Serbia ready to forward stance on Kosovo to ICJ

p1Belgrade hopes that the International Court of Justice will rule that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence violated international law, while officials in Pristina expect the court to rule in their favour.

Serbia has finalised its argument against Kosovo’s independence and will forward it to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) this week, the country’s foreign minister said in an interview published on Monday (April 13th).

“Our legal case is exceptionally well defined on more than 300 pages,” AFP quoted Vuk Jeremic as telling Belgrade-based daily Politika.

Nearly eight months after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence of February 17th 2008, Serbia submitted a resolution to the UN, requesting the ICJ’s advisory opinion on the legality of that move.

Taking up the matter, the ICJ asked Kosovo, Serbia, the UN and member states to submit their written statements on the question by April 17th 2009. It also set July 17th as the deadline for countries to comment on each other’s submissions.

Jeremic, whose country remains staunchly opposed to Kosovo’s secession, said he expects some powerful nations to back Belgrade’s position.

In late January, he wrote to nearly 80 countries that have not recognised Kosovo, asking them to submit opinions to the court.

“We have dedicated a lot of our diplomatic energy,” Jeremic told Politika. “I’m convinced that … some exceptionally influential countries … will be on Serbia’s side.”

Belgrade-based daily Blic cited Cyprus, China, Russia and Spain as among the nations likely to respond to Serbia’s request.

The legal team that will represent Kosovo’s interests before The Hague is headed by Michael Wood, a British expert in international law.

Pristina-based media reported last week that the country is ready to defend its independence declaration at The Hague and that Kosovo’s foreign ministry expects to see broad support for its nation’s secession.

Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuci voiced hope Monday that the ICJ ruling would set the stage for recognition by other nations.

“I am convinced that the decision will be positive and… clear up the situation for countries which still have a dilemma regarding Kosovo,” the AFP quoted him as telling Radio Kosova.

Fifty-seven countries have recognised Kosovo thus far, including the United States, 22 of the EU’s 27 member states and all Western Balkan nations, except for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Britain, France and the United States are expected to be among the countries that will also submit their written opinions to the ICJ to explain their backing of Kosovo’s independence.

The advisory opinions issued by the ICJ on such questions have no binding effect. Therefore, the 57 countries that have recognised Kosovo so far will not have to alter their decisions, even if the court should judge that the unilateral declaration of independence did not comply with international law.

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