[JURIST] The Assembly of Kosovo [official website] on Sunday declared the disputed territory independent [recorded video via BBC News] from Serbia, formally marking the erstwhile Serbian province's bid to become "an independent, democratic and sovereign state." Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci [official website, in Albanian; BBC profile], President Fatmir Sejdiu [official website, in Albanian] and members of parliament overwhelmingly approved the Declaration of Independence [text] which called for the creation of a "democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law." Thaci signed and sent 192 letters to nations around the world requesting that they recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo [JURIST news archive], now overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Albanians with only a small minority of Serbs, expects recognition by the US and several other European powers when all EU foreign ministers convene in Brussels on Monday.
Kosovo's decision to declare unilateral independence and to appeal directly to the US and European powers for recognition has generated fierce criticism from Serbia and Russia. The Serbian government, which immediately denounced the unilateral declaration as illegal [press release], formally condemned the proposed secession [text; JURIST report] last Thursday as null and void and in violation of "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the United Nations Charter, Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999), other relevant Security Council Resolutions as well as by international law in force." Russia also rejected the declaration, warning that such unilateral action without the approval of the United Nations sets a dangerous precedent for "frozen conflicts" around the world. So far, three EU states – Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia – have said they will not recognize an independent Kosovo. The UN Security Council [official website] announced it would hold an emergency session [AP report] on Sunday afternoon at the request of Russian diplomats. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.