UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly has passed a Serbian-backed compromise resolution that opens the way for dialogue between Belgrade and Kosovo.
The resolution, which was adopted without a vote on September 9 by the 192-nation assembly, welcomes the European Union taking the lead in mediation efforts between Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership.
Such talks would be the first between the two sides since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008.
The resolution also acknowledges the July advisory opinion of the International Court Of Justice (ICJ) saying that Kosovo's declaration of independence violated no laws.
The text was a compromise introduced by Serbia to replace a harder-line draft that called for the condemnation of Kosovo's unilateral declaration and demanded talks on Kosovo's status be reopened.
That earlier text was deemed unacceptable by the United States and many EU-member states that have already recognized Kosovo's independence.
Chance Of Progress?
It's unclear, however, what the two sides would have to discuss in any talks, as Serbia has vowed never to recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state.
Introducing the watered-down resolution, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told the General Assembly that despite its readiness for EU-backed dialogue, Belgrade "does not and shall not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo."
Asked by RFE/RL after the conclusion of the session what Belgrade's next step would be toward resolving the Kosovo issue, Jeremic said that it had been the consistent policy of his government to seek a "sustainable" solution.
"I am hoping that we are soon going to have a process of dialogue that ultimately is going to lead to sustainable solutions for the Kosovo problem," Jeremic said. "Of course, all the legitimate sustainable solutions must be confirmed in the [UN] Security Council."
Kosovar Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni today said that Kosovo was ready for talks with Serbia "exclusively about cooperation in fields of reciprocal interest."
Speaking earlier in the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed that the UN Mission will continue its work in Kosovo, as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 1999.
Ban said that that resolution "remains valid and effective. The United Nations Mission in Kosovo will continue to work, consistent with Security Council Resolution 1244, as a status-neutral mission."
The new resolution is being viewed as a compromise between Belgrade and the EU, which Serbia is seeking to join. The UN member states who have already recognized Kosovo's independence are urging Belgrade to acknowledge the new political realities and to start dialogue with Pristina.
Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's UN ambassador, said after the session that resolving the Kosovo issue would speed up Serbia's integration process with the EU.
"That is our hope and expectation and it is the hope and expectation of all members of the European Union," Grant said, "and that's why this resolution does focus on the positive offer of that practical dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade."
The General Assembly session on Kosovo contained its own element of suspense and drama. Its opening was delayed for 2 1/2 hours because of the presence in the hall of Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, and Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni.
The Serbian delegation opposed their presence on the grounds that Kosovo is not a UN member and they do not represent a sovereign state.
A compromise solution was reached and Sejdiu, Thaci, and Hyseni were allowed to stay in the guests and media gallery after the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Germany officially declared them as their guests.
Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 when NATO waged a bombing campaign to stop the conflict between Serbia and the territory's ethnic Albanian majority.