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Politics & press news – Embassy 5 – February 2008

Kosovo divides corps

Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence has divided London's diplomats over whether the world's 194th state deserves recognition.

Britain was quick to recognise independence and British Ambassador David Blunt was first in line to present his credentials to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci three days after independence was declared.

The US and European powers such as Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Estonia as well as Turkey also swung behind the new state. However, nations, many of them with secessionist movements or significant minorities, such as Spain, Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, Russia and China are against independence.

In an Embassy survey, 55% of respondents said they supported independence, while 45%  said doing so would set a dangerous precedent.

Diplomats also took the opportunity to express strong opinions. One diplomat said recognition represented "a violation of the international legal system" and went on to say: "The Kosovo case is also significant as a once officially recognised terrorist group literally overnight became treated as a liberation movement and receives persistent help, even from the countries affected by the terrorism themselves."

Those supporting Kosovo's independence maintain that the declaration of independence is legal due to UN Resolution 1244, which provides a framework for a status solution, without precluding what that final status would be.

"It is along these lines that the independent status has been gained and recognised without any violation," claims the Albanian Ambassador Zef Mazi. "A solution is right when it is legitimate, and a solution is legitimate when it expresses the will of the people. This is what has been done."

He also adds: "Kosovo is a sui generis case as it is a consequence of the disintegration of a state which no longer exists. The population of Kosovo has been subject to brutal human rights abuses by the state, which culminated with the events of 1999 - from that year it has been under the administration of an international mission of the UN which de facto takes away from Serbia any sovereignty over Kosovo. A veto in the Security Council threatens peace and security in Kosovo and the region."

But another Balkan diplomat said privately that the unilateral declaration of independence had actually stirred up nationalistic sentiments in the region, saying: "It would have been better to wait until the prospect of EU integration was closer which could have prepared the ground for a satisfactory agreement between Serbia and Kosovo."

Another diplomat from a small nation was more cynical about the 'Western-led' process, saying: "The division of the UN on this issue won't do the world any good. I cannot understand the enthusiasm of politicians and diplomats of well-fed nations about these issues. The Kosovo precedent has launched the world on uncharted waters. Let's cross fingers it will sail safe."
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