MOSCOW (AP)--Serbian President Boris Tadic warned Tuesday of the risk of renewed conflict if Kosovo's ethnic Albanians seek an independent state.
"I am absolutely against destabilization of the Balkan peninsula," Tadic said at the start of a Kremlin meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
The Serbian president was on a three-day visit to Russia for talks on bilateral relations as well as the prickly issue of the future of Kosovo.
The U.N. has administered Kosovo since the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war that halted ex-president Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists there. Negotiations over the enclave's status are to start later this month under the direction of a U.N. mediator.
Belgrade, which has close historical ties with mostly Slavic, Orthodox Christian Russia, is hoping Moscow might help keep Kosovo within Serbia- Montenegro. But the province's ethnic Albanians want full independence.
Putin asked Tadic how many of Kosovo's Serbs were driven out of their homes by the 1999 conflict, and Tadic said it was about 200,000.
Putin responded that when ethnic Albanians fled their homes in 1999 "it was seen as a great humanitarian catastrophe...now everybody is silent."
His comments were in line with statements by Russian diplomats who have supported the Serbian perspective on the situation.