Montenegro, the last Balkan state to end its union with Serbia, recognised Kosovo on Thursday, soon followed by Macedonia, in a twin blow to Belgrade's efforts to counter the secession of its former province.
Montenegro and Macedonia Thursday recognised Kosovo as independent, taking to 50 the number of countries to formally acknowledge its unilateral February secession from Serbia.
Montenegro's announcement sparked outrage in Belgrade, which along with key ally Russia has been vehemently opposing the split. Serbia in a knee-jerk reaction said it was expelling the Montenegrin envoy.
Majority ethnic-Albanian Kosovo -- a UN-run province since 1999 when it was wrested from Serbian control in a NATO air war -- has been recognised by the United States and most European Union members.
"The government unanimously decided to recognise the republic of Kosovo," Montenegrin Foreign Minister Milan Rocen said in Podgorica, adding that his country would establish full diplomatic relations with neighbouring Kosovo.
Neighbouring Macedonia followed suit within hours.
"The government has decided to recognise Kosovo's sovereignty and integrity," Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki told reporters after a special cabinet session.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Belgrade had "decided to inform Podgorica that the presence of its official representative in Belgrade is not welcome any more."
Jeremic had earlier warned that such a decision by Montenegro would be a "stab in the back" for Serbia, as the two were tied up in a loose federation until a 2006 referendum that gave Podgorica independence.
However, Montenegro's foreign minister said the move was not aimed "against Serbia," which considers Kosovo as an integral part of its territory.
"Montenegro has never and will never do anything against Serbia," Rocen said, adding that the independence of Kosovo was a "political reality" in the Balkans.
The two former Yugoslav republics had centuries-long historic ties, share the same language and Orthodox religion, with large communities of their respective nations living in the two states.
Serbia and its powerful ally Russia reject Kosovo's unilateral February 17 independence as a violation of its territorial integrity.
Kosovo, a tiny southern territory whose two million population is 90-percent ethnic Albanian, is seen by most Serbs as the cradle of their history, culture and Orthodox Christian religion.
The Montenegrin and Macedonian thumbs up came a day after the UN General Assembly approved a Serbian resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to rule on whether Kosovo's claim of independence is in sync with international law.
Seeing the vote as its diplomatic "victory," the government in Belgrade decided on Thursday to reinstate all its ambassadors who were withdrawn from countries which recognised Kosovo.
But British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed hope in his official blog that the ICJ will declare Kosovo's declaration of independence legal.
"Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado on Tuesday made Portugal the 22nd EU Member State to recognise Kosovo. He did so because of the growing sense that the declaration of independence ... represents a sustainable 'fact on the ground,'" Miliband said.
"We are confident that the declaration ... is legal in international law, and represents the fairest and most secure route to ending the 15 year tragedy of the western Balkans," he said.
The European Union meanwhile urged Kosovo for patience and called on its leaders to pursue reforms while awaiting the ICJ ruling.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Pristina had to show its "determination" for implementing reforms and foster economic and social development in order to improve living standards of the population.
"In the meantime, the best medicine for Kosovo to move forward is indeed to go forward with patience," he said.
Date created : 2008-10-09