Why Turkey recognized Kosovo
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The bloodiest fighting of the post-Cold War era happened during the dividing-up process of Yugoslavia. The independence of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovina and finally Montenegro were recognized one by one. Kosovo had not been part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but an independent region attached to Serbia, like Tatarstan and Chechnia were in Russia. Consequently, it had had no right to separate from Serbia in principle.
However, the Serbian massacres and atrocities in Kosovo to put down the independence movement in 1999 forced NATO to intervene by air operations. Serbian forces that were forced to retreat were replaced by a U.N. administration and NATO force. In addition, the UN Security Council decision of June 10, 1999 granted Kosovo the right to autonomy and self-determination, as it also put UN members under the obligation to respect the hegemony and territorial integrity of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in other words, today's Serbia.
The passion for independence:
A lot has happened since 1999. The passion for independence in the U.N.-protected Kosovo grew stronger each day, helping to spread the belief that Kosovo could no longer be abandoned to Serbia's hegemony. Serbia was pushed more and more into international isolation. In the end, the U.S. and the EU became convinced that Kosovo inevitably had to become an independent state under U.N. supervision. They were also hoping that the attraction of full EU membership would be enough to remove the edge of Serbian resistance to this decision.
A committee lead by the special U.N. envoy and former Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari prepared a plan for the transformation of Kosovo into an independent state under international supervision. However, when Serbia rejected this plan despite the interference of Ahtisaari and of other U.N. representatives, the U.S. and some EU countries gave Kosovo the green light to take the initiative to declare its independence. Following the declaration of independence on Feb. 17, the U.S., some EU countries and Turkey recognized the new state while Serbia, Russia, China, Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Greek Cyprus refused to recognize Kosovo's independence.
Even if the independence of Kosovo were to be recognized by a great number of states, it still cannot join the U.N. at this stage, for the Security Council cannot accept new members without a General Assembly recommendation. China and Russia will be able to exercise their veto rights, which means that Kosovo has to wait for a long time to acquire the full independence status. Its economy is fragile in spite of the $ 2 billion aid it has received since 1999. It's rate of poverty and unemployment is as high as 40 percent, but it's potentially rich in lead, zinc, cobalt, silver and gold mines, and has the second largest lignite reserves in Europe.
Iraq, Cyprus and Karabagh:
Almost all of the states that are reluctant to recognize Kosovo have problems with separatist movements or potentially dangerous minorities. As for Greek Cyprus, supported by Greece, it fears that Kosovo's independence will set a precedent for the Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus (TRNC). What pushed Turkey into being among the first to recognize Kosovo despite the risk of starting a long-term tension in its relations with Serbia? Could it be largely due to the fact that it would constitute a precedent for northern Cyprus? I don't think so, for the balances that surround the Cyprus issue vary greatly from those of Kosovo.
On the other hand, Kosovo's independence could really set a precedent for the possible independence of north Iraq or that of upper Karabagh. Turkey's urgency to recognize Kosovo probably originated from the fact that Muslims make up the majority of the Kosovo population and that the number of people of Kosovan origin living in Turkey is almost greater than that of Kosovo's population, apart from the increasing economic relations with Kosovo and the fact that the Kosovo Turks also want an independent Kosovo. Time will show if this decision will entail some complications or not in the future.
The translation of İlter Türkmen's column was provided by Nuran İnanç. (firstname.lastname@example.org)