UN General Assembly backs Serbia's initiative on Kosovo

09/10/2008

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday (October 8th) adopted a Serbian resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to assess the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 09/10/08

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Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic called the UN vote "a big success" for Belgrade. [Getty Images]

On Wednesday (October 8th) the UN General Assembly, at Serbia's initiative, called for the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) opinion on the legality of Kosovo's February 17th declaration of independence.

Belgrade officials described passage of the initiative as a triumph for Serbian diplomacy, while Pristina politicians voiced disappointment but insisted Kosovo's independence is irreversible.

Serbia wants the ICJ to determine whether Kosovo's independence, declared unilaterally by Pristina, "is in line with international law". Representatives of 77 countries voted in favour. Six opposed it, and 74 abstained.

However, the court may take years to rule and its decisions are not binding for states. According to Belgrade officials, Serbia does not wish to sue the countries that have recognised Kosovo, because that would be contrary to its desire to quickly join the EU.

The UN General Assembly hosted a heated debate prior to passing the resolution. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rosemary DiCarlo said that Kosovo's independence complied with international law. British Ambassador to the UN Sir John Sawers said Serbia made its request "primarily for political rather than legal reasons".

However, the five EU countries that have not recognised Kosovo supported Serbia's initiative. Spanish representative Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo said the UN's stature in the international community made it "a matter of general interest" for the ICJ to assess something as important as Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic called the UN vote "a big success" for Belgrade. He expected tensions now to ease and "matters to be resolved in a far more peaceful atmosphere in the future".

Minister for Kosovo and Metohija Goran Bogdanovic said the outcome "confirms the validity of Serbia's struggle". According to him, Serbia's end goal is to resume status negotiations.

However, Kosovo officials dismissed such a possibility. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said "Kosovo's independence is irreversible."

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"We believe the review of this issue before the International Court of Justice will not prevent other countries from assessing constant progress in Kosovo and deciding to recognise its independence," President Fatmir Sejdiu said.

He added Kosovo plans to take an active part in the ICJ process and expects the court to be impartial and fair.

Southeast European Times correspondent Blerta Foniqi-Kabashi contributed to this report.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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