June 15, 2006

Serbia recognizes Montenegro, offers friendship

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia finally recognized Montenegro's
independence on Thursday almost a month after its old partner
voted in a referendum to dissolve their joint state.

Despite the delay, Belgrade indicated the separation would
be friendly, in line with Western hopes.

Serbia's recognition is only a formality. But its amicable
tone is certain to be welcomed by the West, which was alarmed
by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's initial grudging
acceptance and comment that there would be no "velvet divorce."

"Conditions have been met for the Serbian government...to
recognize the Republic of Montenegro and to establish
diplomatic ties, which contributes to development of friendly
and good neighborly relations," the statement said.

It said Montenegrins who live in Serbia could get Serbian
citizenship and Montenegrin students would have the same rights
as those from Serbia, dispelling fears they would have to pay
higher fees as foreigners.

Serbia's recognition comes after that of the European
Union, Russia, China, the United States and most Balkan

Montenegro voted in a May 21 referendum to end an 88-year
partnership with Serbia, completing the breakup of the former