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Division of Kosovo would mean 'war': PM

© AFP/File | Seen in February of 2018 is Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, home to a ethnic Albanian majority, which broke away through a bloody conflict in the 1990s

PRISTINA (AFP) - 

Any partition of Kosovo or exchange of territory with Serbia would ignite "war," Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj warned on Friday, shooting down proposals that have been floated to break a diplomatic gridlock between the former war foes.

Kosovo, a former southern province of Serbia that is home to an ethnic Albanian majority, broke away from Belgrade through a bloody guerilla conflict in the late 1990s that claimed around 13,000 lives, mostly ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo declared independence a decade later but is still not recognised by Serbia.

The two governments recently resumed EU-mediated talks to normalise relations, which Brussels has set as a condition for the entry of either country into the 28-member bloc.

As negotiations between their presidents drag on, speculation has swirled in the media of a proposal that would see Kosovo trade a northern region home to its ethnic Serb minority for a part of southern Serbia dominated by ethnic Albanians. There has also been talk of dividing Kosovo into separate entities along ethnic lines.

Yet Kosovo's premier made his opposition to that deal clear when asked about it by a reporter on Friday.

"Division for me is war, I say this without hesitation and it is dangerous to talk about division," Haradinaj told reporters.

A day earlier he insisted that there would be "no division, exchange of territories or change of borders".

International observers have also cautioned that a land swap could be calamitous in a conflict-scarred region still simmering with ethnic tensions.

In an interview on Thursday published on the website of the US Embassy in Kosovo, ambassador Greg Delawie declined to comment on his stance regarding a possible territory exchange.

"I'm not going to get at what could be the elements of a deal, of an agreement, at this point. I don?t think that is really helpful," Delawie said according to an official transcript.

The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo ended after a NATO bombing campaign forced troops under command of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw.

Around 120,000 Serbs are estimated to still live in Kosovo, with Muslim Albanians making up the vast majority of the population of 1.8 million.

Kosovo has been recognised by more than 110 states, including the US and most of the EU.

© 2018 AFP