Rift over Kosovo widens
BRUSSELS, Belgium – The U.S. and the European Union’s biggest powers quickly recognized Kosovo as an independent nation Monday, widening a split with Russia, China and some EU members strongly opposed to letting the territory break away from Serbia.
The rift was on view for a second day at the U.N. Security Council, which was holding an emergency session to discuss the declaration of independence issued Sunday by Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority.
Ethnic Serbs rallying in northern Kosovo angrily denounced the United States and urged Russia to help Serbia hold on to the territory that Serbs consider the birthplace of their civilization. Protesters also marched in Serbia’s capital, and that nation recalled its ambassador to the U.S. to protest American recognition for an independent Kosovo.
Despite clamoring of Serbs to retake Kosovo, Serbia’s government has ruled out a military response.
But the dispute is likely to worsen already strained relations between the West and Russia, which is a traditional ally of Serbia and seeks to restore its influence in former Soviet bloc states. The Kremlin could become less likely to help in international efforts important to the U.S. and its allies, such as pressuring Iran to rein in its nuclear program.
Still, for Washington the declaration of independence by Kosovo vindicated years of dogged effort to help a land achieve its dream of self-determination after years of ethnic conflict and repression by Serbia.
Speaking in Tanzania, President Bush declared: “The Kosovars are now independent” – and Washington formally recognized Kosovo as an independent country soon afterward. Germany, Britain and France also gave their heavyweight backing, saying they planned to issue formal recognitions.
But Russia, Serbia’s key ally, and emerging global power China remained adamantly opposed to Kosovo’s independence, warning of the danger of inspiring separatist movements around the world, including in their own sprawling territories.
As veto-wielding Security Council members, Russia and China both have the power to block any attempt by Kosovo to gain a seat on the international body.
Serbia vowed to fight to the end against any U.N. recognition.
“The so-called Kosovo state will never be a member of the United Nations. Serbia will use all diplomatic means at its disposal to block Kosovo’s recognition,” said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic.
Serbian President Boris Tadic, who attended the U.N. meeting, urged the council to oppose Kosovo’s move. “This act annuls international law, tramples upon justice and enthrones injustice,” he said.
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