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Pristina streets were almost empty on Thursday (July 22nd) afternoon, with people jammed instead into coffee bars to watch Hisashi Owada, the presiding judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), announce its ruling on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

"The court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition on declarations of independence," Owada read. "Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law."

His words triggered celebrations reminiscent of Independence Day in 2008. In Pristina, people drove around with the flags of Kosovo, the US, Albania and the EU sticking out of their windows.

Landrit Kusari, a driver, left work for awhile to watch it. "I didn't expect it to be different; I feel much more confident after that," he told SETimes.

Shopkeeper Xhemajl Rashiti stood in front of the Grand Hotel, a communist era symbol, says now it's time to concentrate on building the young country.

"Now, after independence, we should make the state properly," he said.

According to university professor Kujtim Kerveshi, a specialist in international law and EU issues, the court's advisory opinion "has great importance in opening the perspective of Kosovo towards future integration, which can be achieved only through more recognitions."

Besim Abazi, a journalist and a professor in Pristina, said political leaders use the momentum to strengthen Kosovo's efforts to enter important international groups and agencies.

"There is 'momentum' for the Serb political leadership as well, which should get oriented towards Euro-Atlantic integration and opening a new reconciliation period with Kosovo," he told SETimes.

"Our eyes should focus on [Serb-dominated] northern Kosovo," he added, noting there will be new talks between Pristina and Belgrade.

Another professor, Ulpiana Lama, said the ICJ session proved once again the sui generis character of the Kosovo case.

"It is a clear defeat for the government of Serbia and a sign that it should change its course. One thing is certain: the objective to get 30 to 40 new recognitions in the next two months is achievable. Kosovo is consolidating its position in the international arena," Lama said.

Kosovo's leaders, meanwhile, hailed what they described as a "blessed day" for the country and its people.

President Fatmir Sejdiu said the ruling "finally removes all the dilemmas that countries which have not recognised Kosovo yet might have had".

Prime Minister Hashim Thaci got the news in the United States, where he met with Vice-President Joe Biden. Thaci said the ruling acknowledged Kosovo's legal right to statehood.

"Kosovo functions today and will continue to function as a state because it has the blessing of international law, which was confirmed," he said.

/ 07.23.2010 - By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times/

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