FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you, Mr. President.
I too would like to welcome back to the Council President Tadic and Foreign Minister Hyseni and thank them for sharing their perspectives on the region with us today.
I’d also like to welcome Special Representative Zannier and express support for his ongoing work to reconfigure the UN Mission in Kosovo in accordance with the Secretary-General's report of last November. The United States commends the Special Representative's dedication and productive cooperation with other multilateral and bilateral stakeholders in Kosovo.
As the Secretary-General's latest report indicates, Kosovo continues to expand its institutional framework under the constitution promulgated in June 2008. This constitution is second to none in its protection of the rights of all communities and cultural heritage. Kosovo has enacted more than 50 laws to put these constitutional principles into practice - all of them consistent with the plan proposed by former UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, a plan that has served as a blueprint for Kosovo's developing democracy.
Kosovo has also established a foreign ministry, a national security council, and a process to privatize major public firms to ensure greater accountability and resources. The United States congratulates the people and Government of Kosovo for these achievements.
Kosovo’s independence is irreversible. 56 members of the United Nations have now recognized the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state, including nine members of this Council. With the rise of a truly self-governing Kosovo, UNMIK's presence has been substantially reduced, and the European Union has stepped forward as Kosovo's primary international adviser. The United States encourages efforts to reduce further UNMIK's presence in Kosovo in light of these changes.
We welcome the important role of the EU’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), and note the encouraging progress report EULEX has provided. We are particularly pleased that EULEX police and court officials have deployed and been accepted throughout Kosovo, and that the mission is on track to reach full operational capacity
The Kosovo Government has, of course, primary responsibility for the rule of law. But we welcome EULEX's efforts to assist the government in exercising these functions. We all share a common goal: seeing the rule of law throughout the territory of Kosovo strengthened and upheld in a uniform, transparent, and professional manner.
For Kosovo's multi-ethnic democracy to succeed fully, the cooperation and active participation of the country's Serbs is simply essential. We hope that EULEX will continue to discuss practical issues - police, justice, and customs - with representatives from Kosovo's Serb community, the Government of Serbia and the Government of Kosovo. We welcome the statements of Belgrade authorities to cooperate with EULEX and to continue their dialogue with the European Union.
We note with regret however, the continuing support of the Government of Serbia of parallel structures in Kosovo, and urge Belgrade authorities to encourage full interaction between Kosovo' s Serb and Albanian communities, particularly by allowing Serb police to return to their positions in the multi-ethnic Kosovo Police Force.
Security is important and my government commends the continued efforts of NATO in Kosovo - both through its peacekeeping force, KFOR, and its assistance in the standing up of the Kosovo Security Force. This new force, with a mandate to handle civil protection, emergency response and removal of explosive ordnances, is open to all of Kosovo's ethnic communities. NATO's supervision of the force will help to ensure that it conducts itself according to the highest standards worthy of a democratic, multiethnic and civilian-controlled security institution.
President Tadic referred to the period during March-June 1999, the period when NATO countries felt obliged to take action. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia recently issued a 2,900-page decision with findings regarding that period. The decision has detailed findings that the government of Yugoslavia engaged in implementing a state policy of forcing ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo by the hundreds of thousands, killing some in the process. This is the legacy of 1999. It will not help Serbia to overcome this legacy by overlooking it.
We have witnessed significant changes in the Western Balkans over the last ten years, as countries of the region, one by one, move closer to taking their place in the Euro-Atlantic community. In this regard, we would like to commend President Tadic on the progress that Serbia has made in advancing reforms and removing obstacles to its path toward the European Union. The United States supports Serbia's aspirations for a European future and offers our continued cooperation in this regard.
Finally, we know that Kosovo still faces many challenges and that the region still needs our support. Stability in Southeast Europe is a high priority for the United States. We will continue to work with Kosovo, Serbia and other countries in the region to promote lasting peace and prosperity and to enhance their European and Euro-Atlantic prospects.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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