Balkans to splinter if Kosovo breaks away: Serbia

Serbia is warning the West ahead of a new round of talks on its breakaway Kosovo province that a declaration of independence by the Albanian majority would lead to new secessionist moves in the Balkans.“If the independence of Kosovo is recognized, it would not be the final stage of the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, but the first stage of new disintegration and secession in the Balkans,” Serbia’s Kosovo minister, Slobodan Samardzic, said.

Samardzic, speaking at a conference on Sunday, Samardzic did not spell out where these new breakaway moves would occur.

But some analysts warn a declaration of independence in Kosovo may have a domino effect, with the first victim being Kosovo itself as the Serb-dominated north of the territory breaks away to join Serbia proper.

Bosnia could come next. Serbia is supporting the Bosnian Serb republic against Western efforts to bring it closer to the central state it shares with ethnic Croats and Muslims.

Serb and Kosovo Albanian leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday with the clock ticking down to a December 10 deadline after which mediation in search of a compromise will end.

Former guerrilla fighter Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s prime minister-apparent after winning an election at the weekend, says he will declare independence immediately after.

The United States and most EU states are likely to recognize Kosovo. But Samardzic says they would be opening Pandora’s box.

FLASH POINTS

Some Serb politicians say ethnically divided Macedonia could also be affected. A rebellion in 2001 by the country’s 25 percent Albanian minority was put down with Western mediation, but tensions remain.

In the West, there is fear that they could worsen if Kosovo is denied independence.

Serbia believes its offer of wide autonomy for Kosovo would restore stability, order and the rule of law, Samardzic was quoted by state news agency Tanjug as saying.

Branislav Ristivojevic, spokesman for the DSS party of Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, said on Monday the only proof of objective negotiations would be if Serbia’s autonomy proposal was taken seriously.

“Dangers lurk if Kosovo unilaterally declares independence and some countries recognize it,” Ristivojevic said.

“The whole world order would crumble, everything that was built in the past 50 years would be meaningless. All the flash points in the world, not just in the Balkans, would erupt”.

Kosovo Albanians will accept nothing less than independence, eight years after NATO bombed Serbia to halt atrocities in a counter-insurgency war, and the United Nations took control.

The talks on Tuesday are part of the second bid to reach a solution. A U.N.-sponsored plan to give Kosovo independence under European Union supervision was blocked in spring by Russia, an ally of Serbia, which demanded further negotiation.

The 27-member EU is split over the issue, with half a dozen members appearing hesitant to back a secession not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.

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