After declaring independence, Kosovo looks to cautious next steps
President Bush hailed the controversial move, as the EU and UN met to form their responses.
PARIS; and PRISTINA, KOSOVO
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Maybe more so: Kosovo is now "proud, independent, and free," declared Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. The last crumbs of a chocolate-vanilla cake that fed 30,000 jubilant Albanians on Mother Teresa Avenue have been eaten by flocks of blackbirds. But the tiny new state's status remains to be hashed out by great powers in Brussels, New York, Washington, and Moscow this week.
The legal basis for moving the United Nations administration out of Kosovo – and European Union forces into it – are disputed by Russia. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is in a hot spot since he will need to interpret key UN resolution 1244. The West says the resolution allows for Kosovo's independence since it plainly sets up a final status process; Moscow and Belgrade argue it doesn't.
President Bush, on an African tour, was the first to declare Kosovo independent, followed by France hours later. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting Monday, called Kosovo's declaration "null and void." It's unclear how sustained an orthodox alliance between Russia and Serbia will be.
"Now that Russia has acted out, done what it had to do to stand with Belgrade, will the US forgive Russia, downplay all this, so we can get back to our serious disagreements [with Moscow]?" asks Marshall Harris, a former US diplomat. "I hate to be an optimist on the Balkans, but I think the US and Russia will put this behind us."
Whether Serb patriots plan violence past the two grenades hurled at international offices in Mitrovica or the attacks on the US and Slovenian embassies in Belgrade Sunday is also unclear.
Prelates of the Serbian Orthodox church, whose monasteries dot Kosovo, called for military response, but Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has not. Mr. Bush insists the new Kosovo government make good on expanded, protective rights that connect the 120,000 Serb minorities solidly to Belgrade for years.
Monday, EU foreign ministers in Brussels robustly affirmed its upcoming "rule of law" mission for Kosovo, though they remained sensitive to dissenting European states – including Cyprus, Romania, Spain, and Slovakia – which are worried about a separatist precedent. An EU donors conference for Kosovo, originally scheduled for March, has been pushed to June.
Le Monde, the leading French daily, yesterday called the mission "the most important [the EU] has ever decided on in the political realm of security and defense."
In Pristina, the mechanics of independence went more smoothly than many ordinary Kosovars and officials here had dared to hope. No violence was reported.
"We have been waiting for centuries for this day to come. I'm so happy that Kosovo is now the world's newest country," says Safet Haxhijaha, one of a group of men wearing T-shirts proclaiming Kosovo "The World's 193rd State."