Kosovo Is Recognized but Rebuked by Others
BERLIN — 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 movements 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.
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.” Mr. 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 Mr. Tadic spoke, Mr. 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 Ángel 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.
Diplomatic recognition is more than just a popularity contest for Kosovo, a desperately poor, predominantly Muslim landlocked territory of two million people. It needs the help and support of international institutions if it expects to improve its dire economic condition. A United Nations protectorate since 1999, it is policed by 16,000 NATO troops and has an unemployment rate of around 60 percent and an average monthly wage of $250.
“We will be working with the government to try to help it politically as well as economically,” said R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, in a conference call with reporters on Monday, pointing out that the United States gave $77 million in aid to Kosovo in 2007 and would raise that amount to roughly $335 million in 2008.
Mr. Burns, who said he had consulted by phone with European counterparts after the meeting of European Union foreign ministers, said there would be a donor conference in Europe in the coming months to encourage additional aid, and hoped there could be debt relief for Kosovo as well as strong regional trade opportunities.
Russia, which opposes Kosovo’s independence, demanded an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday to proclaim the declaration “null and void,” but the meeting produced no resolution. The Security Council agreed to a request by Russia and Serbia to hold the open meeting on Monday that Mr. Tadic addressed.
Mr. Burns said he did not foresee trouble with Russia. “I do not expect any kind of crisis with Russia over this,” he said. “I expect Russia to be supportive of stability in this region.”
But in Moscow, the upper and lower houses of Parliament released a joint statement signaling an intention to recognize at least two Russian-backed separatist areas in the former Soviet Union — Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both in Georgia.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia have announced their intention to seek recognition as independent states. Russia has already granted citizenship to most residents of both enclaves and had hinted that it might recognize their independence if Western countries recognized Kosovo.
“The right of nations to self-determination cannot justify recognition of Kosovo’s independence along with the simultaneous refusal to discuss similar acts by other self-proclaimed states, which have obtained de facto independence exclusively by themselves,” the Russian Parliament’s statement read.
Georgia disputes the claim that the regions have obtained independence by themselves. The areas broke from Georgia after brief wars in the 1990s, and have survived with Russian support.
Eduard Kokoity, the Ossetian president, said Monday that the two breakaway regions would submit a request for recognition to the Russian Parliament by the end of the month, the Interfax news agency reported.
But experts and officials said they did not expect simmering conflicts to break out into significant violence as a result of Kosovo’s declaration. “These are emotional reactions that I think are transitory and can be contained,” said Peter Semneby, the European Union’s special representative for the South Caucasus, in a telephone interview from Georgia. “It’s very much in the interest of major actors to try to contain them.”
On the other side of the world, China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka also criticized Kosovo’s declaration of independence, while Taiwan and Australia welcomed it, as Kosovo’s move appeared to be a litmus test of attitudes in Asia toward secession.
The Beijing government, which has threatened military action if Taiwan declares formal independence, voiced “grave concern” over Kosovo’s action.
“China is deeply worried about its severe and negative impact on peace and stability of the Balkan region and the goal of establishing a multiethnic society in Kosovo,” said Liu Jianchao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin, and C. J. Chivers from Moscow. Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle from Brussels, Graham Bowley from New York, Warren Hoge from the United Nations and Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong.
Article publicat a la versió digital del diari The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com