Thank you, Mr. President.
I would like to thank Special Representative Zannier for his briefing today. The United States commends you, Mr. Special Representative, for the work UNMIK has carried out under your leadership, including UNMIK’s successful reconfiguration. Let me also welcome Foreign Minister Jeremic of Serbia and Foreign Minister Hyseni of Kosovo to the Council.
Today, I would like to underscore three key points.
First, the United States welcomes what the Secretary-General has called a "new phase" for UNMIK. The full deployment of the European Union Rule of Law Mission, EULEX, has enabled UNMIK to reconfigure itself and reduce its responsibilities.
We fully support this transition, which makes EULEX the primary international presence for rule-of-law issues in Kosovo. We welcome EULEX’s expanding role in Kosovo, especially in the north of the country. As the Secretary-General states, UNMIK has now refocused its efforts on facilitating practical cooperation among all communities in Kosovo. And we note that both Belgrade and Pristina have adopted pragmatic approaches in resolving some of their outstanding issues.
Second, we commend the Government of Kosovo for continuing to carry out its commitments under the Ahtisaari plan. The municipal elections scheduled to be held in 36 municipalities for November 15, 2009, will represent a significant milestone for Kosovo. These elections are the first to include new municipalities under the decentralization process outlined in the Ahtisaari plan. These new municipalities enable Kosovo Serbs to have a significantly stronger voice in local issues.
And we are encouraged that 41 of the 76 parties or entities registered to participate in the elections represent Serb and other minority communities. The United States strongly encourages all of Kosovo’s citizens to participate in the upcoming elections, and we hope that others in the international community will voice their support for their participation as well. We also call on Belgrade and Pristina to encourage and facilitate the engagement of all ethnic groups in Kosovo’s institutions. We urge an end to support for parallel structures, which diminish coordination and cooperation between the government and those in need and undermine the role of the responsible Kosovo authorities.
Kosovo continues to face significant challenges in addressing the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. To be successful, the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia both must continue sustained efforts to facilitate these returns. The agreement earlier this year to reopen offices of the Kosovo Property Agency in Serbia is a major step forward.
Third, the Secretary-General notes that the security situation remains relatively calm in Kosovo. For this reason NATO decided to downsize its peacekeepers to a deterrent presence. But recent security incidents in northern Kosovo highlight the sensitivities and tensions inherent in building a multiethnic society. We welcome the return to work of most Kosovo Serb police officers and the appointment of an ethnic Serb police officer to the position of Deputy General Director of the Kosovo police. Both are positive developments that will improve relations among Kosovo’s communities.
The United States condemns the recent vandalism of EULEX vehicles and applauds Kosovo's handling of the incident, including the later arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. These incidents and others—such as the confrontations over housing reconstruction by Kosovo Albanian returnees in northern Kosovo this summer—underscore the need for strengthened police cooperation and security for returning displaced persons.
Mr. President, Kosovo has made tremendous progress in the decade since the passage of Resolution 1244. Sixty-two countries have now recognized Kosovo as an independent state; Kosovo has joined the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Kosovo has shown that it is serious about its commitment to be a stable, friendly member of the community of nations. Kosovo and other countries coming out of conflict in the Western Balkans deserve our continued support. For our part, the United States will continue to support the integration of all of the countries in the Western Balkans -- including Kosovo and Serbia -- into European institutions and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Thank you Mr. President.
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