Kosovo's parliament unanimously approved the province's historic
declaration of independence from Serbia on Sunday, a move that is
backed by the US and some European allies but bitterly contested by
Serbia and Russia.
"Kosovo is a republic -- an independent, democratic and
sovereign state," parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said as the
chamber burst into applause.
Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (L)
and Speaker of Parliament Jakup Krasniqi meet in Pristina February
17, 2008. Thaci summoned parliament on Sunday to a special session
that voted and declared the province's independence from Serbia.
Serbia responded immediately by calling its mainly Albanian
breakaway province a false state and condemning the United States
for supporting it.
The lawmakers voted 109-0 to adopt the declaration. Eleven
ethnic minority deputies, including Serbs, were absent.
"Deputies on February 17 expressed their will to declare Kosovo an
independent, sovereign and democratic state," he said.
Across the capital, Pristina, a snow-covered city, revelers
fired guns into the air, waved red and black Albanian flags and
honked car horns in jubilation at the birth of the world's newest
Earlier, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called on the parliament of
Kosovo on Sunday to adopt a declaration of independence from
"We the leaders of our people, democratically elected, through
this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign
state," Thaci told the assembly.
"This declaration reflects the will of the people," he said.
On the eve of the declaration, the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo
Force -- with 17,000 troops from 34 nations -- said it would
intervene robustly to prevent any inter-ethnic violence.
Kosovo is a cultural heartland of Serbia. But most of Kosovo's 2
million people are ethnic Albanians, who have been impatient with
delays of the proclamation of independence.
Kosovo has been under UN administration since mid-1999, after
NATO launched airstrikes to drive out Serbian forces from the
In April 2007, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari recommended the
proposed internationally supervised independence for Kosovo.
The Ahtisaari plan is supported by the United States and the
European Union, but opposed by Serbia and Russia.
Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has
warned that Kosovo independence would set a dangerous precedent for
regions across the world where there are ethnic tensions.
Global reactions to Kosovo independence
Minutes after Kosovo declared independence, Serbian Prime
Minister Vojislav Kostunica condemned Kosovo as a false state in a
televised address to the nation on Sunday.
He said Kosovo was propped up unlawfully by the United States
which was "ready to violate the international order for its own
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica
addresses the nation from the government building in Belgrade
February 17, 2008 as Kosovo declares independence. Kostunica
condemned Kosovo as a false state. [Agencies]
"Today, this policy of force thinks that it has triumphed by
establishing a false state," Kostunica said. The Serb people will
never stop fighting for their freedom, he said. "As long as the
Serb people exist, Kosovo will be Serbia."
Serbia will never recognise the independence of Kosovo, Serbian
President Boris Tadic said in a statement.
"Serbia will never recognise the independence of Kosovo. Serbia
has reacted and will react with all peaceful, diplomatic and legal
means to annul this act committed by Kosovo's institutions," Tadic
said in the statement.
"I appeal to all our citizens in Serbia and in Kosovo to be led
by reason," he said. The state of Serbia will take responsible
moves and will do everything in its power to annul this arbitrary
and illegaly proclaimed independence of Kosovo, he said.
"Serbia will not resort to violence and that is the only
approach which can enable us to continue our legitmate fight to
preserve the integrity of our country," Tadic added.
Russia's Foreign Ministry denounced Kosovo's independence
declaration and calls for an emergency session of the UN Security
"We expect the UN mission and NATO-led forces in Kosovo to take
immediate action to carry out their mandate ... including the
annulling of the decisions of Pristina's self-governing organs and
the taking of tough administrative measures against them," the
foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The decisions by the Kosovo leadership create the risk of an
escalation of tension and inter-ethnic violence in the province and
of new conflict in the Balkans," it said.
"Russia just called for Security Council consultations," Russian
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Other diplomats said the consultations -- a closed debate among
the council's 15 members -- would be held at 1800 GMT on
The United States on Sunday reaffirmed its strong backing for an
"On Kosovo, our position is that its status must be resolved in
order for the Balkans to be stable," US President George W. Bush
Georgia will not recognize Kosovo's independence, a
parliamentary leader said Sunday.
"The Georgian authorities will not recognize Kosovo's
independence," Interfax news agency quoted Konstantin Gabashvili,
chairman of the Georgian parliamentary committee for foreign
affairs, as saying.
(China Daily via agencies February 18, 2008)