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Kosovo’s independence lawful, says UN Court

Kosovo scored a significant victory in its struggle to be recognised as a full and legitimate state yesterday when the UN's highest court ruled that its 2008 declaration of independence did not break international law.

Serbia denounced the judgment — more than a decade after it fought a civil war over its former province — and warned the ruling would encourage separatist movements around the world.

The ruling sets the stage for Kosovo to renew its appeals for further international recognition.

The tiny Balkan country has been recognised by 69 countries, including the United States and most European Union nations.

It needs 100 for full statehood and the Kosovo government urged its Serbian counterparts to hold further talks on its future.

“Kosovo's historic victory should not be felt as loss in Belgrade,” Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said, before calling the ruling by the International Court of Justice “the best possible answer for the entire world”.

Serbia, backed by its powerful ally Russia, vowed that it would continue its battle for the province that it considers the cradle of its nation and its Orthodox religion.

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Serbia lost control over Kosovo in 1999 after 11 weeks of NATO bombing of Serbia to halt the oppression of two million ethnic Albanians.

In its ruling delivered yesterday, the UN court said that Serbia had “lost any jurisdiction” over Kosovo in 1999 when a UN administration took over after the war.

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