BELGRADE: Serbia's new nationalist-led government pledged Wednesday never to recognize Kosovo, adopting a hard-line resolution that could jeopardize reconciliation talks between the bitter Balkan rivals.
The resolution, proposed by President Tomislav Nikolic, said Serbia will never recognize the secession of Kosovo, the former province which declared independence in 2008. It calls for full autonomy for Kosovo Serbs who represent about 10 percent of the ethnic Albanian-dominated region of some 2 million people.
The document has to be approved by Serbia's nationalist-dominated parliament before it becomes official.
Nikolic said he does not "see Kosovo as an independent state" and that the resolution makes sure that Serbian negotiators won't imperil the country's national interests in ongoing talks with Kosovo officials.
A draft of the resolution, leaked to the public last month, has been criticized by Western officials and rejected by Kosovo's leadership because it proposed de-facto partition of Kosovo along ethnic lines.
Details of the final version, adopted on Wednesday, will be kept secret from the public because Serbia does not want to reveal its negotiating position, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said.
He rejected widespread claims that the document complicates his talks with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, saying that in it Serbia for the first time recognizes that there is an ethnic Albanian authority in Kosovo.
"Our aim is not to split up Kosovo as a territory," Dacic said.
Progress in EU-mediated negotiations is a key condition for both Serbia and Kosovo in their efforts to one day become members of the bloc.
In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to stop its crackdown against independence-seeking Kosovo Albanians, forcing Belgrade to relinquish control of its then-province.