By Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA (Reuters) - Egypt has become the 100th country to recognize Serbia's former province of Kosovo as independent, the Pristina government said on Wednesday, a milestone for the Balkan country's pursuit of full international acceptance.
"The oldest state in the world, Egypt, has officially recognized now the youngest state in Europe - Kosovo," Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj said on Twitter.
A ministry official said this was the 100th recognition since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 with the backing of the West. The country of 1.7 million people is also recognized by the United States and 22 of the European Union's 27 member-states.
Kosovo's government hopes Egyptian recognition will spur other Muslim nations to accept the country as sovereign.
Serbia does not accept the secession of land it considers central to Serb identity and faith. Russia, a Serbian ally and U.N. Security Council veto-holder, has so far thwarted Kosovo's hopes of joining the United Nations.
Serbia lost control of the territory in 1999, when NATO bombed for 11 weeks to halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces trying to crush a guerrilla insurgency.
This year, Belgrade has bowed to pressure from the European Union to cooperate with Kosovo, seeking the reward of membership talks that the bloc said this week would begin by January.
The Egyptian decision follows an EU-brokered deal in April to improve ties between Serbia and Kosovo, with Belgrade agreeing to cede de facto control of a small Serb pocket in the north of the majority-Albanian state.
(Editing by Matt Robinson and Andrew Heavens)