the final act, Prokhorovo said.  FM Lavrov 
reiterated in his OSCE bilateral with Serbian FM Draskovic 
that Russia did not support any "artificial" time frame for a 
resolution of the status question. 
 
MOSCOW 00012819  002 OF 003 
 
 
. 
EXPERT VIEWS ON VETO THREAT 
--------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) Former Prime Minister Yegor
Gaidar, before he fell 
ill, warned the Ambassador not to underestimate the emotional 
impact of Serbia on Russian society.  During a November 22 
meeting, Gaidar underscored his concern that -- based on 
recent discussions in Washington and New York -- the U.S. was 
underestimating Russian resolve and the damage Kosovo could 
still inflict on our bilateral relations.  The Ambassador 
reiterated the case for providing a clear vision of the 
future for Kosovars, and noted the dangers posed to the 
region by continued delay.  Gaidar responded that whether the 
U.S. liked it or not, Kosovo would be a precedent, and it was 
not a precedent that served Russia's interests.  He said that 
pushing for a settlement that did not meet with Belgrade's 
approval would play into the hands of Russian hard-liners in 
an election year.  Gaidar urged caution, and a continued 
effort to find a solution that Serbia could live with. 
 
7.  (C) Other experts we have spoken with are also 
increasingly concerned that Moscow will use its veto to 
prevent international recognition of a change in Kosovo's 
status.  Former French Political Director and newly arrived 
Ambassador Stanislas de Laboulaye told the Ambassador that in 
his initial soundings on the issue, he detected signs that 
Russia would try to throw up a roadblock to stop the status 
process.  We have heard similar concerns from British and 
Swedish diplomats. 
 
8.  (C) Tatyana Parkhalina, Director of NATO's Center for 
European Security in Moscow, cautioned that Russia might 
stumble into the use of its veto because of its concerns 
about appearing too weak.  She argued that Russia was not 
motivated out of a sense of duty to Serbia.  However, Russia 
was eager to show that it could stand up to the West if need 
be to protect its interests and that Moscow's views must be 
taken into account.  Since the GOR had already made clear 
that Belgrade needed to be on board with any final status 
arrangement for Kosovo, a veto would be seen by the GOR as 
less odious than allowing a pro-independence UNSCR to go 
forward over Russian objections.  Even abstaining from the 
vote could be seen as a failure, given Russia's strong public 
rhetoric in favor of the Serbs. 
. 
ORTHODOX CHURCH VIEWS 
--------------------- 
 
9.  (C) Despite predictions by Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) 
representatives that the Church and like-minded politicians 
would seek to raise public awareness about Kosovo, we have 
yet to see indications of a public campaign.  Father Nikolay 
Balashov, in the ROC's External Relations Division, stated 
that the interests of the Orthodox community would best be 
served if the Serbian minority and Orthodox religious sites 
in Kosovo were protected and if Kosovo retained "some form of 
ties" to Serbia that reflected the significance that Kosovo 
holds for the Serbian (and Orthodox) identity.  Balashov 
acknowledged that Kosovo might not carry the same emotional 
weight with the Russian public that it did in 1999, but those 
feelings could be revived if the Serbian Orthodox community 
was under threat again.  He reiterated that the ROC supported 
the position on Kosovo adopted in the Serbian Orthodox 
Church's November 2005 Holy Synod of Bishops.  Balashov 
acknowledged that there were divisions within the Serbian 
Church over Kosovo and characterized Bishop Artemije, who had 
made a private visit to Moscow in September, as someone who 
espoused more radical views. 
. 
SERBIAN EMBASSY 
--------------- 
 
10.  (C) Despite GOR hints that it might veto a UNSC 
resolution on Kosovo if Belgrade was not in agreement, the 
Serbian Embassy's Sekulic said he doubted Russia would follow 
through.  "Russia will put relations with the West before 
Serbia," he said.  "If they veto, it will not be because they 
are looking out for the best interests of Serbia.  It will be 
because they want to show the West they can be strong." 
Kosovo expert Pavel Kandel, of the Russian Academy of 
Science's Institute of Europe, agreed.  Kosovo and Serbia 
were no longer hot political issues in Russia, as they were 
in 1999.  Though Serbia and Kosovo still resonate among some 
of the Russian political elite, the average Russian did not 
care much about the issue these days.  Public opinion could 
be swayed by a Kremlin-sponsored media campaign, but no such 
campaign had appeared, Kandel said.  Sekulic added that 
although a UNSC resolution on Kosovo's independence would be 
 
MOSCOW 00012819  003 OF 003 
 
 
bad from Belgrade's point of view, a veto would not be much 
better in the long run.  In the event of a veto, Kosovo would 
unilaterally seek recognition with key international players 
-- such as the U.S. -- and would eventually be able to cement 
its legitimacy as an independent state.  "Once that process 
begins, it cannot be stopped," he said. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (C) The GOR is clearly dropping hints that it might veto 
a UNSCR on Kosovo independence in order to influence 
Ahtisaari's Kosovo package and pressure Contact Group members 
to consider a longer negotiating process.  It is not yet 
clear whether this is a negotiating tactic or whether the GOR 
is seriously considering a veto.  There is an increasing 
danger, however, that the GOR could box itself into a corner 
through it public commitments to Serbia, hints of a veto, and 
statements linking Kosovo's final status with other frozen 
conflicts. 
BURNS

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