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    RUSSIA-EUROPE: INTENSIVE DIALOGUE AT ALL LEVELS

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    MOSCOW, April 8, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Does Russia really have a plan for Kosovo, as it was reported after it became clear that the NATO policy in the province has failed? Replying to this question, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said at a press conference in RIA Novosti that there are several aspects, which Moscow spotlights. "The first is the need to punish those who incited the recent unrest. They must be punished for the crimes committed in Kosovo," said Mr. Yakovenko. "Second, weapons must be confiscated from the people because weapons are always a sensitive element in any unrest, and there are more than enough weapons in Kosovo."

    In the opinion of Mr. Yakovenko, these two elements are only the beginning of steps that must be taken in Kosovo to stabilise the situation before deciding what to do next. Anyway, it is "difficult to comply with the standards stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 without removing the causes of ethnic persecution campaigns."

    Replying to an additional RIA question on this issue, Mr. Yakovenko said that the Kosovo settlement was discussed at the NATO-Russia Council, at the sessions of the contact group on the former Yugoslavia, during consultations in the UN Security Council, and during the visit of presidents of France and Germany to Moscow. "Today this issue is on the agenda of the Russian visit of the NATO Secretary General," said the ministry spokesman.

    The bulk of questions at the press conference were concerned with Russia-NATO relations. Alexander Yakovenko said, in part, that the signing of the agreement on the transit of military cargoes to Afghanistan via Russia was not on the agenda of the meeting. He reminded journalists that Moscow has an agreement on the transit of German troops and military property to Afghanistan and expects to sign a similar agreement with France. "Such agreements may also be signed with other NATO countries," said Mr. Yakovenko. "We have received requests on this issue. As for the agreement with NATO as a whole, it is not planned."

    The spokesman also said that Moscow is optimistic about the solution of the problem of military transit to the Kaliningrad Region (Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea). The discussion of the issue with the EU gives the hope of reaching agreement on this issue of vital significance for Russia. The issue of military transit to the region via Lithuania was discussed at the Berlin meeting of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU External relations Commissioner Christopher Patten. "We need to settle the issue of not only civilian cargo transit but also of military transit across Lithuania," said Mr. Yakovenko. According to him, the issue will be discussed during Mr. Lavrov's meeting with the EU trio in Dublin next week.

    Journalists also asked questions about the agreement with NATO on the deployment of Russian and NATO units to stay in the territory of each other. "The signing of the agreement is planned in view of the international legal aspects of the deployment of peacekeepers," said the ministry's representative. "Such situations are not regulated by international law now and the agreement should formalise bilateral accords to this effect."

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