Serbia's prime minister on Thursday warned of "dangerous" consequences if the breakaway province of Kosovo gets independence.
Vojislav Kostunica told a rally on the occasion of Serbia's National Day that Kosovo's independence would represent a "dangerous precedent" and "violence against a democratic European nation."
"Serbia warns that, no matter what, it will not be an accomplice to such violence," Kostunica said. "If anyone dares seize Serbia's territory, it must take into account that it takes full responsibility for such violence."
Kostunica spoke a day after Serbia's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a U.N. plan that would grant internationally supervised statehood to the southern province where there is an overwhelming Albanian majority.
Dismissing critics who have urged him to accept the current demographic situation in Kosovo where ethnic Albanians represent 90 percent of the population, Kostunica said, "we don't need the talk about a sense for reality. The reality is that Kosovo is part of our territory."
The parliament's rejection sent a strong signal that Serbia will be unlikely to compromise over its southern province, meaning a resolution to the dispute over Kosovo's final status will probably have to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
The proposal, drawn up by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, does not explicitly call for Kosovo's independence, but envisions granting the province its own flag, anthem, army, constitution and the right to apply for membership in international organizations.
Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999 when NATO bombing halted former President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in the province. Nearly 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in the onslaught, and almost 1 million were forced to flee their homes. About 1,000 Serbs were killed in revenge attacks by Kosovo Albanians, reports AP.
Belgrade has offered broad autonomy for Kosovo, which it considers the medieval cradle of its statehood. But Kosovo Albanians demand complete secession.
The parliament's rejection dooms hopes of a compromise between Serbian and ethnic Albanian officials at the final round of negotiations on the plan scheduled to start in Vienna, Austria, next week. Ahtisaari plans to put the proposal before the Security Council by the end of next month.
There are concerns the plan may trigger a showdown between the United States long an advocate of an independent Kosovo and Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia.
The Biden administration has reproduced the sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on Russia for the alleged poisoning of the Skripals