From the jungles of Indonesia to Spain’s Basque country, separatist movements around the world are drawing hope from a proposal before the U.N. Security Council that would give Kosovo functional independence from Serbia.
“The Kosovo precedent will be important for us,” said Igor Smirnov, leader of the Trans-Dniester region that seeks to break away from Moldova, a small country wedged between Romania and Ukraine. He maintains that his tiny enclave has an even better case for independence than Kosovo.
Another hopeful Kosovo-watcher is the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq.
“It’s important that Kosovo achieves independence through a U.N. Security Council resolution, because that will establish a legal principle which will also some day apply to Kurdistan,” said Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament.
The United States and European Union, which are backing a proposal by Finnish envoy Martti Ahtisaari to grant “supervised independence” to the predominantly ethnic-Albanian province of Serbia, dismiss suggestions that it would encourage separatist movements elsewhere.
But the Ahtisaari plan is strongly opposed by both Serbia and Russia, its traditional ally, which argue that the province is sovereign Serbian territory and cannot be taken away without Belgrade’s consent. Russia has sharply criticized the plan, but has not revealed whether it is willing to use its Security Council veto to kill it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned in February that independence for Kosovo would be taken as a precedent by others, including pro-Russian breakaway enclaves in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.
The Kosovo issue has become a major irritant in the already strained relations between the West and a resurgent Russia.
The latest attempt to defuse tensions foundered last week after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Putin failed to find common ground. Kosovo’s fate also figures in Russia’s wider dispute with the European Union, jeopardizing plans to create a “strategic partnership” between Moscow and Brussels.
Mr. Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, said he did not think a precedent would be set by granting the province independence.
“No two problem areas are the same,” he said.
But in some of the four dozen territories around the world aspiring to break free, Kosovo’s future looks set to have far-reaching effects — especially if separation is engineered through a Security Council resolution.
“Kosovo’s independence would certainly have broad and destabilizing consequences for many other secessionist conflicts,” warned Bruno Coppieters, head of the political science department at Brussels Free University.
In Indonesia, it could have a powerful effect on the two separatist-minded provinces of Aceh and West Papua, said Damien Kingsbury, a key adviser to the separatist Free Aceh Movement.View Entire Story
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