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 that 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 lessen 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 apparent 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, wire services 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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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.