(dpa) - The Irish government has officially recognised the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said Friday.
Ahern, in a statement announcing the move, said he was aware that the independence declaration was "painful" for Serbia.
"I know that the independence of Kosovo is painful for Serbia, and difficult to accept," he said.
However, he stressed that the recognition of Kosovo was "not an act of hostility toward Serbia."
"I hope that Serbia and Kosovo can soon begin to put their tragic shared past behind them and move toward a brighter future together in Europe. I look forward to future friendly relations between Ireland and Kosovo," he said.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern speaking at the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) Wednesday stressed the EU's wish to deepen its relationship with Serbia and accelerate the country's path towards EU membership.
The Irish Taoiseach offered Irish support for international conflict solutions, citing the experience gained from Northern Ireland, where after decades of conflict, peace and democratic institutions have now been established.
This progress however, required "a willingness to take risks for peace and to step forward into a different, shared future, leaving behind the divisions of the past."
On February 17, the Kosovo assembly passed a resolution declaring it was an independent democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law.
A number of countries have already recognised Kosovo's independence, including the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.