Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bosnia's Serbs may seek to take lead from Kosovo


Allies of Kosovo hailed the ruling but insisted it did not set a legal precedent that would embolden separatist groups worldwide, while Serbia vowed to never accept the independence of its former southern province, which formally proclaimed sovereignty in 2008 after nine years under UN control.SUPPORTERS AND opponents of Kosovo’s independence have dug in their heels after the International Court of Justice ruled that its status was legal, while the leader of Bosnia’s Serbs suggested the verdict could encourage a bid for sovereignty by his region.

As Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority celebrated, and Serbia seethed, the most alarming response came from Bosnian Serb prime minister Milorad Dodik, who said the decision could encourage his region to break away from Bosnia.

“An additional fight for a status that does not breach international law, in line with the [World Court’s] opinion, is not excluded,” Mr Dodik said, after condemning a verdict that he claimed sent “a new message to the Serbs that the politics of violence is successful”.

“It would be interesting to see the reaction of the international community if we declared independence.”

Mr Dodik has previously threatened to seek independence for Republika Srpska, in protest at western-backed efforts to strengthen Bosnia’s federal government in Sarajevo and break down divisions between its Serb and Muslim-Croat areas.

The United States and EU countries such as France, Germany and Britain were quick to welcome the ruling. “We call on all states to move beyond the issue of Kosovo’s status and engage constructively in support of peace and stability in the Balkans, and we call on those states that have not yet done so to recognise Kosovo,” said US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Brussels was “ready to facilitate a process of dialogue” between Serbia and Kosovo to help them move towards EU membership.

The five EU states that have not recognised Kosovo’s independence – Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus – suggested that the World Court ruling would have no effect on their position, as did Russia and China. Those countries fear separatism on their own territory, as do many other nations that looked askance at the court’s non-binding, advisory verdict.

“It has a special historical background . . . It is not a decision for other countries or other regions in the world,” German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle insisted during a visit to the divided island of Cyprus.

A brutal 1998-9 crackdown by Serb forces on Kosovo’s separatist rebels – which killed some 10,000 civilians – was ended by a Nato bombing campaign and subsequent UN administration.

Willem van Genugten, legal analyst at the Netherlands’ University of Tilburg, said that for separatist groups “the opinion is something that seems useful at first sight. But legally speaking it does not help them at all. The advisory opinion is restricted to Kosovo in more or less every paragraph, and the court avoids whatever implication for other minority groups.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Court Upholds Kosovo Independence: Now What?

Read more:,8599,2005996,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0uUwivxo5

Horns honked, flags waved and toasts were raised in Pristina on Thursday at the news that Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 was upheld by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. The ICJ, the U.N.'s highest court — albeit limited to advisory powers — said that there was "no applicable prohibition" of a declaration of independence from a sovereign territory like that made by Kosovo in 2008, leading court president Hisashi Owada to rule that the move, "did not violate general international law." The decision was hailed as a vindication in Pristina, but in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, it was forcefully rejected.

"This is a great day for Kosovo, and my message to the government of Serbia is, 'Come and talk to us,'" said Kosovo's Foreign Minister, Skender Hyseni, after leaving the court. But Serbia insists it will never recognize what it called a "unilateral declaration of independence of the ethnic-Albanian authorities of our southern province." Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic had a different interpretation of the ruling, saying, "Today, in the courtroom, we did not hear that anyone had a right to secede."

The contrast in reactions was predictable: the tiny, landlocked Balkan territory of 2 million people has been a site of centuries-old tension between Serbs and Albanians, flaring up dramatically in 1999 when a NATO air campaign drove a rampaging Serbian army out of Kosovo. Although the territory was legally part of Serbia, its ethnic-Albanian majority had been agitating for independence, and the Serb authorities had responded with a campaign of ethnic cleansing. After the NATO intervention, Kosovo became a protectorate of first the U.N. and NATO, and then of the European Union.,8599,2005996,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Thursday, July 22, 2010

