kosovo celebration 224.
(photo credit: AP)
highest court declared Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from
Serbia to be legal on Thursday.
NATO-led troops increased their presence Thursday in the Serb-controlled
part of Mitrovica.
The nonbinding opinion by the
International Court of Justice sets the stage for Kosovo to renew its
appeals for further international recognition. The tiny Balkan country
has been recognized by 69 countries, including the United States and
most European Union nations. It needs 100 for full statehood.
historic victory should not be felt as loss in Belgrade," Kosovo Prime
Minister Hashim Thaci said, calling the ruling "the best possible answer
for the entire world." Kosovo's foreign minister, Skender Hyseni, said
upon leaving the court, "my message to the government of Serbia is 'Come
and talk to us.'"
Serbia quickly denounced the ruling and vowed
it would never recognize Kosovo as separate.
The opinion — passed
in a 10-4 vote by court judges read by court president Hisashi Owada —
says international law contains "no ... prohibition of declarations of
independence" and therefore Kosovo's declaration "did not violate
general international law."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
will forward the advisory opinion to the General Assembly "which had
requested the court's advice and which will determine how to proceed on
this matter," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
secretary-general strongly encourages the parties to engage in a
constructive dialogue," Nesirky told reporters at UN headquarters in
New York. "The secretary-general urges all sides to avoid any steps that
could be seen as provocative and derail the dialogue."
President Boris Tadic said that Serbia will propose to the assembly in
September a resolution on Kosovo that will represent a "compromise"
between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians.
"The only sustainable
solution is the one accepted by all sides," Tadic said.
United States said the ruling was "a judgment we support," according to
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "Now it is time for Europe to
unite behind a common future."
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk
Jeremic warned, however, that the ruling could encourage separatist
movements elsewhere around the world who would now be "tempted to write
declarations of independence" in line with the court's ruling.
will never recognize the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's
independence," Jeremic told reporters on the steps of the court's Peace
Palace headquarters in The Hague.
He said Serbia would continue
to "fight" for Kosovo by peaceful means, including in the UN.
times are ahead ... but it is crucial that our people don't react to
any possible provocations," Jeremic said, amid fears that angered
ultranationalist might trigger violence in Serbia and Kosovo. They set
the US Embassy in Belgrade on fire when Kosovo declared independence
Kosovo sparked sharp debate worldwide when it seceded
from Serbia in 2008, following a bloody 1998-99 war with Serbia and
nearly a decade of international administration.
Russia have led opposing countries in condemning Kosovo's statehood,
with Serbs arguing it has been the cradle of their civilization and
national identity since 1389, when a Christian army led by Serbian
Prince Lazar lost an epic battle to invading Ottoman forces.
ultranationalist Radical Party said the court "gravely violated"
international law, and called on the government to demand an urgent
session of the UN Security Council to end the EU peacekeeping mission
And in Kosovo's divided northern city of Mitrovica,
Kosovo Serb Tihomir Markovic called the ruling shameful.
is on our side, God is on our side," he said. "After this it will be
hard for us — the Serbs in Kosovo."
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the
ruling would not affect the role of the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force
in Kosovo, known as KFOR.
"KFOR will continue to implement its mandate to maintain a safe and
secure environment in an impartial manner throughout Kosovo, for the
benefit of all communities, majority and minority alike," he said.