Reaction in quotes: UN legal ruling on Kosovo

A ruling by top UN judges that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia was not illegal was welcomed by the territory's allies and others.

But Belgrade said it would never relinquish its claim while countries which also refused to recognise Kosovo's secession, including at least one EU state, repeated their opposition.

Separatists in the former USSR and Spain welcomed the ruling for their own reasons.

Reaction to the International Court of Justice's non-binding opinion follows in quotes.

White House spokesman Mike Hammer

"We were pleased that the court agreed with the long-standing view of the United States that Kosovo's declaration of independence is in accordance with international law."

Baroness Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

"The advisory opinion opens a new phase. The focus should now be on the future. The future of Serbia lies in the European Union. The future of Kosovo also lies in the European Union."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

"The ICJ's ruling confirms our view that the declaration of independence was legal. It supports our view that the independence and territorial integrity of Kosovo are irrefutable facts."

Serbian President Boris Tadic

"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."

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko

"It is of principal importance that the court provided its assessment of only the declaration itself, particularly spelling out that it did not consider the question of Kosovo's right unilaterally to secede from Serbia in a broader context. In its conclusions, the court did not rule on the consequences of the adoption of that document either, for example, whether Kosovo is a state, or on the legality of the territory's recognition by a number of countries. Our position on the non-recognition of the independence of Kosovo remains unchanged."

Republic of Cyprus foreign ministry

"Cyprus would like to reiterate its position of principle on the issue of Kosovo and reaffirm its unwavering position of respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, which includes the Kosovo and Metohija province."

Sergei Bagapsh, president of the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian territory of Abkhazia

"The decision of the International Court once more confirms the right of Abkhazia and [fellow breakaway Georgian region] South Ossetia to self-rule. And from a historical and legal point of view, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have much more right to independence than Kosovo."

Aitor Estaban, an MP from Spain's Basque nationalist PNV party

"I think that the main consequence is that Spain cannot keep saying that the international rules don't allow for a split of the country for a new Basque independent country into the European Union. So I think that should be already over and that's good news for us."

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