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Russia links Tibet violence to Kosovo 'precedent'

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the recent violence in Tibet is inextricably linked to the recognition of Kosovo's independence.
MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the recent violence in Tibet is inextricably linked to the recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Speaking in an interview published on Tuesday in the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily, he said that the recognition of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence by many countries, including the U.S. and the majority of EU states, had "already reverberated in many regions."

He added that the Kosovo issue was linked to recent riots in Tibet and demands for greater autonomy by ethnic Albanians in Macedonia.

"There are grounds to presume that this is not occurring by chance," he said.

"You can see what is happening in China's autonomous region of Tibet, how the separatists there are acting. The Albanians in Macedonia are already demanding a level of autonomy that is a clear step toward independence. Furthermore, events in other areas of the world give us grounds to assume that we are only at the beginning of a very precarious process," the minister went on to say.

Violence erupted in the Tibetan capital on March 10 as locals gathered to mark the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising. There are conflicting reports behind the number of deaths, with China saying 13 civilians and 13 members of the security forces died, while exiled Tibetan leaders put the number of civilian deaths at around 80. China has blamed the violence on the Dalai Lama.

Lavrov also said that attempts were continuing in Kosovo "to force people to live in a state that has been illegally formed."

Russia's top diplomat reiterated Moscow and Belgrade's view that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence was a blatant breach of international law. He also called the encouragement of separatist tendencies "immoral."

The worst violence to hit Kosovo since the "world's newest state" announced its independence a little over a month ago broke out on Monday after United Nations police and NATO-led KFOR troops launched an operation to regain control of a UN court building that had been seized by ethnic Serb protestors.

Over 100 people were injured in subsequent clashes between Serbs and police.

Serbia said on Monday it had "begun consultations with Russia on joint action to put an end to any violence against Serbs as soon as possible."

Lavrov, who is due to begin a three-day tour of the Middle East on March 19, also called on all Islamic countries to defy calls to recognize Kosovo's sovereignty. This would, he said, act as a sign of Muslim solidarity.

During his visit to Syria, Israel and the territory controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Lavrov is due to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and bilateral relations.

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