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Monday, August 02, 2010

The broader implications of Kosovo

Two years ago, when Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, I did a lengthy post in which I examined the possibility that the 'Palestinians' could one day try the same thing and declare themselves independent of Israel. In January, I discussed what now looks likely - that the 'Palestinians' are attempting to adopt the Kosovo model. Last week, the International Court of Justice ruled that Kosovo's declaration on independence did not violate international law. Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton discusses some of the broader implications.
While Kosovo’s declaration of independence, according to the court, did not violate the applicable international law, the underlying, and far more important, issue is still unresolved: is Kosovo legitimately independent or not?

Serbia immediately rejected both the ICJ opinion and any broader conclusions about Kosovo’s status. Belgrade held firm to the views it has repeatedly expressed, particularly that Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 expressly reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of former Yugoslavia. Although Resolution 1244 established an interim international authority for Kosovo and required Serbia and the Kosovars to negotiate over Kosovo’s futures, it did not decide the “final status” of the province. Therefore, Serbia argued, Kosovo remains part of Serbia until and unless the parties to the dispute agree otherwise. Serbia’s most important supporters, Russia and China, echoing Belgrade’s position, have consistently said that Resolution 1244 simply provided a political framework to allow the parties to reach their own conclusions.

By contrast, the European Union and the United States welcomed the ICJ decision. Unfortunately, however, Brussels and Washington have long held confused and inconsistent positions, simultaneously holding that Serbia and Kosovo should resolve the status issue by negotiation, while at every opportunity encouraging and assisting Kosovo’s leaders to make their country independent. Small wonder that Kosovo has never shown much inclination to negotiate. With the kind of external political support it has received for unilateral independence, why should it compromise on anything less?
Does the US - EU position sound familiar? Does it remind you of another 'people' located in Israel?
The larger, global implications are even more troubling, despite the very limited nature of the ICJ’s advisory opinion. Even the Palestinian-Israeli conflict might be affected. Separatist regions in Europe and around the world will draw their own conclusions from the decision, despite its carefully limited scope, thus precipitating unnecessary confrontations between separatists and central governments, but without any real guidance beyond the specifics of the Kosovo situation. Concerns about these potential ramifications undoubtedly shaped the positions not only of Russia and China, but even those of European nations like Spain, which faces several regional separatist movements. For the same reasons, five of the EU’s 27 members have thus far refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

The real conclusion is that lasting, peaceful solutions to separatist conflicts ultimately can only emerge from agreements among the parties themselves. Until and unless they find the means to do so (or to live with them until a better idea arises), they are only postponing the day of reckoning. The blunt truth is that some will only be resolved by military conflict. But as its Kosovo opinion makes clear, the artificial and inadequate ICJ is probably the least useful approach of all.
All of which will not prevent the 'Palestinians' from appealing to the ICJ. And while, if anything, there is less of a basis for a 'Palestinian state' than for a Kosovar one, given what we already know of how the 'international community' treats Israel and the Jews, the odds that the ICJ would not rule in favor of the 'Palestinians' are probably especially slim.

What could go wrong?


At 10:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This would go wrong for sure. I understand your concern, but the indipendence has nothing to do with human rights, the right of self-determination or anything else that is publicly discussed.

The only thing that mattered is that the United States of America needed another base next to the ME. As long as Israes is in favor of the US they will (probably) be in favor of Israel.

Therefore Kosovo-Albanians can claim the right of secession to create their own state. But Serbs living in Bosnia, North-Kosovo, and Croatia, Arabs in Israel and anybody else that is not in the Interest of the US can't.

For sure this court decission might heat up some conflicts, but without the support of a major power (eg. USA, Russia etc.) nobody will achieve anything.


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