Kosovo to Gaza and Beyond
Last week, in a widely anticipated move that had the approval, if not the blessing, of the United States, Canada, and every country in Europe except Russia and Serbia, the governing authorities in Pristina, Kosovo, declared their independence from Serbia.
This is not the first time in modern history that Kosovo has made a bid for freedom. In 1981, Yugoslavian armed forces put down the stirrings of rebellion, only to see the complete collapse of the Yugoslav state in the 1990.s. As part of this disintegration, the majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo declared their independence from Slav-dominated Serbia that, by then, was ruled by Slobodan Milosevic, who many regard as responsible for the collapse of the Yugoslav state
Relations between Belgrade and the Kosovo capital of Pristina went downhill steadily until 1998 when attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army drove Milosevic to direct a more punitive military and police response to the activities of Kosovar military units became more aggressive in responsible problem. By 1998, the world – particularly the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, none of which intervened while all sides in the Bosnian civil war committed war crimes against each other – concurred that “atrocities” were being committed against ethnic Albanian Kosovar civilians and members of the Kosovar Liberation Army.
After eleven weeks of aerial attacks that destroyed significant parts of the Serb infrastructure and government facilities, Kosovo became a “ward” of the UN. After nine years of fruitless negotiation, the Kosovo parliament – at least those present in Pristina – followed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and voted February 17th to declare the province’s independence.
The reaction in Belgrade was sharp. Serbia’s Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica vowed that his country would follow every course open to it short of armed intervention to compel the break-away province to reverse course.
This declaration comes one month after another group – or more accurately, sub-group – rebelled against punitive conditions imposed on it by an occupation force. Last month, the 12 kilometer “border” wall erected by Israel along the Egyptian-Gaza Strip border was breached by Hamas militants. The floodgates were opened, relieving in the short-term the pent up emotions of those living in the Gaza Strip and complicating Egypt’s stance and standing in the region.
The “peace talks” between Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert further complicate this situation and differentiate it from Kosovo.