Monday, February 18, 2008

'Illegal' Kosovan independence challenged at UN

Protests in northern Kosovo

Besides Kosovo declaring their independence, they are having a difficult time gaining international recognition. Some of the European Union states have stated their official recognition of Kosovo’s independence, but many are split on giving such an endorsement. Whilst Britain, France and Germany have state they’ll establish diplomatic ties with Kosovo, other EU nations including Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia have all signalled that they would not follow suit amid concerns about the precedent that such a move would set. They have expressed anxiety about the signal that recognition might send to separatists in their own countries.

Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters on Monday “We will not recognize Kosovo independence because we do not consider it in line with international law”. The latest country to officially recognize the former Yugoslavian state is the United States [CNN]. But there have also been demonstrations across Serbia with police battling with rock throwing youths outside the US Embassy in Belgrade. Within Kosova there were reports of sporadic violence. A hand grenade was thrown at a UN court building in the divided town of Mitrovica, and a UN car was reported to have been destroyed in the nearby village of Zubin Potok, near the Serbian border. But so far most protests in Kosovo have been peaceful, if not noisy. Many Kosovo-Serbs took to the streets in Mitrovica, north-west of the capital Pristina, carrying banners reading "Kosovo not for sale" and "No giving up of Kosovo". The anti-independence rallies gained far less coverage in the western media, however Xinhua News reported that ‘thousands’ had come out to protest. China, Russia and Serbia have refused to recognize Kosovo as an independent state and have been the most outspoken. Liu Jianchao, China’s Foreign Minister told the Xinhua News Agency, "Kosovo's unilateral act can produce a series of results that will lead to seriously negative influence on peace and stability in the Balkan region". Russia was far more forceful in its public statement. "Our position is that this declaration should be disregarded by the international community," as well as by the head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin said on Sunday.

The efforts to have the country officially recognised may be thwarted if Russia veto the UN over the declaration. Serbia is preparing to ask the UN Security Council to condemn the declaration of independence as illegal and is banking on Russia for support [BBC]. Serbia has called it a “false state” and say they will never accept Kosovo as an independent country. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia can block Kosovo's entry into the organisation as a sovereign state, and it said on Sunday that Kosovo's declaration should be null and void. China rarely uses its veto, despite having a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and is unlikely to make any representations. However it too has concerns that recognition of Kosovo may strengthen moves for parts of its own territory to declare independence. Both Tibet and Taiwan have strong lobbies calling for such a move, something strongly resisted by the Chinese government. The UN will meet at an emergency meeting later on Monday to discuss Kosovo’s declaration of independence which is seen by some as illegal under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. Although the original resolution did not lay out plans for independence, it did allow the UN to facilitate a political process to determine Kosovo's future status, its level and forms of autonomy. In fact the word independence does not occur anywhere in the document [PDF] .

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