US, European Allies Recognize Kosovo

BERLIN (NY Times)–Kosovo won the recognition of the United States and its biggest Western European allies on Monday, while earning rebukes and rejections from Serbia, Russia and a disparate mix of states the world over who face their own separatist movemen’s at home.
One day after the tiny Balkan province declared its independence, the world had its chance to choose sides. While some countries had made their decisions months in advance, that did not diminish the drama of whether a newly birthed nation would be welcomed into the fold or rejected.
Major European powers, including France, Germany and Britain, along with the United States, officially recognized Kosovo, even as officials took pains to point out that it should not serve as an invitation or precedent for other groups hoping to declare independence. That is because one of the biggest unknowns remains whether Kosovo’s declaration could rekindle conflicts elsewhere, including in ethnically divided Bosnia.
As a result, the reverberations were felt from Russian-backed enclaves in Georgia to the Taiwan Strait. Spain, a member of the European Union and one of the countries with soldiers in the NATO force in Kosovo, refused its recognition. Yet Turkey, despite its history of conflict with Kurdish separatists, chose to support Kosovo’s independence.
Turkey formally recognized independent Kosovo Monday with a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. Turkey gave signals of its decision earlier in the day when its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with his Kosovar counterpart Hashim Thaci on the phone saying he hoped the independence of Kosovo would yield positive results.
Erdogan told the Kosovar leader that he believes that the unity of all elemen’s constituting Kosovo (including Turks and Albanians) would strengthen the future of the country. 90 percent of Kosovo’s 2 million people are ethnic Albanian–most of them Muslims.
Turkey welcomes the elemen’s and the content of the Kosovo’s independence declaration, Babacan said in a statement. Babacan also added that Turkey values its regional and mutual relations with Serbia, who strongly opposes the Kosovo’s independence. Turkey’s recognition Tuesday follows a statement from Official Azerbaijan Monday saying that it does not recognize Kosovo’s decleration of independence.
In a letter to Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, President Bush wrote: "On behalf of the American people, I hereby recognize Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state. I congratulate you and Kosovo’s citizens for having taken this important step in your democratic and national development."
In an apparently conciliatory gesture, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in her own statement, "The United States takes this opportunity to reaffirm our friendship with Serbia, an ally during two world wars."
But Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia, which has regarded Kosovo as its heartland since medieval times, vowed that Serbia would never recognize the "false state." Kostunica recalled Serbia’s ambassador to Washington, news agencies reported. The State Department had no comment on those reports on Monday evening.
At the United Nations, Boris Tadic, Serbia’s president, told the Security Council that the declaration of independence "annuls international law, tramples upon justice and enthrones injustice." He asked that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon direct the United Nations mission chief in Kosovo to declare the action "null and void" and to dissolve the Kosovo Assembly, which adopted the declaration on Sunday.
Addressing the Council before Tadic spoke, Ban said the United Nations administration, approved by the Council in 1999, would continue to run Kosovo until a formal transition could be arranged.
European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels appeared to reach a minimal common position, acknowledging that Kosovo had declared independence and allowing those nations that wanted to recognize it formally to do so.
Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister, said the declaration was "a victory for common sense," and pointed to what he hoped would be future reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo. "I don’t know at what date, in which year, but Kosovo and Serbia will be together in the European Union," he said.
However, the foreign minister of Spain, Miguel ?ngel Moratinos, told reporters that the declaration did not respect international law and that Spain would not recognize Kosovo. "The government of Spain will not recognize the unilateral act proclaimed yesterday by the Assembly of Kosovo," Reuters quoted him as saying.
Among European Union members, Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia have also been reluctant to recognize Kosovo.

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