PRISTINA (Reuters) - Europe’s major powers and the United States said on Monday they recognized Kosovo’s new independence, as Serbs reacted with anger and some states warned that its secession from Serbia set a dangerous precedent.
Serbian President Boris Tadic told the U.N. Security Council that unless it stopped Kosovo’s independence, it would tell the world that no country’s sovereignty and borders were safe.
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica ordered the immediate recall of Belgrade’s ambassador from Washington.
He said envoys would be recalled from other capitals that recognized Kosovo but did not mention by name Paris, which did so first after a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, nor London, Berlin and Rome, which followed.
“The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said — words Kosovo’s 2 million ethnic Albanians had long dreamed of hearing.
“In light of the conflicts of the 1990s, independence is the only viable option to promote stability in the region.”
Washington led NATO allies to bomb Serbia over its treatment of Kosovo Albanians in the 1998-99 guerrilla uprising.
Recognition was a relief for Pristina, which had nervously awaited the West’s expected blessing of its secession, but a black day for Serbia, which vowed never to concede the loss of a spiritual homeland steeped in myth.
“The recognition of Kosovo is as important as the declaration of independence,” Kosovo Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci told Reuters. “We are grateful.”
In Banja Luka, capital of the Bosnian Serb Republic, protesters demanding Serb independence from Bosnia threw stones at U.S., French and German consulates. They chanted “Kill, Kill Shiptars”, a pejorative name for Albanians.
Serbs marched peacefully in Belgrade, where riot police were on alert after Western embassies were attacked on Sunday night. A few Albanian-owned shops had their windows smashed, but there was no new rioting.
“I appeal to citizens to stop all protests which lead to violence and unrest, because that is not the way to help either Serbia or the defense of Kosovo,” Kostunica said, calling Serbs to a major rally on Thursday.
Around the globe, states with their own restless minorities are dubious or strongly critical of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence — Spain, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Sri Lanka and China among them.
Tadic asked the Council: “If you cast a blind eye to this illegal act, who guarantees to you that parts of your countries will not declare independence in the same illegal way?”
“Who can guarantee that a blind eye will not be cast to the violation of the charter of the United Nations, which guarantees the sovereignty and integrity of each state, when your country’s turn comes up?”
Russia stood by its ally Serbia in refusing recognition. Moscow has vowed never to allow Kosovo to win a U.N. seat. The West insists Kosovo is a “European issue” in which Russia should not interfere.
Turkey recognized Kosovo, a territory it ruled for 500 years in Ottoman times, and neighboring Albania — anxious not to be first, to avoid charges that it covets Kosovo — joined the list ready to send in their ambassadors.
Kosovo Albanians poured onto streets of the capital Pristina waving and kissing French, German, British, Italian and U.S. flags. Britain’s envoy in Kosovo announced an immediate upgrade to embassy status.
Spain, facing its own separatist struggles, led a minority of EU states saying “no” to independence, complaining the move had “no international legal basis”.
Italy, sensitive to Serbia’s sense of grievance, noted that it “recognizes Kosovo as an independent state under international supervision” — a reminder that Kosovo will remain under outside control, as it has been for the last nine years since NATO drove out Serb forces to protect ethnic Albanians.
“Around 17 (EU) states have decided to react quickly so as to avoid creating a vacuum with indecisive behavior,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Hungary joined or were joining the early recognizers.
The Czech Republic, Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and Slovakia were still making up their minds.
Romania’s parliament said outright it would not recognize Kosovo, in a reflection of fears the move will fuel separatist moves elsewhere in the Balkans.
The 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference congratulated Kosovo, whose Albanians are nominally Muslim.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Kosovo’s independence marked “the end of the Balkan troubles”. In Serbia’s capital, student Jelena had a different view.
“This country is getting smaller and smaller,” she said. “We are marching to show that we’re against it.”
Additional reporting by Matt Robinson, Ellie Tzortzi, Daria Sito-Sucic, Ivana Sekularac, Fatos Bytyci, Ingrid Melander, Paul Taylor, Mark John and David Brunnstrom; editing by Richard Meares and Andrew Roche