BERLIN (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee’s provisional recognition of Kosovo will not have political consequences despite Serbia lodging an official protest, IOC President Thomas Bach said on Thursday.
The IOC on Wednesday surprisingly announced its recognition of the Balkan region with full membership set to follow in December.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a NATO air war to halt the massacre and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces waging a two-year counter-insurgency under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Belgrade rejects sovereignty for its former southern province, which has a majority Albanian population, and has attempted to block Kosovo’s international recognition.
Serbia’s position has been backed most notably by Russia and China.
“There will be different degrees of happiness in different parts of the world, that’s for sure,” Bach said in a conference call on Thursday.
“There are no concerns because we have had broad consultations for some time concerning this issue and the autonomy of the IOC is widely acknowledged.”
“By taking that decision we have just applied the Olympic Charter. I am not worried about these kinds of reactions.”
The IOC had said the territory met all criteria for recognition while also enjoying recognition from the international community with 108 of the 193 UN Member States having already done so.
The Serbian Olympic Committee, which late on Wednesday filed its protest with the IOC, has claimed Kosovo’s efforts for Olympic recognition were “unacceptable” with the IOC not even waiting for U.N. recognition before taking its decision.
Olympic membership through a national Olympic Committee allows athletes to compete in the summer and winter Games while also accessing IOC funds for the development of sport in their region.
There are currently 204 NOCs over five continents that includes nations as well as some territories.
Editing by Alan Baldwin