Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, ASG Mulet for your briefing and Special Representative Zarif for participating today. I also welcome Foreign Minister Hoxhaj and Foreign Minister Jeremic back to the Council and thank them for sharing their perspectives with us.
Mr. President, I would like to make four main points.
First, although the situation in northern Kosovo remains tense, the United States is encouraged by the progress Kosovo and Serbia have made in the dialogue facilitated by the European Union. Both countries aspire to EU membership, and it is appropriate that this EU initiative be the forum for the parties to resolve their differences. Through practical arrangements, Kosovo and Serbia are expanding possibilities for their citizens to travel, work, study and trade. We continue to support the EU’s efforts to encourage both countries to be flexible in reaching agreements on such issues as implementation of integrated management of their border crossings and Kosovo’s participation in regional fora. And we look forward to full implementation of all previously negotiated agreements.
Second, we renew our call for unconditional and unfettered freedom of movement throughout Kosovo. The current, so called “conditional” freedom of movement afforded EULEX and KFOR in northern Kosovo is simply unacceptable. While we are pleased that some barricades and checkpoints have been relaxed, obstructions to freedom of movement remain, and are attributable to the actions of Serb hardliners with the support of illegal Serb parallel institutions.
The northern Kosovo Serb population, as well as the Serbian government, should cooperate fully with KFOR and EULEX in the immediate removal of all roadblocks, and in supporting rule of law through actions such as cooperating in the arrests of key criminal suspects. As noted in the EULEX report, Serb hardliners man barricades that block lawyers and EULEX judges and prosecutors from accessing the Mitrovica District Court House, paralyzing the only legitimate institution in northern Kosovo.
Similarly illegal roadblocks along the border continue to impede commerce and movement. We welcome President Tadic’s public call to Serbs in northern Kosovo to dismantle such barricades and hope that his words will lead to actions on the ground to achieve freedom of movement for all. We reject all actions that seek to undermine Kosovo’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. This includes the parallel structures and Serbian security forces still present in northern Kosovo nearly 13 years after the Council mandated the withdrawal of such forces and acted under Resolution 1244 to supersede Serbia’s legal order in Kosovo.
Third, we commend the Government of Kosovo’s work to reach out to Kosovo Serbs, through the establishment of a trust fund dedicated to support for the north. Kosovo’s constitution affords Serbs and other minorities extensive rights and protections, including: enhanced local self-governance through the creation of new Serb-majority municipalities; special emphasis on returns of minorities displaced during the 1999 conflict; special ties to Serbia in the education, health and social spheres; and protection of religious and cultural heritage. However, the Government of Kosovo’s efforts are made vastly more difficult due to the presence in northern Kosovo of illegal Serb parallel institutions, which include local government structures, police and courts financed by Belgrade, and which exercise a campaign of intimidation against anyone willing to engage constructively with Pristina institutions. Serbia must cease its support for these parallel structures.
Finally, Mr. President, the United States takes very seriously any allegations of serious crimes committed in connection with the 1999 conflict and believes that such allegations must be thoroughly investigated. EULEX is the appropriate body to conduct an investigation into allegations of serious criminal activity – including organ trafficking. EULEX assumed Rule of Law responsibilities in Kosovo in 2008. This was a key point in the Secretary-General’s November 2008 report on UNMIK which the Council welcomed in its PRST of November 26, 2008 PRST. EULEX has the full support of all stakeholders in the region. We note that President Jahjaga of Kosovo and other Kosovo authorities have pledged full support and cooperation with the investigation, as has Prime Minister Berisha of Albania and President Tadic of Serbia. Given that all three countries aspire to be members of the European Union, we expect that they will fully cooperate with the EU investigation.
The assertion that all investigations into war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have taken place under Security Council auspices is not correct. Cases outside of the UN mandate have been developed by national prosecutors and are being handled in domestic courts in the region. Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia all have active war crimes prosecutor’s offices and war crimes chambers in their court systems that deal with cases not only referred by ICTY but other cases as well, such as the Chushka case regarding the massacre of Kosovo Albanian citizens by Serbian forces. This case is currently before the courts in Serbia.
Mr. President, the United States has full confidence in the leadership of the Special Investigative Task Force under the leadership of Ambassador Clint Williamson. We categorically reject attempts to cast aspersions on the impartiality of Ambassador Williamson and the Task Force as we heard in the chamber today. Such assertions are irresponsible and baseless. Attempts to politicize the investigation, duplicate its efforts, or conflate it with other investigations, including the ongoing “Medicus” case, which involves criminal activity during the 2006-2008 period, do a disservice to the alleged victims and their families and risk calling into question the impartiality of any decisions reached.
Mr. President, the international community is committed to long-term peace and stability for Kosovo and for the entire Balkan region. Many multilateral institutions, including the UN, OSCE, NATO, and the EU have worked to promote peace, stability and reconciliation in the region. Now is the time for Serbia and Kosovo to put the past behind them and work toward their future in European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Thank you, Mr. President.