NATO ministers meeting in Brussels have promised they will do all they can to stop violence in Kosovo if the territory declares independence from Serbia.
The alliance has promised that troop numbers will be maintained, possibly increased.
A NATO-Russia council meeting was also held in Brussels on Friday, where Russian foreign minister Serguei Lavrov revoiced his country’s opposition to Kosovo’s independence.
He called for more talks on the issue, three days before a Western deadline for a solution. Lavrov said: “No matter how the problem is solved, it will establish a precedent, … and it’s unknown what that precedent would lead to.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer insisted his alliance was united on the issue.
He said: “Regardless of the outcome of the status process, Kosovo has and will remain a place where Kosovar, Albanians, Serbs and others must be able to live in peace together, free from fear and intimidation. And we are determined to play our part.”
Kosovo has been administered by the UN since 1999, when NATO bombing halted a military operation by Serb forces against ethnic Albanians.
Kosovo’s leaders say they will declare independence after the failure of international mediation. The Serb minority has vowed to resist such a move.
Observers say Washington and most European states are likely to recognise a unilateral declaration of independence, more than likely near the end of January.