Serbia requests international legal opinion on Kosovo independence

Serbia submitted a request on Friday for the UN General Assembly to debate Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and for the body to ask the UN world court to rule on the issue.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Belgrade would respect and abide by an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague on whether Kosovo's declaration of independence in February was legal under international law, the dpa reported.

Serbia, backed by Russia, has been fighting the secession of its Kosovo province, but has ruled out use of force to keep the territory that had been under UN administration since 1999. Since Kosovo's move in February, 45 countries have recognized it.

Jeremic said there were similarities between Kosovo and the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia provinces of Georgia, but he stressed the importance of resolving the Kosovo's independence through diplomatic and legal means and not by military forces.

Russia, which has stressed Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo, has been involved in military action since last week in Georgia after the former Soviet republic attempted to reassert control over its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The events in Georgia were "very sad developments," Jeremic told a press conference at UN headquarters in New York, where he held talks with UN officials about Kosovo.

"We are the party seeking the ICJ's advisory opinion, we believe in the ICJ and we'll respect its ruling," Jeremic said when asked whether Belgrade would accept a ruling in favour of Kosovo's independence.

Belgrade had been lobbying UN members not to recognize the new government in Pristina, which since its declaration of independence has also adopted a new constitution in June. About 40 governments have recognized the independence, including the United States and many European countries.

Jeremic requested that the UN General Assembly debate the issue of Kosovo's independence, hoping that a majority of 192 members would side with Belgrade. The assembly is scheduled to convene its 63rd annual session in mid-September.

The first step taken by the assembly each year is to adopt a agenda of discussion for the session. Jeremic said he was confident that a majority of UN members will accept to including the Kosovo issue on the agenda.

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