A senior European diplomat . . . said, "The talks end on Dec. 10. If there is no sense then that Serbia and Kosovo can agree on the province's future, then Kosovo will make a unilateral declaration of independence," and the U.S. and the Europeans will back the move.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Reuters news agency: "There's going to be an independent Kosovo. It's the only solution that is potentially stabilizing for the Balkans rather than destabilizing for the Balkans."
This marks a decisive break from statements made this August in which Western powers has insisted that any partision be consentual.
Serbia, backed by Russia, has been willing to grant broad local autonomy to Kosovo, but not independence. Last week it was reported that:
Belgrade's new proposal includes giving the independence-seeking Kosovo Albanians "95 percent competence" in running the province.
"The Serbian proposal is new and specific and offers a form of maximum autonomy not seen in the world today," [Serbia's diplomat] Samardzic said, adding that Kosovo would maintain "weak and minimal" links with Serbia.
A little more than a week ago:
Serbian President Boris Tadic, at a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Prague, repeated Monday that Serbia would use all legal and diplomatic means to prevent independence.
“Serbia cannot have conditions imposed on itself that affect its sovereignty and integrity,” he told reporters.
“We will use all legal and diplomatic means to prevent this (independence) from happening.”
It isn't clear what military or other action Serbia make take if it is dissatisfied with a unilateral declaration of independence.
The fear is that if Russia intervened on behalf of Serbia, while the U.S. and E.U. took the side of Kosovo in a military conflict, that the traditional World War III scenario could break out. The latest firm statements from the U.S. and the Europeans appear caculated towards pushing Serbia to back down from its demand for nominal, but meaningless sovereignty, possibly in exchange for some other, less symbolic concession. Without military support from Russia, Serbia would be powerless to defeat entrenched Kosovar, NATO and U.S. forces allied against it.
Russian opposition has prevented unilateral independence for Kosovo from being sanctioned by the United Nations.