Serbian resolution wins UN GA backing

NEW YORK -- With 77 votes in favor and six against, the UN General Assembly on Wednesday accepted Serbia's draft ICJ resolution.

Jeremić addresses the UN GA on Wednesday (FoNet)
Jeremić addresses the UN GA on Wednesday (FoNet)

The document requests an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the legality of the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo.

74 countries abstained, Tanjug news agency reports from New York this afternoon.

The European Union member countries, according to a Beta news agency report, did not have a united stand on the issue, with the UK and France abstaining, while Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Romania voted in favor.

In the discussion that preceded the voting, Serbia was supported by Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Algeria, Egypt, South Africa.

The United States and Albania voted against the adoption of the resolution.

They were joined by the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau.

British Ambassador to the UN John Sawers reacted to the result by saying that he was surprised by the outcome.

In the debate before the voting, Sawers said Belgrade's resolution was "politically motivated".

U.S. representative Rosemary DiCarlo said she would vote against, since Washington considers Kosovo Albanians' declaration to have been in line with international law, and added that her country "firmly believes in Serbia's and Kosovo's European future".

When Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić addressed the UN General Assembly ahead of the debate and voting, he urged the representatives of the United Nations to support Serbia's ICJ intiative.

Sending the resolution to the court, Jeremić told the assembly, would reduce tensions in the region and in the rest of the world.

"The Republic of Serbia believes that sending this question to the ICJ would prevent the Kosovo crisis from serving as a deeply problematic precedent in any part of the globe where secessionist ambitions are harbored," Jeremić said explaining Serbia's request.

"We also believe that the ICJ advisory opinion would provide politically neutral, yet judicially authoritative guidance, to many countries still deliberating on how to approach UDI in line with international law," Jeremić added.

He stated that Serbia believes "that recourse to the Court would strengthen the rule of law in international relations, and make the proposed course of action a symbol of the world community's resolve to take the UN Charter as its guide".

"Supporting this resolution would also serve to reaffirm a fundamental principle: the right of any member State of the United Nations to pose a simple, basic question-on a matter it considers vitally important-to the international court," Jeremić set out, noting that to vote against would be in effect a vote to deny the right of any country – now or in the future – to seek judicial recourse through the UN system.

Jeremić underscored that "to vote against would also mean accepting that nothing could be done when secessionists in whichever part of the globe assert the uniqueness of their cause, and claim exception to the universal scope of the international legal order".

The foreign minister continued to say that the question posed is "amply clear and refrains from taking political positions on the Kosovo issue".

"The answer to come, in the form of an advisory opinion, will be based on international law, in accordance with the ICJ's Statute and Rules of Procedure."

Jeremić expressed belief that "the draft resolution in its present form is entirely non-controversial. It represents the lowest common denominator of the positions of the member States on this question, and hence there is no need for any changes or additions."

"Let us adopt it and allow the Court to act freely and impartially within the framework of its competencies. We are confident that the ICJ will know what to do, and that it will take into account the opinions of all interested member States and international organizations," Jeremić concluded his address, noting also that "the most prudent way to proceed today is to adopt our resolution without opposition, as was the decision on the inclusion of this item in the agenda at the General Committee."

Optimism

Earlier in the day, reports indicated that Belgrade is optimistic and expects that following intensive efforts to galvanize support, the UN General Assembly could adopt the motion.

Jeremić said he expected the debate that will follow his address to be "heated". Nonetheless, he was hopeful of a positive outcome.

“We will endeavor, as we did at the General Committee, to make a sweep at the start of the session—in other words, get as many countries as we can from all continents, from different parts of the world, to take part in the debate, to support Serbia’s position, and for the whole debate to assume a course that will later be favorable for pushing through our resolution,“ said the minister.

President Boris Tadić is also hoping for a good result.

“We need to stay calm until the voting is over. I’m not a good tipster, I’m a better worker—my job is to work and I’m working here, seeking backing for our resolution from all our colleagues here that I have the chance to meet,“ Tadić said.

“I’m looking forward to the day with the feeling that we’ve done everything we could—60 meetings at the General Assembly, the Foreign Ministry with hitherto unprecedented international activity,” the president said.

He added that a “good thing about the whole Serbian initiative is that it will remain a positive result in the international political domain.”

Nevertheless, one of the chief obstacles to adopting the resolution is the possibility that certain smaller countries who intend to support the document decide, under pressure, to abstain or not attend the vote at the last moment.

Another clear unfavorable possibility is that one or more countries submit a joint amendment in a bid to reformulate or change the document.

Such an amendment would also be put to the vote and be adopted or rejected on the basis of a simple majority.

However, Jeremić claimed that Serbia was ready for all eventualities.

“The UK has circulated a paper on the basis of which one can expect someone to introduce an amendment that would change the meaning and significance of our resolution,“ said the minister.

“Obviously, we’ll fight to the last to prevent any changes to the text of our resolution. We’ll warn those on our side and who we see today that there is the possibility of an amendment,” he said.