Friday, August 1, 2008

Briefly: Kosovo declares, Brownback in Baku, Turks in Kurdistan

This was first published in February 23, 2008 Armenian Reporter (note: for detailed Armenia election results see

United States, Europeans recognize Kosovo’s independence
Russia and China are opposed
by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – The United Nations–administered former Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence on February 17 and was recognized by the United States the following day. The United States was joined by the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey, and more than a dozen other states. Serbia, along with Russia and China, protested the move.

The United States has been pushing for an international consensus to grant Kosovo a transitional independent status under European Union control for over a year. But talks between Serbs and Kosovars, as well as those at the United Nations’ Security Council, have deadlocked.

Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority and borders on Albania, has been outside of Belgrade’s control since a 1999 U.S.- led war that expelled Serbian forces
accused of ethnic cleansing President George W. Bush acknowledged international disagreements on the issue but argued that “history will prove this to be the correct move,” The AP reported on February 19. He added he believes the solution to the status issue would help ensure regional peace.

Undersecretary of State Nick Burns, one of the architects of the Bush administration’s Kosovo policy, said that the United States is committing $334 million in additional assistance to Kosovo, which has a population of about two million.

U.S. officials have taken pains to describe Kosovo’s independence, bypassing international law, as a unique case that would not necessarily be repeated elsewhere.

But the declaration of independence and its subsequent recognition by several major world powers nevertheless sets a precedent: the U.S. and its allies have recognized the independence of a breakaway region (Kosovo) despite opposition from its
former ruler (Serbia) and important international players (Russia and to a lesser extent China).

Some states were clearly worried. Unlike its ally Turkey, Azerbaijan has so far refused to recognize Kosovo, calling its declaration “illegal.” Armenian officials said they were following the developments in and around Kosovo, and have not ruled out recognition. Georgia’s president in turn appeared to have won assurances that Russia would not, for now at least, recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that have been de facto independent from Tbilisi since the early 1990s.

Serbia’s government recalled its ambassador to the United States and vowed not to recognize Kosovo, but ruled out a new military intervention into an area controlled by NATO and its partner peacekeeping forces, including a small contingent from Armenia.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets in Serbia’s capital Belgrade later in the week, at one point setting the evacuated U.S. embassy on fire, the Washington Post reported on February 21. But while protests and disagreements
continue, most Western observers considered Kosovo’s independence a done deal.

Washington briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

Sen. Brownback discusses “silk road” in Azerbaijan

Senator Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.), a veteran proponent of the U.S. role in Caspian energy development, became the second U.S. senator to visit Azerbaijan so far this year (see this page in the Jan. 19 Armenian Reporter).

Local media reported that in his talk at the country’s Diplomatic Academy, Mr. Brownback called for a “more active dialogue on several issues” between the U.S. and Azerbaijan.

He reportedly said that should bilateral relations strengthen, that would create an opportunity for a complete repeal of the currently waiverable Section 907 of the U.S. Freedom Support Act, which provides restrictions on U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s recently established Diplomatic Academy is led by the country’s former ambassador to the United States Hafiz Pashayev, who has been recruiting Western experts to work there.

Among recent hires as the academy’s director of research and publications is former U.S. official Paul Goble, who in the early 1990s proposed a territorial swap as a way to resolve the Karabakh conflict, the so-called Goble Plan.

Turkish ground forces resume Iraq operations

Several thousand Turkish military personnel, backed by warplanes and helicopters, re-entered northern Iraq on February 21 to fight anti-Turkey Kurdish forces based there, Turkish and international news agencies reported. A similar operation was undertaken last year, after the U.S. and Turkey agreed to jointly target Kurdish forces.

Iraqi officials downplayed the operation, suggesting that only a few hundred Turkish soldiers were involved.

The U.S. has urged Turkey to limit the operation to “precise targeting” of Kurdish rebels. “We were notified [of Turkey’s plans] and we urged the Turkish government
to limit their operations to precise targeting of the PKK, to limit the scope and duration of their operations,” White House spokesperson Scott Stanzel said on February 22.

Following disagreements over Iraq and particularly its Kurdish-populated north, the U.S. and Turkey appear to be acting in concert. Senior U.S. and Turkish military officials exchanged visits in recent weeks.

Next month, Vice President Dick Cheney, along with a large U.S. military delegation, is due to visit Ankara, Turkish media reported this week. The visit is expected to focus on issues related to Iraq, Iran,
and Afghanistan.

No comments: