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10 Feb, 2008 08:09

Kosovo to declare independence next week

Speaking from Pristina on Saturday, Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Tachi announced he will be declaring independence within a week. If a declaration of independence is made by Kosovo, it will be unilateral. Negotiations with Serbia have failed to produce a

Both the Serbian and Kosovan Premiers have made statements to the press.

“We have set a date but the reason for of not announcing it is that we are continuing to look for support and recognition from other EU countries. Since we have 100 countries backing us and supporting us, we can now move forward and I can say that this weekend will be the last one before Kosovo declares independence,” said Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo

“We are immediately going  to oppose this decision (the announcement that Kosovo will declare independence) and we are going to use all legal and diplomatic instruments in terms of defending our position, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. I am repeating again, we are going to react, not make war,” said Boris Tadic, Serbian President.

A contentious issue

The spotlight of international attention was turned on Kosovo during the 1999 war. The then Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, sent forces into Albanian controlled parts of the province in response to attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

It took the intervention of NATO to bring a halt to the violence, the province has relied on international support ever since.

The autonomy of Kosovo has been a contentious issue for much of the 20th century, but for Serbia, Kosovo has always been a symbol of ethnic pride.

“Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbia, not just because there is a UN charter but because of hundreds of years before that,” said Bishop Artemije of Kosovo.

The United Nations charged the Security Council with finding a solution to the Kosovo problem.  In December last year it became apparent that talks had failed.

An independent Kosovo now looks set to become a reality as the US and many European states have pledged to recognise it. Russia is vehemently opposed, mindful of the precedent it might set for other separatist movements.

What legitimacy the recognition of Kosovan independence would lend to other breakaway states is uncertain. However, it is likely independence will further antagonize the already strained relations between Russia and the US.

One-sided decisions destabilise

Russia has always insisted that only internationally mediated talks between Serbian and Kosovo officials can be a strong foundation for any decision on the future of the province.

Moscow insists any one-sided decisions could destabilise the region and set a dangerous precedent for many separatist movements around the world.

The US and some European states have pledged to recognise an independent Kosovo. A factor that Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, believes was central to the expected declaration.

“Any date nominated for the declaration of Kosovan independence is not so much the choice of this region's separatists, but the position deliberately backed from outside. Kosovo's separatism wouldn't have had any prospects if eight years ago the US and the united forces of Europe hadn't sent a clear-cut signal implying that such independence would be in place sooner or later,” Kosachev said.

Meanwhile, Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Ivanov, who’s now at the security conference in Munich, explained why Moscow is opposed to the prospect of Kosovo declaring independence.

“We disagree, not because Russia is stubborn and will support the Serbs and nothing else. We won’t be more Serb than the Serbs themselves. They should somehow try to agree with Kosovans. Out stance is that we want to stay within the framework of international law  and we don’t want to create a precedent,” said Ivanov.