Serbia's foreign minister urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to oppose Kosovo's expected declaration of independence and called on the secretary-general to order that any proclamation be declared null and void.
In his address to a closed council meeting, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic warned that independence for Kosovo would set a precedent that will echo around the globe, leading to "an uncontrolled cascade of secession."
Jeremic said Serbia does not believe that negotiations over the future status of the Serb province are exhausted, as the U.S. and many European nations maintain.
"We shall never recognize Kosovo's independence," he said in the address released by Serbia's U.N. Mission. "Not now. Not in a year. Not in a decade. Never. For Kosovo and Metohija shall remain a part of Serbia forever."
The Security Council remains deeply divided on the future of Kosovo with Russia backing its close ally Serbia and calling for more negotiations while Britain, France and other European Union members are supporting the Kosovo Albanians.
"There were no real surprises in the meeting," Panama's U.N. Ambassador Ricardo Arias, the current council president, told reporters afterwards.
"Many people have accepted that the situation in Kosovo is predominantly a European issue," he said.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said the 15-member council "was evenly divided between those who recognize that the process had come to a conclusion, and those who would have preferred continued efforts." Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin disagreed, saying not a single council member except the U.S. and EU countries "voiced clear-cut support" for an end to negotiations.
"The simple fact is the parties are irreconcilable on fundamental points," U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff told reporters. "That's why these negotiations have failed."
Kosovo has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a NATO-led air war halted former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999. International talks lasting 14 months failed to produce an agreement between the Serbs, who offered autonomy, and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership, which is expected to declare independence unilaterally in the coming days.
Jeremic said Serbia's government and National Assembly "will declare the actions of the authorities in Pristina null and void. And we shall undertake all diplomatic, political, and economic measures designed to impede and reverse this direct and unprovoked attack on our sovereignty."
He stressed that "Serbia will not resort to the use of force, for violence cannot bring a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis."
But Russia's Churkin warned the council of "a real danger of renewed inter-ethnic violence and increase in extremist activities in Kosovo and in the Balkans as (a) whole," in the event of a unilateral declaration of independence.
Later, he told reporters, "we have heard all sorts of reports about plans being made to coerce the Kosovo Serbs should they not comply or accept the unilateral declaration of independence."
Jeremic reiterated that an independence declaration would violate Serbia's territorial integrity and a 1999 U.N. resolution that put Kosovo under U.N. and NATO administration.
He called on the Security Council to act urgently to reaffirm Serbia's sovereignty.
Jeremic said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must exercise his authority — and his special representative in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker, must receive instructions to use his power if Kosovo's Assembly declares independence and "proclaim this act to be null and void."
Wolff, the U.S. envoy, said he stressed to the council "that the Kosovo situation is unique. It has its history and we can't forget or ignore that history. And it's the consequences of the ethnic cleansing policies of Slobodan Milosevic and his government which ensured that Kosovo would never again be ruled from Belgrade."
Churkin retorted that "we have a completely different Serbia now" which is democratic, doesn't threaten anybody, and has no intention of running Kosovo from Belgrade.
He warned that that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo would be "a blatant breach of international law" and said Ruecker, the U.N. envoy, "is duty-bound to declare such decision by the Kosovo Albanian leadership null and void."