Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said during an interview with Guardian that Serbs in Kosovo are living under the threat of genocide and would not rule out a partition between ethnic Serb and Albanian regions of the former province.
Tomislav Nikolic, a former ultra-nationalist, was elected in May on a more moderate platform. But in a Guardian interview he criticised Kosovo, whose independence Serbia and its allies refuse to recognize.
He signaled his intention to take a tougher stance than his predecessor in EU-brokered negotiations, arguing that until now only Serbia had been asked to make concessions in efforts to defuse the dispute and it would now demand more concessions from Pristina.
A Serb enclave around the northern half of the divided city of Mitrovica refuses to accept rule from the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina, the focus of tension since Kosovo declared its independence in 2008.
Its independence has been recognized by the UK, the US and most western states, but not by Russia, China and a majority of the UN general assembly.
Kosovo's leadership has repeatedly called for the international community to help it extend its authority into the Mitrovica enclave and has been increasingly assertive in its efforts to force the issue.
Nikolic said any attempt to impose Pristina's rule could lead to a Serb exodus. "What if the Serbs move out. Who will accept the results of such genocide? That is one of the definitions of genocide: when you expel 40,000 people, regardless of whether they are women, men, [civilians or] soldiers, and when you change the ethnic composition of the territory. That is genocide.
"There is a danger that Pristina would be prepared to go that far. The only armed force there, apart from the international community, is Albanian. I am convinced they wouldn't mind doing that immediately." He added that the only thing preventing such action was the presence of NATO troops.
Ninety-one countries have recognized the independence of Kosovo.