MOSCOW -- More and more countries are getting ready to recognize Kosovo's independence, but many are hesitant, including some Arab and Muslim countries despite Washington's appeals to display solidarity with Kosovo Muslims.
During a briefing on Kosovo after its declaration of independence, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns welcomed the recognition of this step by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and hence, by the governments of its member countries. He said: "And we think it is a very positive step that this Muslim state, Muslim majority state, has been created today."
It's up to the Europeans to decide whether Burns is right or not, but the U.S. and European media have many apprehensions over the emergence of a Muslim enclave in the heart of Europe that is still predominantly Christian. European self-identification is one of the most sensitive issues. It is being raised over and over again - during debates on the European Constitution, the prospects of Turkey's admission into the European Union (EU), migration, or the protests after the publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. These debates are a European affair, but Washington is using the Islamic factor to pursue its own ends.
Today, the most urgent issue is whether Kosovo will create a precedent for other territories. This is why many Muslim and other countries do not rush to accept Kosovo's independence. The United States hoped for Islamic solidarity, but in vain.
Only three OIC members - Turkey, Afghanistan and Senegal - have recognized Kosovo's independence out of almost 60 members of the organization. Others have adopted a wait-and-see attitude because of the potential threat of a domestic split, or destabilization in neighboring countries.
Let's name some of the potentially dangerous zones - Iran with Kurdish and Azerbaijani enclaves; Morocco and the Western Sahara problem with the periodic Berber unrest; and Algeria with the same Berber problem. There are sizeable Shiite communities in the Persian Gulf monarchies. Shiites account for 75% of Bahrain's population; the relevant figure for Saudi Arabia is about 15%, Qatar 11%, and the United Arab Emirates 17%.
Relations between these communities and the government are quite complicated. The situation in Syria is also potentially explosive. The situation only appears stable, but if the central government shows weakness, inter-communal conflicts will instantly flare up. However, events in Lebanon and Iraq are much more dangerous than that.
For the time being, no politician in these conflict-prone zones has loudly expressed readiness to follow Kosovo's example. This is not because it would not be entirely correct to compare them with Kosovo from the legal and political points of view. Kosovo's independence is threatening primarily because a decision on it was made without a UN Security Council resolution. It is solely based on the support of the United States and some European countries. In other words, political circumstances have prevailed over international law. Hence, others may follow Kosovo's example. Success will depend on what Washington wants to achieve. This gives food for thought to those who may follow this example and those who are afraid of separatist attitudes in their own countries.
It is no accident that the Kurds did not follow this path in the first days after Kosovo declared independence, although many analysts and journalists, including those from America and Turkey, have been discussing the Kurdish problem in this context. They are asking why the Kurds are denied what the Kosovars have been given.
The Kurdish problem is very similar to the Kosovo case, but the political situation does not favor the Kurds. For the most part, they live in four countries - Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. No matter how much Washington would like to get at Damascus and Tehran, it will not undermine the interests of Ankara, its long-standing ally and partner. Moreover, the Americans do not even interfere with Turkey's military operations against the "Kurdish separatists." As for the Iraqi Kurds, they themselves need U.S. support that guarantees security and brings tangible political and economic benefits. This is why the Kurds are not rushing to follow Kosovo's scenario, and Ankara has boldly recognized Kosovo's independence.
Unlike the Kurds, the Palestinians were not silent. Yasser Abd Rabbo, an advisor to head of the Palestinian National Administration Mahmoud Abbas, declared that the Palestinians may follow Kosovo's example and declare unilateral independence if dialogue with Israel does not produce the desired effect. His statement was instantly refuted by other high-ranking Palestinian politicians, including Abbas himself who favors continuing the talks.
But once again, it does not matter whether the situation in Kosovo is similar to that in the Middle East, although Washington is doing all it can to prove that the Kosovo case is truly unique. Everything is much simpler. Currently, the United States stands for the continuation of Palestinian-Israeli talks and insists on an early declaration of Palestine's independence. Under different circumstances, the Palestinians will recall the Kosovo case, and will be backed by other Arab and Muslim politicians.
For the time being, most governments are pondering over what will cost them more - recognition of Kosovo's independence or neutrality.
By Maria Appakova