United Nations' Highest Court Considers Whether Kosovo's Independence Is Legal

The United Nations' highest court was weighing in Thursday on whether Kosovo's independence is legal — possibly setting a precedent for separatist regions across the globe.

Kosovo sparked sharp debate worldwide when it seceded from Serbia in 2008, following a bloody 1998-99 war and nearly a decade of international administration. Kosovo's statehood has been recognized by 69 countries, including the United States and most European Union nations, while Russia leads a handful of others in staunchly condemning it.

The International Court of Justice will issue an opinion Thursday that is nonbinding, but that is expected to lead to fresh efforts to reach a settlement between Belgrade and Pristina about Kosovo's status, The Associated Press reports.

The court considered written statements from 36 U.N.-member states, including Serbia, along with Kosovo.

Since the declaration of independence, many countries, including the United States and United Kingdom, have recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Many countries such as Russia, China, neighboring Bosnia, and European nations like Spain and Greece have not, however.

The General Assembly made its request for clarification after Serbian President Boris Tadic told members that Kosovo's "unilateral, illegal, illegitimate" move meant "the very nature of the international system has been called into question."

Serbia then put forward a resolution to ask the International Court for an advisory opinion, and member states voted overwhelmingly in favor of it in October 2008, CNN reports.

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