Russia will accept a partition of Serbia's Kosovo province if that is what both Belgrade and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority agree to, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday.
Asked if Russia would accept Kosovo's partition, Lavrov said:
"Negotiations are continuing with the mediation of the troika of Russia, the European Union and the United States. The aim is to help the sides reach an agreement, and we will support whatever it is on which they reach agreement."
"But the aim of the mediators is to help the sides to reach agreement .... and not to force a particular solution on them," Lavrov told reporters at a briefing.
Russia opposes a Western-backed plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia. The troika format was created after Moscow had blocked the independence plan in the UN.
The EU's delegate to the troika said this month a partition of Kosovo could be contemplated if both sides agreed to it, but Russia had not made its position on the issue public.
On Thursday, Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku vowed to declare independence if a final push for a diplomatic settlement between now and Dec. 10 doesn't result in statehood.
Ceku's ultimatum reflected the growing impatience among Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the province's 2 million people and are tired of waiting for a formal break from Serbia.
Serbia's minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, said he offered Kosovo's leadership broad autonomy that would give it ``more powers than it ever had in its history.''
But Ceku said Albanians would settle for nothing short of full independence -- and would declare it if a Dec. 10 UN deadline passes without a negotiated deal.
Ceku's warning drew an immediate response in Belgrade, where Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica urged the international community not to let Kosovo break away.
"The Serbian government will annul any act of unilateral independence," he said on Thursday.
EU envoy Wolfgang Ischinger said yesterday that the chances of an agreement on Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians are slim and the EU must not split over how to deal with the consequences in December if negotiations fail.
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