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Serbia Drops Challenge to Kosovo's Independence at UN

Serbia has dropped its challenge to Kosovo's independence in the U.N. General Assembly. In a last minute deal facilitated by the European Union, Belgrade withdrew a sharply worded resolution and replaced it with a compromised text calling for dialogue that was adopted by U.N. member states .

After the International Court of Justice ruled in July that Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence was not illegal, Serbia said it would bring the matter to the U.N. General Assembly.

But with its eye fixed firmly on European Union membership, Belgrade backed down at the last minute, changing the language of its original draft -- which would have likely been defeated.

Instead, the resolution adopted late Thursday afternoon was co-sponsored by Serbia and the 27 members of the European Union. It welcomed an EU offer to help with the process of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to promote cooperation. It also dropped language calling Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence unacceptable.

The resolution also abandons Serbia's bid to challenge the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate international law.

But Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic reiterated that his country will never recognize Kosovo's independence. "The Republic of Serbia does not and shall not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo," Jeremic said.

But despite that declaration, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said he believes Serbia has taken an important step forward in its relationship with Kosovo. "I think it is important and significant that Serbia did withdraw the original resolution that it put on the table and co-sponsored along with European Union member states a consensus resolution. And I think that marks a very significant step and a very welcome step. And as I say, it is now the start of a new phase in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia," he said.

Thursday's meeting was not without drama. It got underway two and a half hours late, because Serbia objected to the presence of Kosovo's president, prime minister and foreign minister in the public gallery of the General Assembly Hall.

Ultimately, they were allowed to remain as guests of the British, French, German, Italian and U.S. delegations.

Serbia lost control of Kosovo in 1999 after NATO staged a bombing campaign to stop a Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian rebels in what was then a Serbian province. Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority formally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. So far, nearly 70 countries have recognized Kosovo's independence.