Serbia’s foreign minister warned that an international court ruling backing the independence declaration by Kosovo opened a “Pandora’s box” for secessionist movements around the world.
Vuk Jeremic urged more than 120 countries that have not recognised Kosovo’s independence to support a UN resolution declaring that “a unilateral secession cannot be an acceptable way for resolving territorial issues”.
At a press conference later, Kosovo Foreign Minister Skender Hyseni countered that the ruling by the International Court of Justice calls Kosovo “a very special case which does not set any precedent” for other situations around the world.
“Therefore, any attempt to present Kosovo as a precedent is in fact an effort to undermine Kosovo’s statehood, an attempt to undermine Kosovo’s progress internationally,” Mr Hyseni said. “It’s not going to work.”
Kosovo came under UN and Nato administration after a Nato-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999, but the resolution that established the interim UN administration left its final status in question.
Despite the 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic Albanian leadership, the UN – at Russian insistence – still retains overall authority, though the European Union now carries out many day-to-day administrative responsibilities.
Mr Jeremic argued that there are close to 100 separatist movements in dozens of countries around the world – from China and Russia to Spain and Indonesia – and some already expressed interest in last week’s nonbinding ruling by the UN’s highest court.
“I think that there is a lot of excitement in various parts of the world, and people are watching this process,” he told the Associated Press.
Mr Jeremic said Serbia introduced the resolution so that the 192-member General Assembly, which asked for the court ruling, can state clearly “that unilateral secession is not a way to achieve statehood or to resolve territorial disputes”.
General Assembly resolutions are not binding, but he said such a statement by the world body would deter secessionist groups from following in Kosovo’s footsteps.
Mr Jeremic stressed, however, that “the true closing of Pandora’s box” will only come if Kosovo and Serbia “find a mutually acceptable solution to all outstanding issues through peaceful dialogue,” as the draft resolution calls for.
While Serbia’s draft resolution to the General Assembly doesn’t include previous demands for talks on Kosovo’s status, Serb politicians passed a resolution on Tuesday vowing that their country will never recognise the independence of Kosovo, which it considers the cradle of its statehood and religion.