- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

ZAGREB, Croatia - Russia, the United States and the European Union have reached a compromise on the future of the United Nations-run Serbian province of Kosovo, a Croatian newspaper reported yesterday quoting sources “close to the Russian leadership.”

Also yesterday, Russia requested an emergency conference to discuss an arms-control pact after accusing NATO nations of ignoring the deal negotiated in the months after the Cold War ended.

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 U.N. 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 that 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 counterinsurgency 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 eager to resolve the issue in time for their Group of Eight summit in Germany on June 6 to 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 Serbian suggestion is that the province should be autonomous under international supervision for 10 to 20 years before a final decision is made on its status. It is not the first time that the idea of a moratorium on Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations has been floated as a way to ensure Russia’s acquiescence in Kosovo’s independence.

In Moscow yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had “approached the Netherlands, the depositary of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, with a request to call an emergency conference on June 12 to 15 in Vienna.”

President Vladimir Putin froze Moscow’s commitments under the CFE treaty last month and said Russia could quit if a Russia-NATO council failed to find a solution suitable to Moscow.

The Foreign Ministry did not specify what Russia was planning to propose at the Vienna conference, but it likely relates to U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Russia opposes the scheme to base 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic from 2012 to head off what Washington sees as a threat from Iran and North Korea.

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