In a vote held during an annual general assembly in Dubai on November 20, Kosovo failed to secure two-thirds of votes cast to be approved as a full membership of Interpol, a result that was hailed as a major victory for Serbia by the latter’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.

Interpol has faced mounting criticism that governments have abused the organisation’s “red notice” alerts, which are circulated around the world to identify a person who is wanted by another country.

Serbia’s chief negotiator for Kosovo, Marko Djuric, said Kosovo would have used its membership for political reasons. If approved, the fear from the majority of Interpol’s members was that Kosovo would have been able to request “red notices” for the arrest of prominent Serbs that the Kosovar authorities consider to be war criminals.

“I am proud of our country’s struggle,” Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told a press conference. “I want to believe that this will be a clear, undoubted message to Europe and the world to understand that things cannot be solved with one-sided pressure,” Vucic said while hailing Interpol’s decision.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia after the disputed region’s Muslim Albanian majority fought a devastating war in 1998-99 against the then-forces of Yugoslavia, which at the time only consisted of Serbia and Montenegro.

After a nearly three-month air campaign by NATO, who sided with the Kosovar Albanians, the region operated independently from the central government in Belgrade until February 2008 when the Kosovar government officially declared independence.

Supported by Russia, Serbia had been lobbying against Kosovo’s entry into Interpol as the two long-time allies said Kosovo had failed to establish any semblance of the rule of law, one of the main pre-conditions to join the international police body.

For their part, the Kosovar government claimed that it failed in its bid to join Interpol because Russia voted down its proposal.