Thank you, Mr. President. I would like to welcome Foreign Minister Jeremic and Foreign Minister Hyseni back to the Council this afternoon. I’d also like to thank Special Representative Zannier for his thorough briefing and his service as the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Kosovo.
Mr. President, let me begin by addressing briefly the July 22nd Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.
It has been the hope of the United States that the delivery of this opinion would be a springboard for Kosovo and Serbia to move beyond the debates of the past and pursue cooperation to support peace and stability in the Balkans. The Advisory Opinion decisively affirmed the view of the United States and many other countries that Kosovo's 2008 Declaration of Independence was in accordance with international law and did not violate Resolution 1244.
We believe that the ICJ Opinion will encourage those countries that have not done so, to now recognize Kosovo. Mr. President, Kosovo is a special case, and is not a precedent for other conflicts. The ICJ Opinion recognized that the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo had to be considered within the factual context that led to its adoption. Including, as the Court’s Opinion described, the framework established by Resolution 1244 to resolve a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo and the developments in the 2005-2007 UN brokered final status process, which, despite exhausted efforts, was unable to yield a mutually agreeable outcome on Kosovo’s status.
Kosovo is an independent, multiethnic democracy. Its independence is irreversible, its borders inviolable. We call now on Kosovo and Serbia to work together on practical issues that will move both states forward on their respective paths to Euro-Atlantic integration.
Turning to the Secretary-General's report, let me make three additional points about the progress that Kosovo has made in recent months.
First, the Secretary-General's report notes several areas in which Kosovo is consolidating its multiethnic democratic institutions, including by implementing the decentralization of power from central to municipal authorities that is envisioned in Kosovo's constitution.
The recent elections in the newest Kosovo Serb-majority municipality of Partesh demonstrate the progress Kosovo is making toward ensuring the participation of all communities in its institutions.
Second, the Secretary-General points out the challenges posed by economic difficulties. Last month, Kosovo signed a Stand-By Agreement with the IMF. In the run-up to the signing, Kosovo's institutions showed their maturity and responsibility by passing four major financial reforms into law in one month in order to meet the Agreement's conditions.
Third, regarding security, the overall number of security incidents has decreased during this reporting period. The Kosovo Police, with the assistance of EULEX, has demonstrated its growing capacity to protect all of Kosovo's communities. In late May, the Kosovo Police, along with EULEX and KFOR, quickly responded to clashes among large groups of Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs over illegal, parallel elections and prevented the incident from escalating. In late June, the Kosovo Police provided security for a large demonstration in connection with Vidovdan celebrations. The Kosovo Police is increasingly filling crucial roles once performed by the international community.
Without incident, it has taken responsibility for security at a patrimonial site previously guarded by KFOR, and, alongside EULEX, it is currently investigating the July violence related to the opening of the Citizen Services Center in Mitrovica and the shooting of a Kosovo Serb member of parliament.
In addition, there has been progress in returns and the reintegration of returnees, supported by municipal authorities and the central government, with the protection of the Kosovo Police and KFOR.
But as the Secretary-General has pointed out, the absence of reconciliation continues to risk unrest. For example, some returning ethnic Serb families experienced harassment and attacks. My government regrets the loss of life and injuries that accompanied the opening of the Citizen Services Center in North Mitrovica last month, and we urge that those responsible for these criminal acts be held accountable. The Center has remained open, and it continues to provide necessary services to those most in need in the local community.
Efforts to promote stability have been hindered by threats of violence against those who seek to participate in the legitimate institutions of Kosovo's government. We strongly condemn the death threats targeting judges appointed to the Mitrovica District Court and intimidation directed at Kosovo Serbs who work with Kosovo's institutions. We call on all parties to take firm steps to halt incitement to violence.
Mr. President, let me reiterate our hope that Kosovo and Serbia will use the ICJ’s Advisory Opinion as an opportunity to work together to resolve technical issues that can improve the daily lives of their citizens. Further, we welcome the European Union's efforts to assist both countries in realizing their European perspective.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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