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Russia, U.S. Face Off In Court Over Kosovo's Independence

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is to issue a nonbinding decision on the legality of Kosovo's secession from Serbia.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague is to issue a nonbinding decision on the legality of Kosovo's secession from Serbia.
By Dragan Stavljanin and Ron Synovitz
PRAGUE/THE HAGUE -- The United States has urged a UN court not to raise doubts about Kosovo's statehood, arguing that Pristina's declaration of independence has brought stability to the Balkans and has offered people across the region a European future.

But Russia, a staunch ally of Serbia, told the same court today that recognizing Kosovo's statehood would send the wrong signal to militant separatists around the world.

Kosovo, formerly a province of Serbia, unilaterally declared independence on February 17, 2008, after long and difficult UN-brokered talks between Belgrade and ethnic-Albanian officials in Pristina broke down.

Since then, more than 60 countries, including 22 of the EU's 27 members, have recognized Kosovo's independence.

It was Serbia that requested the International Court of Justice to issue a nonbinding, advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence. Belgrade has said it wants to convince other countries not to recognize Kosovo's statehood.

Of 29 countries that filed petitions to submit expert testimony to the court this month, 15 support Kosovo's independence while 14 support Belgrade's position.

Belgrade argued on the first day of the hearings, December 1, that Pristina's declaration of independence violated both international law and Serbia's territorial integrity.

U.S.: Not Against Law

But the head of the U.S. legal delegation, Harold Hongju Koh, told the court today that Kosovo's secession did not contravene international law and did not require an opinion from the tribunal.

Koh argued that general international law neither prohibits nor authorizes declarations of independence. He told the court's 15 judges at The Hague that it is up to individual nation-states to accept or reject declarations of independence.

Koh also noted that Belgrade officials have repeatedly said they will not recognize Kosovo at any cost, even if the UN court issues a ruling in favor of Pristina. He said the court has no obligation to issue advisory opinions in cases brought by states that have already suggested they may ignore the ruling.

He said the court also is not obliged to rule on cases brought by countries seeking to reopen political negotiations that "responsible UN officials have concluded are futile, or that seek to enlist the court to unravel delicate political arrangements that have brought stability to a troubled region."

"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," Koh told the court today.

Russia: Violated UN Resolution


Moscow's arguments in the case were presented today by Kirill Gevorgian, Russia's ambassador to the Netherlands. He said Kosovo's declaration of independence specifically violated UN Security Council Resolution 1244 -- the June 1999 resolution that placed Kosovo under an interim UN administration and authorized a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

Gevorgian argued that, according to Resolution 1244, a final settlement on the status of Kosovo must be negotiated between Belgrade and Pristina and then endorsed in a vote by the UN Security Council. He said the failure of those negotiations does not mean there should be an alternative process for determining Kosovo's final status:

"The interim period during which Kosovo is to enjoy autonomy within Serbia, being governed by the international administration, is still ongoing," Gevorgian said.

"Resolution 1244 remains in force in its entirety. Therefore, no institution has a right to unilaterally declare the independence of Kosovo. Accordingly, the Russian Federation respectfully submits that the [unilateral declaration of independence] was not in accordance with Resolution 1244 of the Security Council."

Security Council Split

Today's testimony by the U.S. and Russian delegations comes during a week when all permanent members of the UN Security Council are presenting their views.

On December 7, Chinese Ambassador Xue Hanqin argued that the local administrative bodies established by the UN administration in Kosovo had violated the specific terms of UN Security Council resolution 1244 when they unilaterally declared independence:

Kosovo's declaration "is not in accordance with the Resolution 1244 and contravenes the principle of state sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xue said. "Therefore, there is no point in saying that international law is neutral in the present case."

The two other permanent members of the Security Council, France and Britain, have both recognized Kosovo's independence. France's delegates are scheduled to testify on December 9 while Britain's testimony will be on December 10.

