Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zarif, for your briefing. I’d like to welcome President Jahjaga and President Nikolic, their first time before this council. Thank you both for your statements.
Before I begin my comments today, I would like to express our deep condolences to all those in Serbia as well as in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Croatia who have suffered as a result of the devastating floods. We stand with you as you begin to recover and rebuild.
Mr. President, the United States commends both Serbia and Kosovo for their continued dedication to the EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and the implementation of the April 2013 agreement to normalize relations. Both governments have made difficult decisions that are critical to realizing a more stable, peaceful and prosperous region. We would in particular like to recognize the efforts of President Jahjaga, the first and only female head of State in the Western Balkans to promote inclusivity in Kosovo. We also thank the new government in Serbia for its renewed commitment to continuing the normalization process in line with Kosovo’s legal and institutional framework and in accordance with the agreement.
Mr. President, I would like to raise three points today – Kosovo’s upcoming parliamentary elections, the European Rule of Law mission EULEX, and Kosovo’s strategic security review.
We welcome President Jahjaga’s announcement that parliamentary elections will be held on June 8. The 2013 municipal elections demonstrated Kosovo’s capacity to meet international electoral standards, and it will be important for Kosovo’s leaders to show the political will to do the same during this pre- and post-election period. We were pleased to hear President Jahjaga’s assurances in this regard. Such open and fair political processes help Kosovo cement its place in Europe.
Mr. President, the United States commends the Kosovo government and the Kosovo Assembly for their approval of the exchange of letters on the EULEX transition and extension of its mandate, and on their support for establishing a special court for to hear potential cases of the Special Investigative Task Force. We also thank the European Union for its continued role in Kosovo. The letters set out a new two-year EULEX mandate, taking into account Kosovo’s progress since 2008, and detailed guidelines to ensure creation of an internationally credible judicial structure and process for any trials that may result from the work of the Task Force. The strong vote by the assembly underscored Kosovo’s commitment to justice and the rule of law. Following elections next month, we look forward to the new Assembly’s prompt consideration of related implementing legislation. It is in our common interest to resolve the 2010 Council of Europe Report allegations once and for all, to strengthen Kosovo’s international credibility and to advance its European aspirations.
Finally, I would like to comment on Kosovo’s Strategic Security Sector Review, which was facilitated by a team of U.S. advisors to evaluate Kosovo’s legitimate security needs. The final report released in March outlined a responsible plan to gradually develop over a period of years a limited territorial self-defense capacity, in accordance with Euro-Atlantic norms and built on the existing multiethnic Kosovo Security Force. This process has been conducted in a transparent and professional manner over the past two years. In its facilitation role, the United States engaged the Government of Serbia on this issue on several occasions, and the Kosovo Government has briefed regional partners and NATO members on the review’s recommendations to transfer the Kosovo Security Force to the Kosovo Armed Forces, in keeping with resolution 1244. We are confident that with the involvement of NATO, and regional partners, we can build trust between the two sides and ensure that the arrangements will strengthen the security and stability of the region. In this vein, we welcomed the written assurance – assurances of the Kosovo government to NATO that reaffirm its earlier commitment made in conjunction with the April 2013 Agreement that the KSF and its successor would undertake no mission in the north without the prior concurrence of KFOR. Further as a member of NATO the United States notes its alliances commitment to Kosovo remains unchanged.
Mr. President, we are moving towards the day when Kosovo and Serbia will not only be good neighbors, but partners in the European Union and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Kosovo has made great progress in consolidating its democracies since its declaration of independence. Over one half of UN member states, including nine members of this council, now recognize Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. For the sake of greater stability in the region, we urge those states that not recognize Kosovo to do so. We hope that the leadership in Belgrade and Pristina will continue their positive momentum as they work to establish peaceful and secure environment that will allow their citizens to flourish. They will have full support of the United States in this regard.
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