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Kosovo Declares Independence

Kosovo Declares Independence
Kosovo Declares Independence

The United States has formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. In its declaration of independence, Kosovo committed itself to democratic principles, including freedom, tolerance, and justice for citizens of all ethnic background. "These are principles," said President George W. Bush, "that honor human dignity, they are values America looks for in a friend."

In late 1998, former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic unleashed a brutal military campaign against over ninety percent of ethnic Albanians and other non-Serbs who lived in Kosovo. Fueled by religious prejudice and economic designs, Belgrade's forces sought to obtain Kosovo by driving massive numbers of ethnic Albanians from their homes or having them killed by Serbian troops. These atrocities provoked extensive international condemnation and diplomatic intervention, followed by a military response from NATO. In June 1999, President Milosevic capitulated. International forces, led by NATO, restored peace in Kosovo and the surviving refugees returned home.

The U.N. Security Council then mandated the removal of any remaining Serbian government presence from Kosovo and put the territory under international administration. With U.N. guidance, Kosovo strengthened its self-government institutions, holding several rounds of elections and preparing for independence. In 2007, after sixteen months of diplomacy, U.N. Special Envoy Martii Ahtisaari concluded that keeping Kosovo indefinitely under U.N. administration would retard its economic and political development and encourage extremism. He developed a compromise plan for Kosovo endorsed by the E.U. and many other countries.

U.S. recognition of Kosovo reflects the acceptance by Kosovar leaders of a period of international supervision and the implementation of a plan for extensive protections for minority rights. It also will ensure that the progress made in Kosovo will not unravel.

The United States regrets that, despite years of intense negotiations, Serbia was adamantly opposed to the only viable proposal to resolve Kosovo's status. Nevertheless, the U.S. would like to reaffirm its friendship with Serbia.

"The independence of Kosovo," said President Bush, "is a historic step for the Balkans region. It presents an opportunity to move beyond the conflicts of the past and toward a future of freedom and stability and peace."