FACTBOX-Serbia challenges Kosovo independence
21 Jul 2010 22:31:41 GMT
Source: Reuters
July 22 (Reuters) - The World Court rules on Kosovo's unilateral secession from Serbia on Thursday, a case that could have implications for separatist movements around the globe, as well as Belgrade's stalled EU membership talks. For a related news story, please click on [ID:nLDE66K20X] Here are some details of relations between the two: * THE COURT CASE: -- Serbia asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to give an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's independence declaration. -- Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the Balkan state hoped the court's ruling would help Belgrade stop more countries recognising Kosovo and force Pristina to re-enter talks on its future. It has been recognised by 69 countries. * HISTORY: -- Kosovo became part of the Kingdom of Serbia in the early 13th century, with a mixed population of Serbs, Albanians and Vlachs. The Nemanjic dynasty made it the spiritual heartland of Serbia, giving lands to the Orthodox Church and building monasteries that stand today. -- Many Serbs left in the 500 years after the Ottoman Empire defeated the Serbs at the 1389 Battle of Kosovo while the Albanians grew in number. Mutual expulsions and migrations to and from Albania in the early 20th century changed Kosovo's makeup. * VIOLENCE & WAR: -- Ethnic tensions escalated in the 1980s as Yugoslavia began to crumble and economic conditions deteriorated. Populist Slobodan Milosevic used Serb nationalism as a springboard to power in 1989, restricting Albanian rights in education and local government. -- Strikes, protests and violence led to Belgrade declaring a state of emergency in 1990. Albanians demanded independence in renegade elections in 1992 when pacifist leader Ibrahim Rugova was elected president of a self-declared republic. -- After sticking to a policy of passive resistance for years, Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas launched an armed rebellion in the late 1990s, prompting a brutal crackdown by the Yugoslav army and police. -- NATO powers warned Milosevic they would not tolerate another round of "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans following the 1992-5 Bosnian war. Peace talks on Kosovo in France failed and in March 1999 NATO started bombing Serbia to force it to withdraw its forces from Kosovo. -- Some 800,000 ethnic Albanians fled or were expelled to Macedonia and Albania before Milosevic gave in 78 days later. As his forces pulled out and NATO took over, up to 200,000 Serbs and other ethnic minorities left as well. * FROM LIMBO TO INDEPENDENCE: -- The two communities -- some two million Albanians and 120,000 Serbs -- have lived separately since 1999, deeply suspicious and occasionally hostile to each other. -- Albanian impatience for independence and discontent with the United Nations mission running the territory resulted in bursts of violence against the Serb minority. -- The West decided the situation was unsustainable. After almost two years of Serb-Albanian negotiations ended in failure, Kosovo declared independence in February 2008. -- "Serbia will never, under any circumstances, implicitly or explicitly, recognise the unilateral declaration of independence of the ethnic-Albanian authorities of our southern province," President Boris Tadic told the U.N. General Assembly in September 2009. -- Serbia has been leaning on Russia to block Kosovo's entry into the United Nations and other international bodies. It is backing the Serb minority in boycotting the new state and its Albanian authorities, deepening its de facto partition. * KOSOVO NOW: -- Kosovo has established a new constitution, its own army, national anthem, passports, identity cards, intelligence agency and has opened its first embassies, mostly in Western countries. -- Kosovo joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank last June, a move it hopes will strengthen political confidence and lead more countries to recognise it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Israeli Exercise in the Aegean

Israel will conduct a large scale aerial refuelling exercise over the Aegean between the 18th and 19th of July. The exercise was agreed between the Greek and Israeli governments. It is the first time that such manoeuvres take place which seem to be aimed at practising Combat Search And Rescue far behind enemy lines. The exercise could also be aimed at transporting Special Forces far into enemy territory to act as target designators. The target, obviously, seems to be Iran.

Greek Forces will have no direct involvement with the exercise. The exercise itself will involve C-130 aircraft configured as tankers and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters as the transports. The entire exercise is veiled in secrecy on the one hand due to the recent events with the Gaza aid flotilla as well as due to its special nature. The route the aircraft will likely take extends from the Athens – Nicosia FIR boundaries via the northwest of Karpathos and from there northeast Aghion Oros.

According to Defence Ministry sources there is also a preliminary agreement to repeat the recent Minos 2010 exercise between Greece and Israel which was interrupted last May due to the events surrounding the Gaza aid flotilla. This is pending approval from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Journalist gunned down in Athens

Ballistics tests on cartridges collected from the crime scene have linked the dawn shooting of journalist Socrates Giolias to the terror group "Revolutionaries' Sect", police announced on Monday.

The ambush killing was quickly condemned by the country's political leaders.

Giolias, 37, general director of the private Thema 98.9 FM radio station and long-time former associate of investigative journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos, was riddled with bullets outside his home in Ilioupolis by unidentified individuals in the early hours of Monday morning.

A ballistics investigation of cartridges collected from the scene of the shooting revealed that both weapons have been used in all three past attacks by the terror group "Revolutionaries' Sect".

Police found a total of 16 9mm cartridges, of which 13 came from the same gun used in the June 2009 murder of 41-year-old counter-terrorism police officer Nektarios Savvas, who was gunned down in Patissia while guarding a key female witness in the trial of the urban guerrilla group "Revolutionary Popular Struggle". The woman had been in a witness protection programme since 2002. Officer Savvas was also riddled with bullets in the attack.

The remaining three were fired from a different 9mm pistol that had also been used in the Patissia attack, as well as in the armed attack on Korydallos police station in February 3 2009 and an attack on Alter television station on February 17 the same year.

The cartridges fired by the specific gun are also a match for a cartridge found on the gravestone of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a teenage boy shot by two police guards in December 2008, on the day after the attack on the Korydallos police station, along with a proclamation claiming responsibility for the specific attack.

According to a statement to police by Giolias' wife, an unknown man rang the doorbell of their second-floor apartment at about 5:20 a.m. and when Giolias opened the door the man told him that the alarm of his car, parked outside the apartment building, had gone off.

When Giolias descended to the building entrance where he had parked his car, the gunmen were waiting in ambush and shot him several times as he came out of the elevator, killing him on the spot.

The perpetrators, tentatively believed to be three, fled in a car.

At around 7:00 a.m. a burned car was found approximately 1.5 kilometers from the murder scene, and police believe it was the killers' getaway car. The car had been stolen from nearby Alimos two days earlier (Saturday, July 7) and its theft had been reported by the owner to the local police station.

The motives of the killing are still unknown, and police are examining all possibilities.

According to an eye-witness account, the perpetrators were at least three and were wearing uniforms, possibly of a security company or the municipal police.

Based on the method used and ferocity of the attack, police initially surmised that it was a contract killing, since the attack was well-organised.

Giolias' wife, who has suffered an intense shock, and the couple's 3-year-old child were in the apartment at the time of the killing.