8 October 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



The General Assembly’s decision to refer Kosovo’s declaration of independence to the International Court of Justice demonstratedthe“strength and conviction of the international community in defence of the principles of the international legal order”, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

Speaking after the General Assembly’s “very decisive vote” to adopt a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the Court on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence earlier this year, he said the recorded vote -- 77 in favour to 6 against (Albania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, United States) with 74 abstentions -- was a victory, not just for Serbia, but also for the international community at large.  (See Press Release GA/10764.)

“This is the first time in the history of the Balkans that somebody is trying to resolve an issue like this peacefully, using institutions, with faith in the UN, and proceeding peacefully -- not by engaging in a war,” he said.  “Today’s vote from the General Assembly is a signal that such an attitude actually pays off and this is the right way forward.”

Recalling that his country had reacted with “utmost restraint” since Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008, he said Serbia had not used force or economic sanctions but, instead, had chosen to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by diplomatic means.  Today’s result would help to reduce tensions in the region and allow the parties involved to “start breathing”.

“We are looking forward to using this time –- time that is going to be less pressurized, less tense in terms of the politics of the issue -- to advance other strategic priorities for Serbia,” he said, referring specifically to Serbia’s goal of joining the European Union.  The Serbian Government now looked forward to an accelerated dialogue with the United Nations on the reconfiguration of the international civilian presence in the country.  The Secretary-General’s next report on the situation in Kosovo would contain the agreement between Serbia and the United Nations on the six points of focus in that effort.

Asked about the impact of today’s vote on future discussion of the Kosovo issue, the Minister said he expected the vote to “stop or severely slow down” the pace of recognition of Kosovo as an independent State.  Once the Court gave its opinion, Kosovo’s status would need to be readdressed in the Security Council.  “Our expectation is that the Court is going to say that the UDI [unilateral declaration of independence] was actually not in line with international law.  We then hope that reason is going to prevail and that we’re going to go again and we’ll sit again at the table and truly find something that can work for us all.”

A compromise solution would not be hard to find if the political will was there, he continued.  A ruling by the International Court of Justice would serve as a catalyst towards gathering that political will.  Should Kosovo choose not to enter into negotiations for a compromise solution, it could find itself forever in limbo, recognized by some countries but not by others, and unable to join important international organizations.

Asked about the significance of the 74 abstentions, he said the majority of countries that had abstained were “very sympathetic” to Serbia’s resolution.  However, “key recognizers” of Kosovo’s independence had exerted a sizeable amount of pressure on smaller countries to vote against the resolution.

“They are small countries and they are very fiercely pressured by outsiders to do something that is not going to be in their best national interest,” he said.  “I hope that this vote in the General Assembly is going to help give them the courage and strength to resist pressures.”

Asked about the significance of the vote by the United States and the willingness of some countries to recognize Kosovo’s independence, he said Serbia had warned time and again that a unilateral declaration would serve as a precedent throughout the world.  “I think this was a very dangerous attitude.  This was practically the same thing as declaring unilateral exemptions from international law.  This vote … put a stop to unilateral conduct in international relations when it comes to issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

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For information media • not an official record