Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zarif for your briefing. I would also like to thank Foreign Minister Dacic and Foreign Minister Hoxhaj for your remarks.
Mr. President, the United States notes and welcomes Kosovo’s continued steps toward full integration within the international community. We commend the governments of the Solomon Islands and Togo for their recognition of Kosovo as a sovereign, independent state. We are also very pleased about Kosovo’s acceptance into the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe as its 60th member state. These steps further cement Kosovo’s place within the international community, strengthening Kosovo, the region, and international cooperation.
The United States praises 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. While the next high-level meetings await government formation in Kosovo, we are encouraged that working level discussions continue, including a planned meeting on September 4 to carry forward the work on integrated border management. Both governments have made difficult but necessary decisions to advance the Dialogue, which remains integral to a stable, peaceful, and prosperous region. We are further heartened by the recent public statements by Serbian officials reaffirming that stability is Belgrade’s key interest in Kosovo.
The process of government formation in Kosovo is underway following successful parliamentary elections in June. We are encouraged by the positive reports from local and international observers on the smooth and orderly conduct of the election and broad participation throughout Kosovo. As Kosovo’s political and party leaders work to form the next government, it is important that the process proceed in line with Kosovo’s laws and constitution; the July 1 and August 26 rulings by Kosovo’s constitutional court should serve as guidelines in this regard. We urge the leaders, parties and Kosovo Assembly members to move lawfully and quickly toward formation of the new government, so that the important work of strengthening Kosovo’s multiethnic democracy can continue. We also welcome the formation of municipal assemblies and the Kosovo Ministry of Local Government Administration’s certification in May of municipal statutes for the four municipalities in the Serb-majority North.
Mr. President, the United States supports freedom of expression and universal human rights, and we denounce those who would turn to violence to sow discord and unrest within their communities. We condemn the violence that occurred during the South Mitrovica demonstration on June 22 regarding barriers on the Austerlitz Bridge. The security services, including the Kosovo police, EULEX, and KFOR, merit praise for their swift and appropriate response, which prevented further escalation. The violence and tensions over the Mitrovica bridge underscore the enduring sensitivity of these issues and the need for continued, constructive dialogue to resolve differences.
In a broader context, stability and security – both regionally and globally – benefit from rule of law and strong, democratic institutions in Kosovo. Mr. Zarif, you mentioned interconnectedness. We commend Kosovo authorities for their efforts to address the problems of violent extremism and the initiative of the Kosovo police and judiciary in apprehending suspected foreign fighters and their supporters in June and August. President Jahjaga has publicly reinforced that Kosovo will not become a terrorist haven, and that Kosovo institutions will not permit terrorists to endanger peace, stability, and constitutional order. We welcome the initiative of several countries in the region, including Kosovo and Serbia, to put in place legislation penalizing the recruitment and participation of its citizens in foreign armed conflicts. We call on all states in the region to cooperate more closely on countering the common threat of violent extremism.
Finally, Mr. President, we are pleased with the agreement between the European Union and Kosovo to extend the mandate of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo until June 2016. EULEX and KFOR continue to make essential contributions to the international community’s work in Kosovo.
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