"Serbia of course will never recognise the unilaterally  proclaimed independence of Kosovo because it believes that unilateral, ethnically motivated secession is not in accordance with the principles of the United Nations," he said.

Call for peace

Serbia's government appealed for calm in Kosovo, where a minority Serb population live alongside a 90 per cent Albanian majority.


Barnaby Phillips reports on the ICJ ruling
on Kosovo's independence

"It is of crucial importance to keep the peace and to stabilise the entire territory of the province [Kosovo]," Vuk Jeremic, Serbia's foreign minister, said.

"It is crucial that our citizens do not react to provocations."

Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, said that the ruling would do little to change the positions of either side.

"Serbia basically says it will never recognise Kosovo as a sovereign country and the government here in Pristina is saying to Belgrade: 'Get real, you're not coming back, independence is a fact on the ground'" he said. 

For Serbs, Kosovo is widely seen as the cradle of the nation and sits at the heart of national folk-histories.

But the ethnic Albanian majority, who suffered a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing at the hands of their Serbian rulers in the 1990s, see Kosovo as their land.

Expecting recognition

A two-year war between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians in 1998-99 ended with a 78-day Nato bombing campaign and saw Serbia lose control of the territory.

The World Court's ruling could have implications for other separatist movements [Reuters]

A UN administration was put in place to govern Kosovo until its final status was resolved, and the Pristina government declared independence unilaterally in February 2008 after talks with Serbia broke down.     

The UN General Assembly, at Serbia's request, asked the ICJ in Otober 2008 to render a legal opinion on the declaration.

The ruling triggered celebrations in Pristina, where the government said that it now expected Serbian recognition.

"I expect Serbia to turn and come to us, to talk with us on so many issues of mutual interest, of mutual importance," Skender Hyseni, the foreign minister, said.

The US echoed calls for wider recognition of Kosovo's statehood,"We call on those states that have not yet done so to recognise Kosovo," Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, said.