UN's highest court to give verdict on Kosovo breakaway

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Serbia warned that all the world's borders would be at risk if the UN's highest court backed Kosovo's declaration of independence in a verdict due Thursday.

As Kosovo won support from Washington on the eve of the annoucement, its former rulers in Belgrade said the court would set a dangerous precedent if it endorsed the February 2008 declaration which came a decade after conflict.

"No frontier in the world and in the region would be safe" if the court supported Kosovo's "secession", Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said in The Hague ahead of the International Court of Justice's statement.

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

"This process ends with the UN General Assembly, which must confirm the opinion of the court and make a political conclusion about the road to be followed," the Tanjug news agency quoted Jeremic as saying.

US Vice President Joe Biden met Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci in Washington on Wednesday and "reaffirmed the United States' full support for an independent, democratic, whole and multi-ethnic Kosovo whose future lies firmly within European and Euro-Atlantic institutions," a White House statement said.

ICJ president Hisashi Owada will read the advisory opinion, which is not binding on any of the parties, at the court's seat at the Peace Palace in The Hague from 3:00 pm (1300 GMT).

The reading was expected to last up to three hours.

Analysts believe the court would treat the issue with some ambiguity to avoid setting a legal precedent for other minority groups.

"Because of the highly sensitive nature of this case, I believe the court will be very cautious," international law analyst Jean D'Aspremont of the University of Amsterdam told AFP.

The 1998-99 war between separatist Kosovo Albanians and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's security forces ended when a NATO air campaign ousted the Serbs and established a UN protectorate. The conflict claimed several thousand mostly ethnic Albanian lives.

Kosovo, with its two million inhabitants -- 90 percent of them ethnic Albanians -- unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 after UN-brokered negotiations failed.

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.

The UN General Assembly, at Serbia's request, asked the ICJ in October 2008 to render a legal opinion.

Belgrade has said it wants to continue negotiations on the status of Kosovo, which it considers its southern province, after the ICJ verdict.

But Pristina has ruled out further status talks and expects the court to endorse its move to statehood, prompting more countries to recognise it as independent.

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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