There is no deadline for the court to issue a ruling. But the judges are expected to issue their nonbinding opinions sometime during 2010.
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by: Serbian-Canadian from: Macau
December 08, 2009 18:33
The government of USofA are a bunch of stinking hypocrites.

Not only did they slaughter tens of thousands of Southerners who didn't want to live in a same territorial-oppressive-mechanism unit (aka "country") with them in the 19th century, but they attacked -- with all the might of a mad elephant in a china shop -- the tiny exclave of David Koresh compound in Waco, Texas who sought the same -- independence from a government that oppressed him.

And just like Hitler's Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, the USofA government SPECIFICALLY targeted the children (in the Waco compound, just like in Belgrade maternity ward during the Months of Slaughter of Serbian Innocents aka "campaign" of bombing with BANNED nuclear weapons, euphemistically referred to as "depleted" uranium) -- unlike ANY other government in the world except these three.

To now have the audacity to even comment the Court's proceedings -- let alone take part in them -- shows that the morons in the govt of the USofA deserve what will be coming to them from the VERY PEOPLE they rule -- once the honey i.e. resources are suctioned out and devoured i.e. depleted (for real -- unlike the uranium).

by: Shkodra from: USA
December 08, 2009 22:26
To Serbian-Canadian from Macau

No wonder you were not granted permission to immigrate to the USA. Most likely a quick background check would show that your hands are stained in blood. And if not, the blind hatred in you and the language you use, the ignorance about the US history, lack of/refusal to understand what horrible crimes your Serbia commited against other former "half-bretherens" reflect a mentality that was at the core of your country's Hitler's philosophy, i.e. Milosevic's nationalism. That schauvinistc nationalism that feeds your thinking and hatred, not only ruined the lives of millions of people in the region and tragically ended the lives of hundreds of thousands, but kept your nation back for at least a decade.
Wake up, open your eyes, and if you are not yet ready to do some reading, then just start by questioning whether your heart is in the right place.

by: avni from: usa
December 08, 2009 23:36
Dictator Milosevic a.k.a. The Butcher of Balkans started everything,during the years of war Serbia wagged agants its neighbours you couldn't find a Serb who spoke against the war.I believe the same happened during the 2nd World War when no German citizen was heard speaking in favor of Jews and other non-Germans.
Even today many war criminals are hiding in Serbia including the worst of them all,Mladic.

by: Aaron from: London
December 08, 2009 23:41
After the Geonice commited on the Kosovar Albanian population in the late 1990's, Serbia has lost every right to continue their invasion/rule in Kosovo.

by: John from: Los Angeles
December 08, 2009 23:51
Serbian-Canadian, are you suggesting that the U.S. support the annihilation of a nation based on a war that occurred in the middle of 19th century? I hope the Serbian generals who slaughtered babies and women during the 80s and 90s in Kosovo were not hoping to get such support.

Russia on the other hand can be called a hypocrite. It has barely been ONE year since it recognized the secession of parts of Georgia and now claims that territorial integri is being violated? Give us a break.

The U.S. said the right things and it makes complete sense for the judges to declare the independence of Kosovo legal. If the U.N. resolution 1244 did not provide for independence why did Serbia not agree to it and claimed that it would lead to such an event, asked the U.S. representative. Try and answer that.

Serbia should invest more on education and the economy, instead of threatening the peace in Balkans. This warmongering mentality has to end.

by: Adam from: NYC
December 09, 2009 00:35
@Serbian-Canadian... a typical serb apologist, frothing at the mouth to place blame on anyone and anything so long as they dont have to confront and take responsibility for there own actions.

The breakup of Yugoslavia began with serbs...a single group among many within yugolsavia... putting into power a madman who took it upon himself to decide that Yugoslavia EQUATED to Serbia. Who pushed a view of what serbia was in nationalist fiction and poetry and pseudo christian mythology should be made a reality... implemented illegally and through force... to cheers and approval of the average serb.

