Japan recognizes Kosovo independence from Serbia

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan recognized Kosovo’s independence on Tuesday, a month after the majority Albanian region declared secession from Serbia with the backing of the United States and most European Union states.

“We hope that the independence of Kosovo will contribute to the long-term stability of the region,” Japan’s Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said in a statement.

Komura also said Japan hopes to maintain positive relations with Belgrade despite Serbia’s continued opposition to Kosovo’s independence, which was declared on February 17.

“Our country has traditionally been on friendly terms with Serbia, and by this recognition of Kosovo it is not our intention to disturb our relations with Serbia,” he said.

Backed by its ally Russia, Serbia has rejected Kosovo’s secession as well as its recognition by the United States and a majority of the EU’s 27 members, including Italy, France and Germany.

Around 120,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo among 2 million ethnic Albanians. Almost half live in the north, where ethnic Serbs have clashed with United Nations police and NATO peacekeepers this week.

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