Balkans: Russia Makes an Offer NATO Can Refuse

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May 29, 2007: Russia is willing to allow Kosovo independence if some conditions are met. This includes guarantees for the non-Albanians in Kosovo, and the permanent stationing of Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo. The deal breaker, however, is that NATO not allow Ukraine and Georgia to become members of NATO.May 27, 2007: This week Turkey takes command of KFOR's Multinational Task Force South (MNTF-S) in Kosovo, for the next year. Contingents from Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Aerbaijan operate in the Task Force. Austria is scheduled to take command of MNTF-S in 2008. Turkey considers "preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans" to be vital. This could be a volatile year in Kosovo. The UN is pushing for Kosovar independence but Serbia (and its ally, Russia) oppose independence.

May 25, 2007: In 2004 Turkey began Operation Black Sea Harmony (BSH), which is designed to help counter maritime threats in the Black Sea region. Turkey began operating a naval task group in the Black Sea. Turkey was particularly interested in protecting the Bosporous but also stopping smuggling and potential terrorist use of its sea lanes. Turkey also asked for international participation. That was a long time in coming. In December 2006 Russia decided to participate. Ukraine signed on in January 2007. The US has urged Bulgaria and Romania to participate in BSH and recent reports indicate they will join and provide naval vessels. The Russians decided to participate after the US assured Moscow that it would not send US naval units to participate in the patrols.

May 22, 2007: A suicide bomber blew himself up near a bus stop in the Turkish capital. Six people were killed and 91 people were injured in the blast. Turkish police identified the suicide bomber as a former prisoner. The bomber used methods similar to those used by the PKK Kurd rebel group.

May 16, 2007: The Macedonian government said that it will begin talks with Kosovo to reach a final settlement on their border dispute after the UN rules on Kosovo's final status. Meanwhile, Greece and Macedonia have agreed to being talks intended to resolve Greece's claim that Macedonia can't call itself Macedonia. Remember the FYROM? That's the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - a name the Greek government insists is the proper name for Macedonia. Macedonia, of course, disagrees. Northern Greece is also called Macedonia and some Greeks fear that Macedonia will lay claim to northern Greece. It's an old Balkan problem -lingering land claims. At least now the nations are discussing it peacefully rather than going to war.

The United States said that it will not "unilaterally" recognize Kosovo independence. The US statement said that the US will act in concert with the UN Security Council.

 

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