Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zarif, for your briefing. We also welcome Prime Minister Thaci and Prime Minister Dacic back to the Council and thank them for their statements. I commend the Prime Ministers for their dedication to the dialogue process and their resolve to address quickly and constructively matters of contention as they arise. Their leadership has shown the inherent value of direct communication as a way to reduce tensions and increase cooperation among states.
Mr. President, before I begin, let me extend the United States’ deepest condolences to EULEX and the family of the customs officer killed in northern Kosovo on September 19th. EULEX plays an invaluable role in Kosovo, and this officer paid the ultimate price for the prospect of peace.
Mr. President, I’d like to address the recent elections, the continued implementation of the agreement on normalization of relations, and progress made on EU integration today.
First, the United States congratulates Kosovo, the OSCE, and all the individuals and organizations that contributed to the success of the November 3rd municipal elections and applauds Kosovo and Serbia for their efforts to encourage voter participation. The elections were orderly, transparent, and credible in most areas, and an important step in facilitating the participation of all communities in Kosovo’s political and administrative infrastructure. We are heartened to see that voters felt free to report sporadic irregularities to Kosovo's authorities, reflecting both their respect for Kosovo’s institutions and a genuine commitment to the democratic process. All people in Kosovo should be able to exercise their right to vote for their representatives without fear and intimidation, and we therefore condemn the incidents of violence at several polling stations in northern Kosovo. We must not let the actions of a few dampen the progress Kosovo has made on the path to democracy. In that light, we were encouraged by the turnout and orderly voting in North Mitrovica on November 17. These elections have demonstrated that Kosovo is capable of conducting future elections that are consistent with international standards and its European aspirations. We now look forward to the peaceful conduct of the run-off polls on December 1st.
Second, the United States supports the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, which is crucial for stability and reconciliation in the region. We are pleased by the progress both countries have made in the EU-facilitated dialogue. The municipal elections in Kosovo are just one, albeit highly vital, element of the April 19th agreement. We look to the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia to move forward with full implementation of all aspects of the April 19th agreement and all previous agreements, including integrated border management. We commend both governments for concluding additional agreements in recent weeks, particularly regarding telecommunications and energy. The Prime Ministers and EU High Representative Ashton deserve our praise and continued support for their efforts, and we also thank EULEX and NATO for their support for implementing the Dialogue agreements.
Finally, Mr. President, the United States views the elections and the progress of the dialogue as positive steps on Kosovo and Serbia’s respective paths towards EU membership. We strongly support Serbia’s commitment to joining the European Union and, with full implementation of the April 19th agreement, look forward to the European Council’s vote on starting accession talks with Serbia. We also welcome the October 28th start of negotiations between the European Union and Kosovo on a Stabilization and Association Agreement. This milestone demonstrates the progress Kosovo has made both on internal reforms and towards normalization of relations with Serbia. So does Kosovo’s growing number of recognitions, which now represent a majority of UN Member States. The United States stands ready to support Kosovo’s efforts to implement the reforms necessary to achieve its Euro-Atlantic integration goals, including strengthening the rule of law and the fight against crime and corruption, the protection of minority rights, and the development of a strong market-based economy.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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