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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BELGRADE1059 2008-10-10 16:18:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Belgrade
Cable title:  

SERBIA: NEIGHBORS' KOSOVO RECOGNITION UNDERMINES ICJ

Tags:   PGOV PREL SR MK MW KV 
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RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBW #1059/01 2841618
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101618Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0511
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNS/NSC WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BELGRADE 001059 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SR MK MW KV
SUBJECT: SERBIA: NEIGHBORS' KOSOVO RECOGNITION UNDERMINES ICJ
"VICTORY"

Summary
-------



1. (SBU) The Government of Serbia reacted strongly to the
coordinated announcements late on October 9 by neighbors Montenegro
and Macedonia to recognize Kosovo, declaring the Montenegrin and
Macedonian ambassadors personae non gratae. The new recognitions,
coming the day after the UN General Assembly voted in favor of
Serbia's proposal to refer the legality of Kosovo's independence to
the International Court of Justice (ICJ), tempered Serbian
satisfaction with that outcome and provoked renewed criticism by the
opposition of government strategy. Given that the ICJ case will
continue to preoccupy Serbian diplomacy, it is encouraging that the
GOS also recognized the need to look and move forward toward Europe,
as demonstrated by its decision at the October 9 government session
to return its ambassadors to the United States and other non-EU
countries that have recognized Kosovo. End Summary.

Long-Awaited "Great Diplomatic Victory"


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Serbian press, politicians, and commentators broadly
characterized the UNGA vote as a triumph of diplomacy, a victory for
David against Goliath, and proof that Serbia has moved beyond the
times when it settled scores on the battlefield.



3. (U) In their public statements, President Tadic and Foreign
Minister Jermic praised the decision as affirmation of the primacy
of international law, while stressing that much works remains. In
remarks in New York after the vote, Jeremic expressed confidence
that the ICJ would find in Serbia's favor, which he expected would
lead to new negotiations about the status of Kosovo. Tadic referred
to the upcoming ICJ process as a marathon but limited his comments
on future steps to re-emphasizing explicitly that Serbia would never
accept Kosovo's independence.



4. (SBU) DCM coincidentally was meeting with MFA Political Director
Boris Stefanovic, who had a different reaction when the news came
over his cell phone. Adding up the numbers, he saw that those who
did not vote yes (nays, abstentions and no-shows) clearly
outnumbered the yes vote. In response to DCM's remark that the
Serbs had "lost," he said, "yes, when you leave I'll go join my
colleagues who already are crying." When asked how the GOS planned
to prepare for the ensuing ICJ process, he stared back blankly. DCM
warned him to be prepared for reminding the people of Serbia of the
dark days of Milosevic as the ICJ case progressed.



5. (U) In one of the more interesting reactions to the ICJ referral,
opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic, who recently left the Serbian
Radical Party (SRS) to form his own Serbian Progressive Party (SNS),
welcomed an ICJ opinion on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of
independence, while warning of potential danger: "In that court,
there is a danger that the issue of the absolute endangerment of all
human rights, which allegedly was the case with the Albanians in
Serbia's territory, might be raised. There is a practice, which is
applied in the world, that if people have no rights in a particular
country, then they have the right to break away and create their own
state."

Reaction to Recognitions


--------------------------





6. (SBU) The decision by Montenegro and Macedonia to recognize
Kosovo provoked a swift and emotional Serbian response which
diverted attention from the ICJ outcome. The reaction to
Montenegro's decision, foreshadowed by Foreign Minister Jeremic's
comments before the UN vote that recognition by Podgorica would be a
"stab in the back," far surpassed in rhetoric the response to the
decision by Macedonia.



7. (U) Jeremic, in announcing the decision to expel Montenegrin
Ambassador Anka Vojvodic, characterized the move as an adequate and
rational response, given that countries of the region bear
particular responsibility for preservation of peace and stability in
the Balkans. Jeremic told B-92 that it was done because "the
decision of the regime in Podgorica came after the vote at the
General Assembly" and therefore was an attempt to prejudice the ICJ
verdict. President Tadic expressed confidence that the majority of
Montenegrin citizens did not support their government's decision and
criticized the alleged political pressure under which the decision
was taken.



