The U.N.'s top diplomat in Kosovo says the recent ruling from the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law should now open a new phase of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade to resolve their outstanding issues.
U.N. envoy Lamberto Zannier told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that anticipation of the ICJ's advisory ruling delayed efforts to resolve important issues. He said now the opinion has been issued, he hoped talks could begin. "This dialogue would be very important for the stability and the development of the region," he said.
Both the foreign ministers of Serbia and Kosovo told the council that they want to resolve their outstanding issues as they look ahead to European Union membership. But their remarks and different interpretations of the ICJ ruling gave the impression that reconciliation and normalization of relations will be neither quick nor easy.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the ICJ ruling left room for a "dangerous misinterpretation" of the Court's view and could legitimize other secessionist movements across the world. "A misinterpretation of the court's views could easily provide some ethnic minorities across the globe with an opportunity to write their own declarations of independence according to Kosovo's textual template," he said.
He said "under no circumstances" would Serbia recognize Kosovo's independence.
But Kosovo's Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni said the ICJ's opinion was "explicit and clear and leaves no room for doubt." He told the council the time has come to replace U.N. Resolution 1244, which established the U.N. Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), with a new resolution reflecting the realities of Kosovo's independence. "Our request for replacement of 1244 is in line with Kosovo's ultimate objective of becoming a U.N. member. Membership with the United Nations is a goal we eagerly look forward to achieve as soon as possible, a natural step after the ICJ ruling," he said.
But speaking to the press after the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who is president of the council this month, said he did not think resolution 1244 would be changed nor would Kosovo win U.N. membership. "You understand, of course, the correlation of forces in the Security Council on this issue. So I would not hold one's breath in expectation that 1244 is going to be changed or modified or repealed. Clearly it is very much on the books," he said.
Russia is a staunch ally of Serbia and opposes Kosovo's independence. Russia is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council and Ambassador Churkin indicated it was unlikely Pristina could win the necessary recommendation from the council to gain U.N. membership.
Last week, Serbia submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly calling for new negotiations on Kosovo. The draft calls for talks on all outstanding issues, but stopped short of requesting negotiations on Kosovo's status.
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, 69 countries, including the United States, have recognized Kosovo's independence.