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Serbia Rejects Kosovo's Independence Ruling

  • Stefan Bos

Serbia has rejected a ruling by the United Nation's top court that supports Kosovo's independence declaration. Belgrade says it will never recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state.

Serbian government officials say they do not accept the opinion by the Netherlands based International Court of Justice, the ICJ, on Kosovo's independence.

On Thursday, the ICJ said in a non-binding ruling requested by Belgrade, that Kosovo's separation from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law.

Serbian President Boris Tadic described the decision as "difficult for Serbia" and added that his country will always view Kosovo as its territory.

He said Serbia would not resort to violence, but would seek a United Nations resolution that would urge Serbian and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders to find a compromise solution.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told reporters however that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo as a separate state.

"We will never recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of the so-called Republic of Kosovo," said Vuk Jeremic. "Our position is not going to change and I am confident that the position of all the major players in the international community is not going to change either as this a result of this very narrow, technical ruling, on this matter."

Currently 69 nations, including the United States, recognize Kosovo as a country but others, including major powers Russia and China, do not.

There is also concern in countries ranging from Spain to Russia, that Kosovo's internationally recognized statehood could encourage other independence seeking regions to demand the same.

However Kosovo's Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni, speaking to reporters after the court's decision, urged Serbia to treat Kosovo as an equal partner.

"I expect Serbia to turn and come to us," said Skender Hyseni. "To talk with us on so many issues of mutual interest of mutual importance. But such talks can only take place as talks between sovereign states, between two neighboring states."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley urged states, who have not yet done so, to recognize Kosovo's independence.

"Now is the time for them - for Kosovo and Serbia to put aside their differences and move forward, working together constructively to resolve practical issues to the betterment of the lives of the people of Kosovo, Serbia, and the region," said Crowley.

Kosovo declared independence nearly a decade after a bloody war in the late 1990s.

In 1999 the Western military alliance NATO forced Serbian troops to end their crackdown on the independence seeking ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, which was then a Serbian province.

But Kosovo is also under international pressure to prosecute, or handover, war crimes suspects, of its own.

This week the UN Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ordered Kosovo's former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, to be retried on murder and torture charges in the 1990s, after judges ruled his acquittal, two years ago, was a "miscarriage of justice" caused by witness intimidation.

Additionally, Kosovo is under Western pressure to tackle high-level corruption.

On Friday the European Union Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo said a special anti-corruption unit detained Kosovo's central bank Governor Hashim Rexhepi after raids on his office and home in a corruption investigation.

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