The International Court of Justice has begun hearings on the legality of Kosovo's secession from Serbia. Serbia argues that the declaration of independence challenges its sovereignty and undermines international law.
Kosovo Foreign Minister Skender Hyensi says independence is "irreversible"
Formerly a province of Serbia, Kosovo declared independence on February 17, 2008, in what Serbia describes as a "flagrant violation" of its territorial integrity.
The Serbian ambassador to France told the World Court on Tuesday that the declaration breached UN Security Council resolutions setting up a UN-backed provisional administration in Kosovo.
Speaking on the first of nine days of UN hearings to examine the legality of Kosovo's independence, Batakovic described Kosovo as "the historic cradle of Serbia … and one of the essential pillars of its identity."
He told the 15-judge panel he hoped their ruling would provide scope for talks with Kosovo to prevent a full break from Serbia. Serbian officials want to see Kosovo established as a southern Serbian province with widespread autonomy.
However, this solution was rejected by Kosovo three years ago, and on Tuesday Kosovo's Minister of Foreign Affairs Skender Hyensi argued before the court that 63 nations had already recognized Kosovo as an independent country. He pointed out that it was already functioning as an independent republic with its own constitution and elections.
"Kosovo's independence is irreversible and that will remain the case, not only for the sake of Kosovo, but also for the sake of sustainable regional peace and security," Hyensi said.
The court hearings are taking place ten years after a NATO bombing campaign in Serbia ended the war in the region between the army and police of the former Yugoslavia and Kosovo Albanian separatists.
The current prime minister of Kosovo, Rame Manaj, said to Reuters: "We can live together with Serbia only as two independent countries. Serbia deported half of the population out of Kosovo…because of this we declared independence."
The judges at the International Court of Justice, which is the UN's highest judicial body, will hear statements from 29 other nations in the coming days. Key testimony will come from the United States, which recognizes Kosovo, as well as Spain and Serbia's powerful ally Russia, which do not.
Spain and Russia also face secessionist movements within their borders, in the Basque country and Chechnya respectively. They are concerned that a ruling at the ICJ in Kosovo's favor could set a dangerous precedent for other breakaway regions around the world.
The court's ruling, which is non-binding, is expected to be handed down on December 11.
Editor: Kyle James