It is no accident that it began in kosovo with milosovics illegal rape of Yugoslavias constitution when he institued apartheid in kosovo while simultaneously tyring to use its Constituional federal representation on behalf of serbia..against the other republics of what was yugoslavia ... the act that triggered yugoslavias breakup.... it is no accident that across all the violence and terror that followed... The only common denominator in ALL of violence and strife across ALL ethnic and religious lines where Serbs.

It is no accident that that there are now 7... count them 7 new countries formed out of what yugoslva was... EACH AND EVERY former neighbor of serbs sought escape from oh so misunderstood serbs.

Despite the ease with wich serbs today will denounce Milosovic and his actions... suddenly forgetfull that they supported him every step of the way until his Failure. It is with utter contempt for decency and law that when serbs had the opportunity to negotiate with kosovars... they used not what the yugoslav constitution was to negotiate a peace... but waved around the very same Yugoslav Constitution single handedly Re- Authored by a madman and war criminal as a point of authority for them to "offer" institutionalized apartheid... this is what serbia calls democracy.

independence was inevitable and its done.

Its not the USA's fault. Its not Europe's fault. Its not the media's fault. It's not history's fault. its not a media conspiracy against serbs. the propaganda and denials have not done a thing for serbs in the past couple of decades...it certainly wont do anything now.

Serbs are not victims but perpetrators.. all the misery the balkans has suffered INCLUDING serbs themselves are due to serbs own actions and delusions of grandeur. Wake up.


As for russia. Russia supported every serbian nutjob to come along in the former yugoslavia... to the detriment of everyone in the balkans including serbs themselves. it's understandable that russia needs to hold onto its only remaining lackey in europe, and it makes sense that they would pay political lipservice on serbias behalf...considering serbia has sold off its energy future to russia and is now its glorified gas station into the european market in exchange for that lipservice. but serbia needs to wake up and realize that its only real friends "coincidentally" live no where near them and demand a price for that friendship. what is bought can also be sold.

by: Bilko from: Canada
December 09, 2009 01:12
It is quite obvious that Albanians would not have a territory within Serbia had it not been for USA's intention to have a NATO base there. We all know why USA supports their declaration of independence. Will they also allow California to separate if it so wishes? Yeah, USA is a synonym for Hypocrisy. Bunch of war mongers.

by: Djordje from: Montreal
December 09, 2009 01:49
The most powerful nations will follow international law when it suits them and then will disregard it when it doesn't suit them. US has numerous times screamed international law into many nations' faces when it was in their favour and then ignored it when it was against them (invasion of Iraq, attack on Serbia, supporting of rebels in Nicaragua, etc etc etc).

So i will not be surprised if actually the ICJ does rule in favour of Kosovo, despite it being so obvious and in the books that it is against international law this declaration of independence and forceful seperation of Kosovo from Serbia. The International war criminal court proved to be farce too, prosectuing those that the powerful wish to prosecute (the Serbs), yet when the powerful have commited crimes they were not prosecuted (use of agent orange in vietnam by the Americans)

hypocricy and double standards is common by everyone, however those that support and promote it the most should try and be more fair (The westerners)

by: coys from: nyc
December 09, 2009 03:00
Serbian Canadian

I understand your frustration but i'm surprised why skip through history. Did you watch the same propaganda on TV as those in Serbia did who to this day deny killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, not just in Kosovo, throughout Balkans. Can you come out of your ignorance and forget medieval history because crimes that Milosevic did happened just yesterday.
For once I want to see one honest argument before we can even debate.

by: Valon from: NYC
December 09, 2009 03:03
Why would a country ask the international courts to go threw such trouble to give an opinion on an issue, they admit they will ignore, unless it is in their favor?? It's a waste of time. The independence can not be reversed so it is simply a waste of time and money. Serbia is sacrificing it's EU seat for something that they can't get any way. In the en the ones who lose are the moderate Serb population who is more concerned about the economy than radical nationalism.
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