Serbia’s foreign minister has said that the upcoming ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence will create “an unprecedented opportunity” for compromise between rival Serbs and ethnic Albanians.
But Vuk Jeremic told the UN Security Council that the Serbian government will never accept the independence of its province – and Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni said his government will never accept a return to Serb rule.
Their entrenched positions are likely to perpetuate the standoff over Kosovo’s future status.
Kosovo came under UN and Nato administration after a 1999 Nato-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, but the Security Council resolution that established the interim UN administration left Kosovo’s final status in question.
Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic Albanian leadership declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, with strong backing from the United States and major European Union nations.
The Serbian government, strongly supported by Russia, insists that Kosovo is still legally bound by the Security Council resolution.
And the UN – at Russian insistence – still retains overall authority in Kosovo, though many day-to-day administrative responsibilities have been transferred to a 2,000-strong European Union peacekeeping force which is responsible for six main areas including police, courts and borders.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the 1999 resolution authorising the UN to administer Kosovo “remains fully in force.
“It still remains binding for all as an international and legal basis for a settlement in Kosovo and ensuring security in the districts,” he said. “Not accepting that means not accepting international legality.”
In October 2008, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution sought by Serbia to ask the Dutch-based International Court of Justice to provide a formal opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s independence declaration.
Mr Jeremic said the court “is close to completing its deliberations” and Mr Hyseni said a ruling “is expected shortly”.
The Serbian foreign minister said the court’s report to the UN General Assembly will create “an unprecedented opportunity ... to build momentum for achieving the ultimate goal: a strategic compromise between Serbs and Albanians” that would secure a peaceful European future for the western Balkans.
“Waiting around for an indeterminate period in the vague hope that one side will eventually give in is a recipe for freezing Kosovo’s limbo,” Mr Jeremic said. “The only way forward is to bring about a just compromise that balances the desires and interests of our two peoples.”
But Mr Hyseni ruled out any compromise on Kosovo’s status.