Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kosovo precedent: Barroso dismisses, Saakashvili calls it an excuse

Kosovo’s independence was called as a special case by the Western powers while Russia had warned it as a dangerous “precedent” earlier this year but European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday (October 14) dismissed Moscow’s “Kosovo” comparison with the “South Ossetia and Abkazia,” as baseless.

Addressing a joint press conference in Brussels, along with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Commission President Barroso said, “From the start, we’ve said that Kosovo cannot create a precedent. We don’t believe that any parallels should be drawn between the situation in Kosovo and the Georgian regions.”

Answering a question from New Europe on the subject, the Commission President said, “Developments have confirmed this. Kosovo has been recognised by a large number of countries in the world, the overwhelming majority of EU member-states, many outside Europe ... while no-one important in the world has recognised the Georgian regions.” Barroso added that the EU would not allow the “red line“ to be crossed, which was full respect for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty

Stressing the difference between the two cases, Georgian President Saakashvili told journalists, “NATO came to Kosovo to prevent ethnic cleansing while Russia came to Georgia to commit ethnic cleansing.”

Russia launched an offensive against Georgia on August 8 to push back a Georgian offensive to retake South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists and Moscow recognised the regions as independent states following the five-day war.

Moscow said it was protecting Russian citizens in the region from Georgian aggression, but Tbilisi accused Moscow of “ethnic cleansing” of the region to cement control over the disputed parts.

Commenting on their first face-to-face talks slated for Wednesday, since Russia invaded Georgia in early August, Saakashvili said, “First Russia has to get out of there, they have no right to be there with tanks and troops,” adding, “We would be more than happy to cooperate with any community, any representative but not in this kind of situation.” He accused Russia of “setting up illegal bases, illegal checkpoints and they are basically making fun of international law and international justice.”

President Saakashvili branded representatives of Georgia’s rebel regions “ethnic cleansers” and casting doubt over whether international talks with Russia would be successful. “We don’t think these people are politicians, we think they are ethnic cleansers and we think they are criminals,” he said.

EU needs Russia

On the question of restarting negotiations with Moscow on a new partnership deal, President Barroso said that it was not "a gift for Russia" from the EU, adding that for the EU, there were financial, investment and economic interests to negotiate with Russia on a new Cooperation and Partnership Agreement.

Citing sectors like fighting climate change and maintaining energy security as major points of cooperation, Commission President said, “I think it is in the interest of the EU to keep the dialogue with Russia to promote stability in Europe.”

Since the unilateral declaration of independence in February this year, the EU has tried to avoid parallels between Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkazia, saying Kosovo is "unique" with 20 out of 27 EU states recognised the unilateral declaration without an EU mandate.

Although Russia has withdrawn from most of Georgia in line with an EU-brokered ceasefire, Tbilisi is furious at the continuing presence of 7,600 Russian troops in the Georgian rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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