Priština "declared independence legally" - U.S. embassy

BELGRADE -- "The Kosovo parliament declared the independence of Kosovo from Serbia in a legitimate democratic process under UN administration," says the U.S. embassy.

This happened "after all other options were exhausted," a statement added late last week.

The U.S. embassy in Serbia reacted after Tanjug asked for a comment on a recent statement by U.S. President Barack Obama that "an independence referendum" took place in Kosovo in 2008 - a claim that Russia said it found "astonishing."

Asked by Tanjug if they could comment on Obama’s recent statement that Kosovo broke away from Serbia only after a referendum was organized there in line with international law and in cooperation with the UN and its neighbors, the U.S. embassy said:

“The president was referring to the unique situation in Kosovo in which independence emerged from many years of exhaustive negotiations and engagement led by the international community. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 established a special legal regime for Kosovo under UN administration and provided for a political process for determining Kosovo’s future status, which included the possibility of independence."

"Unlike Crimea, in Kosovo there was a legitimate democratic process, under UN Administration, that included a free and fair vote to constitute a representative Kosovo parliament, which legally declared independence, after other options were exhausted," the embassy said.

On Wednesday, Obama gave a 40-minute speech in front of about 2,000 guests at the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, accusing Russia of twisting facts concerning the Crimea issue when it said Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence was a precedent.

“NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years. Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized – not outside the boundaries of international law but in careful cooperation with the United Nations, and with Kosovo’s neighbors,” Obama said then.

“None of that even came close to happening in Crimea,” said the U.S. president, stating that Russia's leaders defend their actions claiming that Kosovo was a precedent and an example of Western interference in the internal matters of a small country.

The Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo stated in a release on Thursday that the unilateral declaration of independence was in fact done "during a meeting of the so-called assembly of Kosovo on February 17, 2008, and no referendum on it had been taken in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija prior to that."

A provisional UN administration was set up in KiM after the 1999 NATO air campaign against of Serbia, when Serbian forces left the southern Serbian province acting in compliance with a military agreement that was signed in Kumanovo and UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Under the resolution, talks were supposed to be led on a highest level of autonomy for the southern Serbian province. Serbia insisted on this option but it has never even been considered.

On the contrary, under the UN interim administration and a tacit consent from the U.S. and leading Western countries, the ethnic Albanians gradually created their own institutions and eventually, on February 17, 2008, unilaterally and unconstitutionally declared the independence unrecognized by Serbia, Tanjug reported.