Serb anger and frustration over Kosovo - February, 2008

The wheels have begun to turn. Only time now will reveal where it will go and how much destruction it will cause.




World divided over independent Kosovo:

Serb anger over Kosovo declaration - 18 Jan 08:

Serb anger and frustration over Kosovo

February, 2008

The morning after Serbia lost Kosovo, the street cleaners in Belgrade were out picking up the glass from the pavements. It followed hours of rioting when up to 1,000 people, mainly football hooligans, rampaged through the city centre smashing windows, pushing huge rubbish bins into the road and wrenching up traffic signs. The violence was interspersed with chants of "Serbia" and "Kosovo is Serbia". Earlier they had targeted the US embassy and the embassy of Slovenia, which currently holds the European Union Presidency. A few rocks were thrown, a few windows were smashed. People were injured and there were a number of arrests.

Show of unity

The scale of the violence, and the numbers involved, were pretty small. But, in a sense, the anger and frustration that spilled onto the streets did fairly represent the feelings of the vast majority of the Serb people. The country's cultural and spiritual heartland was gone. It was now part of another country and that was hard to take. In fact, the official attitude is that nothing has changed. Independence will not be recognised, it will never be recognised, chorused the main political leaders in Belgrade. Indeed, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said Serbia would broaden and strengthen its support for Kosovo's Serbs. In a rare show of unity, the leaders of the three main political parties in Belgrade agreed to call for a mass demonstration in the capital on Thursday to show the widespread opposition to independence.

EU 'betrayal'

Serbia and the Serbs feel hurt and betrayed, especially by countries in the EU. And relations between Serbia and the EU are set for a rocky ride, with the EU due to deploy a 2,000-strong mission to the new state of Kosovo over the coming weeks and months. Pristina may have declared independence, but for Belgrade it is business as usual - Kosovo remains an integral part of Serbia" Mr Kostunica summed it up: "As long as Serbs exist, Kosovo is Serbia." One chapter in Kosovo's history may have now closed, but the story is far from over.


In related news:

Abkhazia set to ask Russia to recognize its independence

Abkhazia intends to ask Russia to recognize its sovereignty, the president of the de facto independent Georgian republic said on Monday. Asked whether Abkhazia intended to address Russia on the issue of independence in the wake of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of sovereignty on Sunday, Sergei Bagapsh told journalists: "Yes, we do." Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another Georgian breakaway republic, declared their independence from Georgia in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and bloody conflicts ensued. Georgia's current leadership has been seeking to recover its influence in the separatist regions and secure international support on the issue. Both republics have expressed a strong desire to join Russia, and Moscow had hinted even before Kosovo's declaration of independence on Sunday that it may recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. "The declaration of sovereignty by Kosovo and its recognition will undoubtedly be taken into account in [Russia's] relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement last week. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, also on a visit to Moscow, told reporters that the two republics would hold talks with other unrecognized entities on efforts to seek independence. Kokoity said his republic would like to seek independence through Russia's Constitutional Court. "Two years ago we declared our intention to apply to the Russian Constitutional Court. We have a document on a united Ossetia voluntarily joining the Russian Empire in 1774," he said, adding that there were no documents in existence that confirmed the withdrawal of Ossetia from Russia.


US warns Russia not to encourage Georgian separatists

The United States warned Russia on Tuesday not to encourage separatists in the Republic of Georgia by comparing their cause to Kosovo's. On Monday, the United States, Australia and the European Union's biggest powers backed Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. Russia strongly opposes recognition of the breakaway Serbian province's claimed status. Russian officials hinted last week that if Kosovo should declare independence, Russia might retaliate by recognizing the independence claims of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Those two Russian-supported regions are provinces of Georgia. The United States has said that Kosovo's situation is unique and should set no precedent. On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack repeated U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity. "The Russians will say what they believe is in their interest," he said. "We think it is in the interest not only of the region of the South Caucasus, but in the Balkans, to encourage dialogue, to encourage greater stability, to encourage a dialogue among parties that helps parties work through differences in a peaceful way."


Serbia recalls ambassador from US

Serbia has recalled its ambassador to Washington in protest at US recognition of Kosovo independence and threatened to withdraw other envoys. Its Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, told parliament in Belgrade that America had "violated international law for its own interests". France, the UK, Germany and Italy have also pledged their support for the new state declared on Sunday. In New York, the UN Security Council is beginning a meeting on the move. Serbian President Boris Tadic is to ask it to annul the independence declaration, and Belgrade is counting on Russia to veto Kosovo joining the UN as a new nation. The leading European states which endorsed independence did so after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels in which it was agreed that Kosovo should not set a precedent for other states. Spain and several other member-states have withheld recognition because of concerns about international law and separatism.

