US, Russia Clash Over Kosovo's Independence Move

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is ready to wrap up a hearing about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence. Russia and the United States clashed over the issue in testimony this week before the so-called World Court.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is ready to wrap up a hearing about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.  Russia and the United States clashed over the issue in testimony this week before the so-called World Court. 

Delegations from the United States and Russia argued in front of the International Court of Justice in The Hague for and against Kosovo's decision in 2008 to separate from Serbia and declare itself an independent country.

The case is being closely watched by nations with independence-minded provinces, including Russia, China and Spain, who fear that Kosovo could set a precedent.

Russian ambassador to the Netherlands, Kirill Gevorgian, told the 15 judges the independence declaration contravenes U.N. resolutions.

"The regime established by the resolution safeguards the territorial integrity of Serbia, and precludes any unilateral action in Kosovo, either by its Albanian community or by Belgrade," said Kirill Gevorgian.

U.S. State Department legal advisor Harold Hongju Koh argued Tuesday that Kosovo's secession does not violate international law as it was the will of the people.

"We therefore urge this court to leave Kosovo's declaration undisturbed, either by refusing to issue an opinion or by simply answering in the affirmative the question presented: whether Kosovo's declaration of independence accords with international law," said Harold Hongju Koh.

The United States says Kosovo's separation was the result of a failure between Serbia and Kosovo to reach a political solution during international mediated talks after their war in the 1990s.

About 10,000 Albanians were killed and close to a million forced out of their homes.  Hundreds of Serbs were also killed.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombed Serbia for 78 days to halt a crackdown by forces of then President Slobodan Milosevic on independence seeking ethnic Albanians.

More than 60 countries have since recognized Kosovo's independence, but more than 100 have not, including Russia and China.

The head of Kosovo's delegation at the International Court, Kosovo Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni, told VOA News he has learned that as many as 60 more nations say they will soon recognize his country.

"It is natural that some U.N. member states would like to respect the procedure at what they call the International Court Of Justice," said Skender Hyseni. "But even those countries have told me very clearly that once that is over they will recognize Kosovo no matter what the outcome is."

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic has said his country hopes a favorable court verdict will put a halt to the number of countries recognizing Kosovo independence and force Pristina to re-enter talks about its future. 

Serbia views Kosovo as the cradle of its historical and cultural heritage.  An estimated 120,000 Serbs live among Kosovo's mainly ethnic-Albanian population of two-million people.

Minister Jeremic made it clear to VOA News he does not want to negotiate about the future of Kosovo with Hyseni.

"I do not have a Kosovo colleague," he said. "I met my Albanian colleague.  I meet with ministers of foreign affairs of sovereign and independent states.  I have not heard of a Kosovo colleague of mine."

The hearings at the U.N. court are due to end Friday.  The court will not hand down a verdict, but on Serbia's request will give an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's independence.  A court opinion is expected within the coming months. 

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