VIENNA, Austria-Negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority on a U.N. plan that would put Kosovo under internationally supervised self-rule remained deadlocked Wednesday, a U.N. envoy said.
Martti Ahtisaari, the diplomat who drafted the proposal on the province's future status, said a final round of talks in Vienna began in conciliatory mood but the two sides remained far apart.
"The parties have not moved closer together, we are still facing the same realities," Ahtisaari said.
"Both parties know perfectly well where they stand. We will see in what areas they can see eye-to-eye," he told reporters.
Reflecting the deadlock, Ahtisaari appeared without the leaders of either delegation.
Serbia's delegation later issued a statement saying it "rejected all provisions of the Ahtisaari proposal which are inconsistent with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia." Serb negotiator Leon Kojen said an alternative offer included a promise of "very broad, extensive autonomy" while keeping Kosovo within Serbia.
The province's ethnic Albanian majority is pressing for full independence, and its negotiators renewed that demand Wednesday.
"We expect Kosovo to become independent," said Veton Surroi, the ethnic Albanian leader heading Kosovo's delegation. "For us, this chapter has ended and this book has been closed."
Surroi accused Belgrade of trying to restart the entire process, something Ahtisaari made clear would not happen after a year of exhaustive talks.
Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended a brutal Serbian crackdown on separatists. About 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers patrol the province.
The final round of negotiations are focusing mainly on technical aspects of Ahtisaari's 58-page draft.
Slovakia's Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, whose country currently holds the U.N. Security Council presidency, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York he received a phone call about the discussion in Vienna and "unfortunately both sides are uncompromising on the status question" but there was a possibility of movement on the technical issues.
"There is just a hope, just a hope, that on the technical issues ... it would be possible to have some progress, some real negotiations, some exchanges, and to move the portfolio forward in agreeing on certain matters," Kubis said.
At the recent Italian Foreign Ministry conference on Kosovo held in Rome, senior negotiator in the Kosovo Albanian team, Ylber Hasa, threatened a new Balkan war if Kosovo does not gain independence.
"Kosovars believe they already have made extensive compromises," Hasa said. "That does not leave much room for maneuver. If you want to see a new Balkan war, that is the perfect scenario," Hasa threatened.
The talks are scheduled to end by March 10, and Ahtisaari plans to submit the package by the end of March to the U.N. Security Council, which will have the final say.
The proposal would give Kosovo internationally supervised self-rule and the trappings of statehood, including a flag, anthem, army and constitution.
Many ethnic Albanians insist it grants the province's minority Serbs too many concessions while not going far enough toward establishing Kosovo as a fully independent state. Serbia, meanwhile, considers it an illegal attempt to pry away the heart of its historic homeland.
With both sides still so far apart, the chances of an imposed solution appeared to increase, along with the likelihood of a showdown at the U.N. Security Council between the United States, which backs Kosovo independence, and Russia, a longtime Serbian ally with veto power.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sidestepped the issue of whether Russia would veto Ahtisaari's plan, but he told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that "a decision on Kosovo must be negotiated and must be the subject of agreement by both sides."