BELGRADE, July 22 (Xinhua) -- Serbia on Thursday rejected a ruling of the UN's highest court that Kosovo's independence declaration did not violate international law.
While delivering the non-binding advisory opinion, International Court of Justice (ICJ) President Hisashi Owada said: "The declaration of Feb. 17, 2008 did not violate general international law."
Owada said that international law contains no prohibition on declarations of independence.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Thursday his country would "never, under any circumstances" recognize a self-proclaimed, independent Kosovo."
He said difficult days were ahead for his country and it was crucially important to keep the entire territory of the province of Kosovo peaceful and stable.
Jeremic also said the Court avoided taking a stand on the "essential question whether they (Kosovo) have the right to secede from Serbia."
Serbian President Boris Tadic called the non-binding ICJ opinion "difficult for Serbia," but added, "It is clear that the court was not ruling on the right to secession, but that it decided to debate only the technical content of the declaration of independence."
Tadic's remarks were echoed by his junior coalition partner, Ivica Dacic, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, who said: "The impression is unavoidable that...the Court was under the influence of politics more than under the strength of legal arguments."
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia's position on the Kosovo issue remained unchanged despite the ruling.
"Our position of not recognizing Kosovo's independence remains invariable. We believe that the Kosovo problem can only be solved through continued talks between the involved parties based on the UN Security Council resolution," Interfax news agency quoted a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry website as saying.
"We are ready to further actively facilitate this," the statement said.
The reaction of leading politicians in Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), to the ICJ opinion on Kosovo was disappointment and disbelief.
"The opinion, based on what I hear prior to the first detailed reading, is a one-sided view on the question of whether a resolution passed by Kosovo ... is contrary to the principles of international law," said Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb member of the collective Presidency of BiH.
Radmanovic said BiH would not recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo, regardless of the opinion of the ICJ. President of Republika Srpska Rajko Kuzmanovic said the ICJ opinion did not obligate any country to recognize independence of the southern Serbian province.
The United States on Thursday expressed support to the UN court ruling.
"The ICJ ruling strongly asserts that Kosovo's declaration of independence is legal, a judgment we support. Now it is time for Europe to unite behind a common future," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.
Welcoming the ICJ ruling, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the ruling would provide the first step in creating better relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
"For the sake of the citizens of both countries, we expect that Serbia and Kosovo will establish a tolerant and constructive dialogue about practical aspects of mutual cooperation as soon as possible," stated an official press release from the Foreign Ministry.
As both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to European Union membership, the ministry said it was important that they "act in line with the principles of neighborly and friendly relations in order to boost security, peace and prosperity in the region."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Friday that China believed the ICJ's ruling would not be an obstacle to properly resolving the issue.
Qin said China had consistently held that state sovereignty and territorial integrity was a fundamental principle of contemporary international law and the basis of today's international legal order.
China respected Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Qin said, adding that China had always insisted that the involved parties seek a solution to the Kosovo issue acceptable to all through dialogue and within the framework of related UN Security Council resolutions.
A law expert told Xinhua the ICJ's ruling simply dealt with the legality of the breakaway province's act of declaring independence from Serbia, but could not be viewed as recognizing its right to exist as a state.
The expert said the Court was responding to the question raised by the UN General Assembly, at the request of Serbia, -- "Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?"
In the announcement, the court has clearly distinguished between the "legality under international law of the declaration of independence made by the Kosovo representatives and its legal effects," Paola Gaeta, a law professor of the University of Geneva, told Xinhua.
"The question which has been posed to the Court was limited to the first issue -- legality of the declaration -- and did not cover the question of the legal effects of the declaration itself," she said.
"This is important, because the question of the legal effects of the declaration would have forced the Court to pronounce upon whether the declaration has led to the creation of a state and whether Kosovo had the right to become an independent state and secede from Serbia," she said.
"The ICJ ruling only speaks of the declaration of independence per se, and on this it says correctly that a declaration of independence can not be legal or illegal under international law," she said.