'First measure'

Mr Kostunica said the recall of Serbia's ambassador to the US was the "first urgent measure of the government which will be implemented in all countries that recognise unilateral independence". Speaking to Serbian TV from New York, President Tadic said he intended to "demand from [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon the immediate annulment of the independence proclamation by the non-existent state in Kosovo". Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC that Kosovo had little to gain from declaring independence. "There is no way they will get into the United Nations or the OSCE or the Council of Europe," he said. "So what will they be getting, changing nameplates at the offices of Western countries in Pristina, calling them embassies?" Serbia's interior ministry has filed criminal charges against Kosovo Albanian leaders instrumental in proclaiming independence, accusing them of proclaiming a "false state" on Serbian territory. In Belgrade, about 10,000 students marched in protest at the independence declaration, and Serb enclaves inside Kosovo also saw anti-independence rallies. Serbian security forces were driven out of Kosovo in 1999 after a Nato bombing campaign aimed at halting the violent repression of ethnic Albanian separatists. The province has been under UN administration and Nato protection since then.


[Chinese] Spokesman: Taiwan has no right to "recognize" Kosovo's independence

Taiwan has no right and qualification to recognize Kosovo's independence, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said here Monday. "It is known to all that Taiwan, as a part of China, has no right and qualification at all to make the so-called recognition," Liu Jianchao said in a press release. Liu made the remarks in response to the report that Taiwan authorities congratulated on Kosovo's independence and might recognize it. There is only one China in the world. The commonly accepted consensus is that Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory and the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China, said Liu. "We firmly oppose to anyone or any organization under any form to split Taiwan from the mainland. Any attempts that separates Taiwan from the mainland is doomed to fail," Liu said. Kosovo's parliament voted Sunday to adopt a declaration of independence at an extraordinary session on its independence from Serbia. Kosovo was a southern autonomous province within Serbia before the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Among its population of 2 million, over 90 percent are ethnic Albanians and Serbs make up about 7 percent. Kosovo has been under UN administration since mid-1999, after NATO air strikes drove out Serbian forces from the province.


Russia's Chechen rebels hail Kosovo independence

Chechen rebels fighting to secede from Russia hailed Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence, comparing Pristina's fight against Serbia to their own struggle against Moscow. Russia has strongly opposed Kosovo independence, arguing that to recognize a separatist region as a new state without the consent of the country affected sets a dangerous precedent for scores of other territorial conflicts around the world. The rebels said in a statement published by the Chechenpress Web site that they "welcome the declaration of state independence by Kosovo and do not question the right of the people of Kosovo to distance themselves from the state that terrorized it". The statement, signed by Usman Ferzauli, who styles himself Chechen Foreign Minister, said Chechen rebels "have been leading an armed struggle against the world's most aggressive and militarized power for the latest 14 years". This was a reference to mainly Muslim Chechnya's fight against Russia for independence, which led to two wars in the 1990s, a wave of guerrilla attacks in Moscow, and a brief period of autonomy before Moscow re-established control. Chechnya is today ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former Chechen warlord who switched sides and pledged allegiance to the Kremlin. The province is mainly calm, although isolated attacks continue. "The political authority of the Ichkerian Republic (Chechnya) has always aimed, and is aiming today to fight for freedom and independence," Ferzaulik said in a statement that was issued on Sunday.


Azerbaijan says not recognizing Kosovo independence

Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan said on Monday it did not recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence. "We view this illegal act as being in contradiction with international law," said Khazar Ibrahim, head of the press service at Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry. "Proceeding from this, Azerbaijan's position is clear: it does not recognize (Kosovo's) independence." Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday. The United States and most members of the European Union are expected to grant recognition soon. Azerbaijan has been trying to restore control over its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where ethnic Armenian separatists threw off Azeri rule in a war in the 1990s that killed about 35,000 people. The separatists' foreign minister said on Sunday Kosovo's independence would help Nagorno-Karabakh's drive for international recognition. Azerbaijan has 34 troops serving in the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR.


Mitq: Karabakh and Armenia should recognize Kosovo independence

Although proclamation of Kosovo’s independence was quite predictable, Foreign Ministries of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh were not ready for it, said a statement issued by Mitq analytical center. According to Mitq experts, Karabakh and Armenia should recognize Kosovo’s independence. “Besides, we think that the NKR government should raise the issue of independence and the territories under its control in the UN Security Council… This historical moment offers a golden opportunity for the Karabakh process,” the statement reads.


U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy Recognize Kosovo Sovereignty

The governments of the United States and the major European Union powers, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, have expressed their support to Europe's newest nation, the Republic Kosovo. U.S. President George W. Bush, who is in Tanzania for an official state visit, said "the Kosovars are now independent" as he hailed Kosovo's bold and historic bid for statehood. "It's something that I've advocated along with my government," he added. In Brussels, the foreign ministers of the U.K., France, Germany and Italy said that their respective governments will recognize the independence of Kosovo. "The British government has decided to recognize Kosovo," British Foreign Minister David Milliband said after a meeting with his E.U. colleagues. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said Italy would "proceed to recognize" the former Serbian province, while his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his government would meet to do so on Wednesday. Kosovo announced its independence from Serbia over the weekend as Kosavars awaited key backing from the United States and European powers. The new nation is set for a showdown with Serbia, outraged at the loss of its territory, and Serbia's staunchest ally, Russia.


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