UN court starts reading Kosovo breakaway verdict

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN's highest court started its verdict Thursday on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence, contested by Serbia, by finding it had the required jurisdiction to consider the case.

"The court ... considers that it has jurisdiction to give an advisory opinion in response to the request made by the (UN) General Assembly," International Court of Justice president Hisashi Owada said shortly after he started reading the text at 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

He added: "There are no compelling reasons for (the court) to decline to exercise its jurisdiction in the present request."

The reading, attended by dozens of international journalists at the court's seat at the Peace Palace in The Hague, is expected to take up to three hours.

Speaking in The Hague, Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic had earlier warned that all the world's borders would be at risk if the ICJ backed what he termed Kosovo's "secession".

Serbia also cautioned that no conclusions should be drawn before a "careful analysis" of the court's text.

The UN General Assembly, at Serbia's request, asked the ICJ in October 2008 to render an opinion on the legality of Kosovo's February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence.

So far, 69 countries have recognised Kosovo as independent, including the United States and 22 of the 27 EU countries. Serbia's ally, Russia, has not.

Belgrade has said it wants to continue negotiations on the status of Kosovo, but Pristina has declined.

Several thousand people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died in the 1998-99 war between separatist Kosovo Albanians and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's forces which ended when a NATO air campaign ousted the Serbs and established a UN protectorate.

NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo were ready for violence that may meet the ruling, although they did not expect any, their German commander said.

© 2010 AFP

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