The UN General Assembly voted Wednesday to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to rule on whether Kosovo's unilateral secession from Serbia is "in accordance with international law." The vote in the 192-member assembly on a Serbian resolution seeking support for the referral was 77 in favor, 74 abstentions and six against. The ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations which is based in The Hague, rules on disputes between sovereign states. The resolution decided to request the ICJ to render an advisory opinion on the following question: "Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?" Approval of the text by General Assembly required a simple majority. Introducing the resolution, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic described it as a bid by his country "to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity through diplomacy and international law." "To vote against (the resolution) would be in effect to deny the right of any country now or in the future to seek judicial recourse through the United Nations system," he added ahead of the vote. "This non-confrontational approach is highly principled and legitimate and will serve to reduce tension in the region," he said. Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Spain voted in favor but the 22 other members of the European Union, which have all recognized Kosovo's independence, abstained in the vote. US delegate Rosemary DiCarlo, in explaining her no vote, said the text was "unnecessary and unhelpful." Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers, like many other speakers, reaffirmed his country's support for the ICJ but also noted that the "Serbian request is primarily for political rather than legal reasons." "It is designed to slow down Kosovo's emergence as a widely recognized independent nation playing its part in the international institutions of the world," he added. Some 48 countries, including 22 EU members and the United States, have so far recognized the decision by Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority to declare unilateral secession from Belgrade on February 17. But Serbia, which aspires to join the EU, still considers Kosovo one of its provinces and Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has strongly backed its ally Belgrade in the dispute. France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, whose country currenty chairs the EU, said Paris was determined to help Serbia in its quest for a future within the pan-European bloc. He also pointed out that the EU was keen to play a leading role in bolstering stability in the Balkans, notably through the deployment of the rule of law mission to Kosovo dubbed EULEX. "France encourages the Serbian government to develop a constructive approach regarding EU efforts to contribute to peace and stability in the Western Balkans," Ripert told the assembly. A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the purposes of the resolution was "to park the Kosovo issue in (Serbia's) domestic politics in order for (the government) to pursue the strategic goal of joining the EU." He said it could take the ICJ up to two years to make a ruling on the legality of Kosovo's independence. Ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 when it was wrested from Belgrade's control in a NATO air war.