Kosovo's independence divides world

19th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Serbia cuts ties with its former province as many Western nations formally recognized the new country.

Serbia vowed to hold on to Kosovo and warned that its declaration of independence would embolden dozens of other separatist groups around the world, as many Western nations said they would recognize and establish diplomatic ties with the newly created state.

The United States, France, Britain, and Turkey all formally recognized Kosovo's independence Monday and many more said they would follow suit later this week, while Russia sought to have Kosovo's declaration voided at the United Nations Security Council.

Serb President Boris Tadic told an emergency session of the 15- nation council in New York that his country would "never" accept an independent Kosovo, while Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the country's parliament that he had recalled Serbia's ambassadors to the four countries that had already recognized the self-proclaimed nation.

Kostunica called the US recognition of Kosovo a "bullying policy of force" as Serbia's assembly convened to "annul" the independence declaration made by Kosovo on Sunday.

The leaders of Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia said Monday that they would likely seek independence now that Kosovo has broken away from Serbia, and Tadic warned the Security Council that many more would follow.

"I repeat, there are dozens of various Kosovos in the world and all of them lie in wait for Kosovo's act of secession to become a reality," Tadic said in New York. "I warn you most seriously of the danger of the escalation of many existing conflicts, the flaring up of frozen conflicts and the instigation of new ones."

But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Kosovo a "special case," given the breakup of Yugoslavia and brutal war with Serbia in the 1990s, and said the world's reaction should not be viewed as a precedent by other separatist groups.

US President George W Bush in a letter to Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu formally recognized Kosovo and welcomed the country's request for diplomatic relations.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy sent a similar letter to Sejdiu, saying that a sovereign Kosovo would help bring stability to the Balkans.

But the European Union as a whole remained divided on whether to endorse an independent Kosovo. Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels failed to agree on a common position on recognizing the self- proclaimed independent state.

A joint declaration said only that governments "will decide, in accordance with national practice and legal norms, on their relations with Kosovo."

Germany and Italy along with France and Britain have indicated that they are ready to recognize Kosovo as Europe's newest nation state. The great majority of other EU member states were likely to do the same.

But some EU members, most notably Cyprus and Romania, are still refusing to go ahead with recognition. Spain, which has to deal with a strong separatist movement in its Basque region and faces a general election next month, also expressed strong reservations.

The EU text also insisted that Kosovo did not set a precedent for other separatists, while the US warned that failing to grant Kosovo its independence would have spurred greater violence in the region.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya warned that Kosovo's independence would trigger unrest in the Balkans.

Both the United States and European Union said they remained committed to friendly ties with Serbia and promised to help protect Serbian minorities who remained in Kosovo. NATO reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining peace in the region.

In a statement the military alliance said its 15,000-strong Kosovo Force (KFOR) would continue to execute its mandate "in an impartial manner" and would respond "resolutely to any attempts to disrupt the safety and security of the population of Kosovo."

A donors conference is being planned by the EU and US in the coming months to encourage aid for the new state. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said the US pledged 334 million dollars in assistance for 2008.

"We think it's going to be a stable state," Burns said.

DPA with Expatica

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