Thank you, Mr. President.
I would like to welcome Foreign Minister Jeremic of Serbia and Acting Foreign Minister Citaku to the Council, and thank them for their comments. Let me also thank Special Representative Zannier for his briefing and his service.
Mr. President, I have three points to make today.
First, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently said in Pristina, the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion turned the page on questions of Kosovo’s status. In the words of the Court, “the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 did not violate international law.” The ICJ opinion also stated that the declaration was not in violation of resolution 1244. It is now time to move ahead.
For this reason the United States welcomed the consensus General Assembly resolution, adopted on September 9th, which points to a new era of pragmatic, neighborly relations between Serbia and Kosovo as they embark on their respective paths toward a Euro-Atlantic future. We welcome and support the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. It will help both countries improve the quality of life for their citizens and increase security and stability in the region.
Let us be clear. This dialogue is not about Kosovo’s status or territorial integrity. Kosovo is a sovereign, independent state, and its borders are inviolable. Seventy-one countries have now recognized Kosovo.
Mr. President, we call upon states that have not already done so to help contribute to the stability in the region by welcoming Kosovo into the international community through formal recognition.
Second Mr. President, we must support the Government of Kosovo in its efforts to build a multiethnic and unified democratic state—governed by the rule of law, accountable to all of its citizens, and fully integrated into the international community. Kosovo has already made strides in increasing overall security, building a culture of inclusive democracy, and strengthening the rule of law. But a great deal more remains to be done.
The United States looks forward to free, fair, and peaceful general elections in December as Kosovo builds on its encouraging track record in developing a vibrant, multiparty democracy.
We stand ready to support Kosovo’s efforts to administer the elections in a manner that lets all of the people of Kosovo exercise their right to vote. Now is the time for all citizens of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic background, to make their voices heard in the democratic process. We regret that the Government of Serbia has missed the opportunity to play a constructive role in the process, and has not encouraged Kosovo Serb participation. Kosovo’s Serb community can only be disadvantaged by this decision.
Mr. President, strong economic growth, rooted in the rule of law, is key to ensuring the long-term prosperity and security of the Balkans. We encourage Kosovo to create the conditions needed for sustainable private-sector-led growth by aggressively pursuing judicial reforms and tackling crime and corruption. Kosovo’s continued cooperation with EULEX is critical here.
Kosovo’s entry into the IMF and World Bank last year—and eventually, we hope, into other regional and multilateral institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development—will help promote reforms that ultimately benefit the people of Kosovo. We encourage all of our fellow member states to support Kosovo’s full participation in international fora, including the Central European Free Trade Agreement.
We also support the Government of Kosovo’s efforts to responsibly enforce its laws, including recent measures taken by the Kosovo Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. Authorities in Kosovo and Serbia must work together to promote commercial activity in the telecommunications and energy sectors, while respecting Kosovo law, to meet the genuine needs of Kosovo’s communities.
Further, the North Atlantic Council’s recent decision to continue downsizing KFOR reflects improvements in the security situation and the professionalism of Kosovo’s security forces. The two governments’ cooperative approach to the installation of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church last month in Peja further contributed to security and stability, in keeping with a shared responsibility to protect and preserve the vital role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.
Mr. President, that brings me to my third and final point. As the report makes clear, many challenges remain in northern Kosovo.
We strongly condemn acts and threats of violence, including those reported against ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo that are intended to intimidate those who would engage with Kosovo’s legitimate institutions.
Such attacks exacerbate divisions and undermine security. We welcome EULEX’s support of the Kosovo Police’s efforts to improve respect for the rule of law in northern Kosovo, and we call on authorities in Pristina and Belgrade to support and contribute to these efforts.
Mr. President, the United States will continue to support Kosovo as it works to build a stable, prosperous, and democratic country that is at peace with its neighbors and more and more integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community. Similarly, we will continue to support the aspirations of Serbia and all the countries of the western Balkan to achieve their goals for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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