Macedonia, Kosovo exchange of ambassadors angers Serbia

12:31, October 20, 2009      

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Macedonia's decision to establish diplomatic ties with the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo has raised Belgrade's eyebrow, Macedonian local media reported Monday.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Sunday the move was "regrettable" and "there will be consequences."

He said the move would endanger Skopje's good neighborly relations with Belgrade, but restrained from specifying further actions that his country would take.

On Sunday, Macedonia's Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki issued a statement, saying the country decided to send its ambassador to Pristina, capital of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in February 2008.

Hours earlier, the parliaments of Macedonia and Kosovo ratifieda border agreement late Saturday night, ending a long dispute over the volatile region between the two sides.

Serbia strongly opposes Kosovo's independence, backed by the United States and most of western European countries, and sees Kosovo as part of its own territory.

Belgrade argues that the border Macedonia has with the province should have been agreed upon between Serbia and Macedonia.

Macedonia has been under pressure to establish diplomatic ties with Kosovo, since one quarter of Macedonian population are ethnic Albanians who are closely tied with their kinsmen in Kosovo, in which ethnic Albanian majority accounts for 90 percent of its 2 million people.

However, Macedonia has strong economic ties with both Serbia and Kosovo, and the loss of either would have a significant impact on its economy.

The Macedonia-Serbia border in the part with Kosovo was left unmarked, due to a long-standing spat between Belgrade and Pristina over who has jurisdiction over the Kosovo side of the border.

Following the 1999 NATO military campaign against Serbia, Belgrade lost effective control of the province and Kosovo became an international protectorate.

Macedonia recognized Kosovo's independence last October. However, Skopje demanded full demarcation of their mutual border before sending ambassador there.

The United States, Britain and the European Union praised the recent move by Macedonia and Kosovo as good for the stability of the Balkan region.

"This is good for both states and for the entire region," U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Philip Reeker told media on Sunday as a reaction to the border agreement.

"I congratulate both countries on this step forward that further enhances the stability of the region," the British Minister for Europe Chris Bryant said regarding the Macedonia-Kosovo deal.

EU Ambassador to Macedonia Erwan Fouere saw the move as reflection of "mutual trust and responsibility of both governments."

Albania also welcomed Macedonia's move.

Source: Xinhua
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