Thousands of Kosovo Albanians demonstrated on Monday in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, calling for an immediate declaration of independence.
Talks on Kosovo’s final status, which are being mediated by the EU, Russia and the US, failed two weeks ago.
Serbia considers Kosovo, where more than 90 per cent of the 2 million population is ethnic Albanian, its historic heartland and has rejected the secession of the province.
|“From today, Kosovo is starting intense consultations with its international partners with the aim of co-ordinating steps for declaring independence“
member of Kosovo’s negotiating team
As the deadline for an agreement on Kosovo’s future expires, Kosovo Albanian leaders will begin talks with international mediators on steps towards a declaration of independence.
“From today, Kosovo is starting intense consultations with its international partners with the aim of co-ordinating steps for declaring independence, and the official demands for recognising independence,” Skendi Hyseni, a member of the negotiating team, said.
Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian leaders have said they will not declare independence from Serbia without approval from the EU and the United States.
In previous talks, EU nations and the United States advocated a gradual and supervised move toward statehood for Kosovo, a proposal that was rejected by Serbia and its ally Russia.
Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, said before Monday’s talks in Brussels that all but one of the EU’s 27 member states are prepared to accept independence for Kosovo without a UN resolution.
He did not name the member state which seeks a UN Security Council resolution before accepting a declaration of independence by ethnic Kosovo Albanian leaders.
Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Pristina, said there were distinct differences over the future of Kosovo.
“The majority Albanian population will be hoping that the formal breakdown of negotiations means that independence is coming quite soon,” he said.
“A senior Western diplomat in the region told me that as far as he is concerned, there is no good solution to the Kosovo crisis… The US and the major European powers have decided that the least worst option is indeed independence.
“Then of course, there is Russia, which has blocked any progress in the UN Security Council. It has stood firmly beside Serbia, which will not accept Kosovo leaving what it sees as an integral part of its territory.”
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, warned on Monday against Kosovan independence, saying it was not in Russia’s interests.
“In that case those countries would be violating international law and we will not support the violation of international law,” Lavrov told journalists during a two-day visit to Cyprus.
“This will cause a chain reaction in the Balkans and other areas of the world and those making such plans must think very carefully about the consequences.”
Mediators are to debrief Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, in Monday in New York on the failed talks.
In a separate development, Washington and its EU allies have agreed to keep Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo.
The province has been a UN protectorate since 1999, when Nato led a bombing campaign against a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
EU member countries are divided over whether to recognise a Kosovan declaration of independence if Serbia disagrees.
Countries with autonomous regions of their own, such as Spain, are concerned that recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia could boost separatist movements in their own territories.