8. (SBU) The British Ambassador told us on October 10 that he viewed
the decision to expel the Montenegrin Ambassador as bullying and not
consistent with the terms of the Stabilization and Association
Agreement (SAA). He expected that London would react strongly.



9. (U) Political parties of all persuasions decried the latest

BELGRADE 00001059 002 OF 002


recognitions of Kosovo, while reserving particularly harsh words for
Montenegro. Deputy Head of the SRS Dragan Todorovic called the
authorities in Podgorica traitors carrying out orders as a U.S.
colony, while New Serbia (NS) MP Miroslav Markicevic said that the
decision was the most disgraceful act in the history of Montenegro.
Members of the pro-European ruling coalition, such as G17 Plus
caucus head Suzana Grubjesic and Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)
caucus head Branko Ruzic, also criticized the decision. In
contrast, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) head Cedomir Jovanovic
called the decision to expel the Montenegrin Ambassador
counterproductive and a threat to Serbia's efforts to integrate into
Europe.



10. (U) The opposition and MPs from United Serbia (JS), part of the
ruling coalition, called on October 10 for a special session of
parliament at which government representatives would explain how the
GOS would respond to the recognitions. JS head Dragan Markovic
Palma proposed declaring Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic personae non gratae and freezing
economic ties. Both former PM Vojislav Kostunica and former Kosovo
Minister Slobodan Samardzic of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS)
claimed that the timing of the recognitions immediately after the
UNGA vote demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the GOS approach, and
called on the government to sue individual states that recognized
Kosovo.



11. (U) Reaction to the Macedonian recognition was muted in
comparison, with virtually no commentary in the press. Serbian
Ambassador to Skopje Zoran Popovic presented the Macedonian MFA with
a diplomatic note protesting the decision and shortly thereafter the
GOS declared Macedonian Ambassador Aleksandar Vasilevski persona non
grata.

Ambassadors to Return


--------------------------





12. (SBU) In the buildup to the ICJ vote, the GOS told us repeatedly
that an UNGA referral of its proposal to the ICJ would allow it to
carry out a series of steps, including normalizing diplomatic
relations with the non-EU states that recognized Kosovo, engaging in
talks with Pristina on non-status related matters, and cooperating
on the deployment of the EU Rule of Law (EULEX) mission.



13. (SBU) At its first session following the ICJ vote, the
government decided on October 9 to return its ambassadors to non-EU
countries that had recognized Kosovo. (Ambassadors were returned to
EU countries and Norway in July.) Justice Minister Snezana Malovic
told us on October 10 that this decision also will allow cooperation
with diplomatic missions in Belgrade to resume.



14. (U) The decision provoked a sharp reaction from the SRS, which
criticized the government for returning the ambassadors on the same
day that Macedonia and Montenegro recognized Kosovo. Stating that
government policy amounts to "throwing dust in the eyes of
citizens," the SRS called for the U.S. and British Ambassadors to be
declared personae non gratae as well.

Comment


--------------------------





15. (SBU) Given the nature of relations between Serbia and its
neighbors, in particular its deep emotional and historical
attachment to Montenegro, the strength of the reaction to the latest
recognitions of Kosovo was not unexpected. Belgrade is particularly
incensed at the timing, as it undercuts its argument that the start
of an ICJ review process would freeze recognitions. The
late-breaking news of the Nobel Prize for Peace going to Ahtisaari
will also be sure to tamp down feelings of victory in the Jeremic
camp. It is encouraging that, despite the tension, the GOS has
delivered on one of its promises to look forward by restoring
relations with the United States and other countries. This first
step must be followed by other more substantial moves on issues such
as EULEX if Serbia truly is to move closer to the EU. End Comment.

MUNTER