Azerbaijan says not recognizing Kosovo independence

BAKU Mon Feb 18, 2008 7:00am EST

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BAKU (Reuters) - Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan said on Monday it did not recognize Kosovo's declaration of independence.

"We view this illegal act as being in contradiction with international law," said Khazar Ibrahim, head of the press service at Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry.

"Proceeding from this, Azerbaijan's position is clear: it does not recognize (Kosovo's) independence."

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Sunday. The United States and most members of the European Union are expected to grant recognition soon.

Azerbaijan has been trying to restore control over its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where ethnic Armenian separatists threw off Azeri rule in a war in the 1990s that killed about 35,000 people.

The separatists' foreign minister said on Sunday Kosovo's independence would help Nagorno-Karabakh's drive for international recognition.

Azerbaijan has 34 troops serving in the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR.

(Reporting by Lada Yevgrashina; Additional reporting by Matt Robinson in Pristina; Writing by Christian Lowe)

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