February 19, 2008 / 4:37 AM / 12 years ago

Australia recognizes Kosovo independence

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia formally recognized Kosovo as an independent republic on Tuesday and said it expected a number of other countries to soon follow suit.

“Australia respects the decision of the people of Kosovo,” Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement on Tuesday, adding Australia would now look to set up formal diplomatic relations with Kosovo.

“It has been a long and difficult road to peace for Kosovo since the devastating conflict in the late 1990s.”

Australia accepted 4,000 refugees from Kosovo in late 1999 at the height of the ethnic violence, which followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, but most returned to Kosovo the following year after the violence abated.

Smith said Australia joined the United States and Britain, which have signaled they would recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty, and said a number of other countries were also set to support Kosovo’s independence.

“Much remains to be done, and it is important that the international community, in particular the United Nations and European Community, continue efforts to bring about a lasting peaceful future for Kosovo and the region,” he said.

Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by David Fogarty

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