Albania has said it wants to be the first country to recognise an independent Kosovo. The declaration came in a speech by president Bamir Topi on his first visit to the breakaway province since taking office last July. Kosovo’s declaration of independence is only a question of time – diplomats believe it could come in February or March. According to prime minister Hacim Thaci, it could be a matter of days.
On a visit to Brussels, he has been holding talks with a number of senior figures including EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana and NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Both NATO and the EU plan to send extra peacekeeping troops to Kosovo once independence is declared.
Still a part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999, when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces, putting an end to the killing of ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population. Washington and Brussels are expected to recognise independence, overruling opposition from Serbia and its Russian ally.