UN vote hailed in Belgrade as "victory"

BELGRADE, NEW YORK, BRUSSELS -- Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković Wednesday evening welcomed the adoption of the Serbian resolution by the United Nations General Assembly.

Jeremić reacts to the results of the vote (FoNet)
Jeremić reacts to the results of the vote (FoNet)

The UN today decided to accept Belgrade's motion to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion on the legality of the Kosovo Albanians' unilateral declaration of independence.

Cvetković said that the outcome of the vote comes as another proof that Serbia's diplomatic initiative is a success.

"In this way, Serbia, as a small country, was placed in the very focus of the world diplomatic events," the premier said.

He also expressed his expectations that "political tensions will die down" in the wake of the UN decision, and that "issues will in the future be solved in a much calmer atmosphere".

"At the same time, this means that if any state decided to recognize Kosovo and Metohija's independence after this decision, it can be interpreted as their disregard of the role that the ICJ has in this particular case," Cvetković said.

In New York, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, who represented Serbia at the UN General Assembly session today, said hat this is "a big day for international law".

"We are grateful that we have been allowed to send a request for the advisory opinion to the International Court of Justice," Jeremić said.

He thanked the countries that had shown their solidarity with this action, "which is in the very essence of the international order and UN Charter", and voiced hope that cooperation on the issue of Kosovo's future status would continue.

In Belgrade, Parliament Speaker Slavica Đukić-Dejanović also welcomed the adoption of the Serbian initiative.

"This is a positive step taken by our diplomacy in the efforts of the state to preserve its territorial integrity," the Đukić-Dejanović, of the ruling SPS, was quoted as saying by Tanjug.

"After this, we can give a positive evaluation of the foreign-policy activities of the state. Further actions are yet to come to secure the respect of international law in the territory of the Balkans," Đukić-Dejanović added.

Addressing parliament briefly, she announced that the resolution was accepted, which the MPs, in session on Wednesday evening, greeted with applause.

Her party leader and Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić reacted by saying that the outcome of the UN voting represents a major diplomatic victory of Serbia and international law "after quite some time".

"It was demonstrated that the majority of world countries are determined in favor of respect of international law, and this will shift the question of Kosovo and Metohija from the political to the legal area," Dačić said in Belgrade.

Based on the fundamental principles of international law, Serbia can hope to look forward to a positive stand of the International Court of Justice in The Hague," he continued.

"This will definitely slow down the process of the recognition of the independence of Kosovo and Metohija. It has been demonstrated yet again that a good political assessment and good diplomacy are in any case major weapons," Dačić said.

In Kosovo, some Serb leaders told Tanjug they were satisfied because of the success of the Serbian ICJ initiative at the United Nations.

Dragiša Đoković, an MP on the ruling Democratic Party (DS) ticket, voiced his satisfaction.

"I am certain that Serbia has chosen the right way when it decided to solve the issue of Kosovo-Metohija with peaceful and democratic means in a diplomatic way," Đoković said.

"I hope that we will finally defend Kosovo-Metohija within Serbia and Serbia within her existing borders," he added said.

Vice President of the Serb People's Council of central Kosovo Radmila Trajković told Tanjug that the United Nations are the only democratic global institution, where even the countries such as the United States could not affect the stands of the countries which had voted for the Serbian resolution.

"We should now prepare for the judicial procedure and engagement of legal experts as well as historians of the new generation. I expect that authorities in Belgrade will demonstrate their democratic capacity every day in order to present ourselves to the world as a responsible country prepared to accept Kosovo Albanians as equal citizens," Trajković said.

Another Kosovo Serb, Goran Bogdanović, DS, said tonight that the adoption of the resolution in New York earlier in the day confirmed that most countries in the world urge respect of international law.

They also take into account Serbia's stand that the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo should be re-examined and that negotiations on Kosovo's status should be renewed, the minister for Kosovo said.

"This confirms that Serbia's peaceful, diplomatic and political struggle for the preservation of sovereignty and territorial integrity is right," Bogdanović said.

"We are satisfied that despite huge pressure, present all the time, and especially prominent in the past few days, Serbia has proved that law and justice are on its side," he said.

"Serbia will continue to urge a peaceful solution for the return to the negotiating table in order to solve this highly sensitive issue to the benefit of all sides."

"It is in Serbia's interest that the International Court of Justice decision be positive and that we finally return to the negotiating table," Bogdanović concluded.

The DS-led coalition caucus whip Nada Kolundžija reacted by saying that the decision represented a victory of the Serbian diplomacy.

The adoption of the resolution by the United Nations proves that the majority of countries in the world believe that international order and law should prevail, Kolundžija said in a statement for Tanjug.

"I believe that the International Court of Justice will adopt an opinion in keeping with international law, which will reaffirm Serbia's stand that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence was not in line with international law and that the way for continuing the search for a compromise would thus be paved," she said.

No comment

Meanwhile in Brussels, the European Commission (EC) representatives once again repeated that the recognition of Kosovo's declaration of independence is up to the EU's individual members.

"The European Commission will therefore not comment on Wednesday's adoption of the Serbian draft resolution in the United Nations General Assembly," European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn's spokesperson Krisztina Nagy said in a statement for Tanjug.

"Recognition of independence is within the authority of the EU member-states," she said.

"The Commission has no comment, that is and will remain its stand," Nagy said.

EU member-states voted on an individual and national basis at the UN General Assembly session today, the news agency says.

Also in Brussels, the French Presidency of the European Union said it had no comment on the adoption of Serbia's draft resolution by the UN General Assembly.

This was confirmed for Tanjug by the presidency spokesperson Marine de Carne.

"Serbia had the right to request the opinion and we believe that it is important to look into the future and work on not jeopardizing further European integrations," de Carne said.

Useless, inappropriate

But, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday evening that Serbia's request to seek the opinion of the International Court of Justice is "neither useful nor appropriate".

French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Maurice Ripert said, after the vote at the UN General Assembly, that Serbia's request is not useful because France does not see the situation concerning Kosovo's independence as legally moot.

It is not appropriate, he continued, because it is "not encouraging to the necessary easing of tensions and contains the inherent risk of complicating the European prospects of the western Balkans".

Ripert reiterated the argument of the countries that have recognized Kosovo, including France – which abstained during today's vote – that Kosovo is s "sui generis" case.