UN's highest court to give verdict on 'independent' Kosovo

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN's highest court will give its verdict Thursday on the legality of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, which strongly opposes the post-war attempt at separation.

International Court of Justice president Hisashi Owada will read the advisory opinion, which is non-binding, 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.

Both Belgrade and Pristina have predicted legal victory, but analysts believe the court would treat the issue with some ambiguity to avoid setting a legal precedent for other minority groups.

The 1998-99 war between separatist Kosovo Albanians and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's 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.

The United Nations General Assembly, at Serbia's request, asked the ICJ in October 2008 to render a legal opinion. Serbia, Kosovo and 29 other states including the US and Serbia's ally Russia made representations in public hearings last December.

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

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic called Wednesday for a "compromise solution on the future status of Kosovo", which would only be possible through "negotiations".

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, meanwhile, were ready for violence that may meet the ruling, although they did not expect any, their German commander said Wednesday.


© 2010 AFP

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