(AFP) – Feb 28, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States on Thursday voiced its absolute opposition to any move to partition Kosovo, the Serbian province which has declared independence.
Tensions have been running high since the Albanian-majority in Kosovo declared independence on February 17, and there have been suggestions of a possible partition of northern Kosovo, where some 40,000 ethnic Serbians live.
But a top State Department official said Washington, which has supported independence for the southern Serbian province, would not tolerate such a move.
"We absolutely oppose the partition of Kosovo. And the great majority of countries around the world are not going to stand for that," said Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.
Burns echoed the comments of European Union special representative for Kosovo, Pieter Feith, who said earlier in the day in Vienna that there would be no partition.
"We would not support and tolerate any moves toward partition, either de facto partition or creeping partition ... or de jure partition," said Burns said, the State department's number three. "We will not support it."
In Vienna, Feith addressed the first meeting of a new international steering group for Kosovo, comprising 15 countries which have recognized the new state.
"There will be no partition of the country, that's not foreseen," Feith told the group overseeing Kosovo's transition to independence.
Belgrade has said it would challenge the independence move at the International Court of Justice.
"Let me tell you loud and clear: for as long as Serbia is, Kosovo shall never be," Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers in Sofia.
But Burns warned Serb nationalists not to "forget the history, what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s."
Kosovo came under UN control in mid-1999 after a NATO bombing campaign drove out forces loyal to Serbia's late strongman Slobodan Milosevic who had been waging a crackdown on separatist Albanian guerrillas.
"It really is quite curious to see these continued ... invectives from the government of Belgrade about what is happening in Kosovo," Burns said.
"Because of that history, the United Nations took Kosovo away from Serbia in June of 1999," Burns said.
"Now the United States and all of Europe, with very few exceptions, are strongly supporting the independence of Kosovo. With good reason: because we have not forgotten the history of what happened there."
So far 21 countries in the world -- including 12 out of the 27 members of the European Union -- have recognized Kosovo's independence.
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