Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Foreign Policy Issues for the Coming Months

The key issues that will dominate Russia's foreign relations agenda are the approaching EU-Russia summit and the continuing negotiations on Kosovo's independence. Both issues appear to be in various degrees of gridlock.

Russia continues to oppose the plan of Marti Ahtisaari that virtually does not account for the opinion of Serbia on the issue of independence of its province, Kosovo. Russia insists that resolution 1244 regarding Kosovo, in particular the guarantees it must provide to the Serbian minority such as an opportunity to safely return to their homes, has not been implemented fully. In recent Security Council hearings, the majority of the Western partners have supported the notion that resolution 1244 has been satisfied and the situation in Kosovo has improved. Yet, Russia has go as far as saying any attempts by the US to force a vote on Kosovo's independence in the Security Council will see a Russian veto, a sign that negotiations will drag longer. The UN Security Council has sent a commission into Kosovo to investigate in detail the situation. The outlook for a successful resolution of the Kosovo issue in the near months is unlikely.

With regard to the EU, Kommersant reports that:

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson set a grim tone three days before the talks in Luxembourg by saying that EU-Russia relations were at their lowest point since the Cold War. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his counterparts in the EU had to play down this pessimistic rhetoric.

European Union officials said on Monday they hoped to resolve a dispute holding up a partnership agreement with Russia before a summit next month.

After new talks with in Luxembourg, Russia stressed its desire to conclude the new pact to cover energy, trade, economic cooperation and human rights.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the talks that the parties had reached some progress in settling the dispute, but there was still a lot to be done.

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