Kosovo: country celebrates six years of independence

Solemn parliamentary hearing. Well wishes from Obama, Napolitano

17 February, 11:38

    (ANSAmed) - PRISTINA, FEBRUARY 17 - Kosovo is celebrating on Monday its sixth anniversary of independence from Serbia, an anniversary which will be remembered with a solemn hearing of Parliament scheduled midday in Pristina. A total of 106 countries out of the 193 represented within the UN have so far recognized Kosovo as an independent country, including the US and 23 of the European Union's 28 members, including Italy. Among EU's members Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus don't recognize Kosovo.

    Serbia remains opposed to Pristina's independence, supported in particular by Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council.

    Belgrade however, with the mediation of the EU, started talks with Pristina which culminated in an historic agreement over the normalization of relations. The event paved the way to Serbia's EU membership talks which started on January 21. Brussels also awarded Kosovo, setting the groundwork for the definition of a Stabilization and Association agreement with Pristina, a first step to get closer to the EU.

    On Monday morning the president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, and the prime minister, Hashim Thaci, deposed a garland of flowers on the tombs of Ibrahim Rugova, the first president of Kosovo, and Adem Jasari, the first commander of Kosovo's liberation forces. Celebrations with concerts, gatherings and fireworks have been scheduled throughout the day.

    A number of world leaders sent well wishes including US President Barack Obama, Queen Elisabeth of Britain and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

    Kosovo's declaration of independence ten years ago came after the end of the 1998-1999 conflict between Albanian separatists with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Serbian army, which claimed some 13,000 lives.

    In order to force the strongman of the Yugoslavian regime Slobodan Milosevic to end his policy of repression and ethnic cleansing against the Albanian population and withdraw troops from Kosovo, Nato decided in the spring of 1999 to carry out air raids against Serbia.

    In June 1999 some 50,000 NATO soldiers with the KFOR task force- currently 6,000 - entered Kosovo, which was under international protection. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and EU rule of law mission EULEX are still operating there.

    The first countries to recognize the independence proclaimed by Pristina on February 17, 2008, were Afghanistan, the US, France, Albania, Turkey and Great Britain.(ANSAmed).

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