US Recognizes Independent Kosovo, Europe Split

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

( - Permanent U.N. Security Council members - the United States, Britain and France - on Monday recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence, joining Italy, Germany, Turkey, Albania and Afghanistan as the first to welcome what the ethnic Albanian majority hopes will become the world's newest sovereign state.

Full recognition as an independent state and a seat at the U.N. will not come easily, though, as Russia has vowed to use its Security Council veto to block the move.

Moscow's opposition is linked to concerns about separatism in parts of Russia, including Chechnya, although Russia has itself fueled secessionism in other parts of the former Soviet Union, including Georgia.

China, too, opposes Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement that the U.S. "has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state."

"The unusual combination of factors found in the Kosovo situation - including the context of Yugoslavia's breakup, the history of ethnic cleansing and crimes against civilians in Kosovo, and the extended period of U.N. administration - are not found elsewhere and therefore make Kosovo a special case," she said.

"Kosovo cannot be seen as a precedent for any other situation in the world today," Rice added.

Secessionists across the world, however, will likely cite the "Kosovo precedent" in their continuing breakaway efforts. Already, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - an entity whose 1983 declaration of independence was not recognized by any country apart from Turkey - has welcomed the Kosovo declaration.

"On behalf of the Turkish Cypriot people, who have preserved their identity, went through a lot of pain to live in freedom and who are still continuing with their struggle, I sincerely congratulate Kosovo and the people of Kosovo and wish that Kosovo's membership in the world's family of nations contributes to humanity and world peace," said TRNC President Mehmet Ali Talat in a statement.

For the same reason as the TRNC and its Turkish ally have recognized Kosovo, Cyprus and its ally Greece are among a handful of European Union member states that are not planning to do so.

Others include Spain, which faces ongoing Basque separatism; and Romania and Slovakia, both of which have sizeable ethnic Hungarian minorities.

Beyond the E.U., Kosovo's independence has been rejected by Azerbaijan, which is dealing with breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh; Georgia, where two pro-Russian breakaway territories are citing Kosovo as they press for de jure independence; and Moldova, which is trying to head off full independence for the breakaway, pro-Russian region of Trans-Dniester.

Kosovo, a province of Serbia, has been administered by the U.N. and secured by NATO peacekeepers since 1999, when NATO forces expelled Serb troops and ended a violent crackdown by then Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Ethnic Albanian Muslims account for 90 percent of the territory's two million population. About seven percent are Christian Orthodox Serbs.

See Also:
Joy, Fury Over Kosovo Independence Declaration (Feb. 18, 2008)

Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow