Kosovo declared 'fully independent'

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, (r) handshakes with International Civilian Representative, Pieter Feith Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (r) called the decision a 'historic turnaround' for the state

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Western powers overseeing Kosovo have announced the end of their supervision of the tiny Balkan nation.

Kosovo had been overseen by a group made up of 23 EU countries, the US and Turkey since 2008, when it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia.

US President Barack Obama said Monday marked a "historic milestone" for Kosovo, which he said had made "significant progress".

But Serbia dismissed the sovereignty announcement as meaningless.

It does not recognise the secession of Kosovo and regards it as part of Serbia.

"The supervision of Kosovo is finished," Dutch diplomat Pieter Feith, the highest international representative in Kosovo, told a press conference.

"The International Steering Group has decided to end the period of [Kosovo's] supervised independence," he said, speaking in Albanian.

Turnaround

Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci called the decision a "historic turnaround" for the state.

"This is an international success for Kosovo which confirms that the international community respects Kosovo," he said.

He acknowledged that there was still work to be done, above all integrating the Serb majority in northern Kosovo, which is out of the ethnic-Albanian government's control.

A Nato-led peacekeeping force in charge of security and a European mission on the rule of law will continue to operate in the country.

But Mr Obama said that the state had already made great strides.

"With the optimism, energy and determination characteristic of its people, Kosovo has made significant progress in solidifying the gains of independence and in building the institutions of a modern, multi-ethnic, inclusive and democratic state," he said.

More than 90 countries, including the US and most of the EU, have recognised Kosovo.

However many others, such as Russia, Georgia and China, have refused to do so. Some fear encouraging secessionist movements in their own countries.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic stressed Belgrade would never recognise Kosovo's independence "supervised or unsupervised", and dismissed the decision as meaningless.

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