SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s a great pleasure for me to welcome Prime Minister Thaci back to Washington and here to the State Department. The prime minister has shown great leadership, and he has helped to promote democracy, stability, and the rule of law in Kosovo. And he is leading his country toward the future that the people of Kosovo desire and that the United States wants to see for them, full partnership in European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The prime minister and I had the opportunity to discuss the progress that Kosovo is making in promoting its European future. The United States strongly supports the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the European Union, and we welcome the agreements that have been reached to date. It’s a credit to the leaders of both countries that they are able to compromise to find the best way forward.
And the United States remains absolutely committed to Kosovo’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The agreements reached in the dialogue reinforce these while setting the conditions for Kosovo’s participation in forums with its neighbors in which Kosovo will finally have an equal voice on regional concerns. We urge both countries to stay committed to the dialogue and to fully implement what has been agreed to.
I’m going to go in English, and then we’ll translate for you. Okay? Is that all right?
PRIME MINISTER THACI: It’s okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. I also want to applaud the EU on its decision to launch a feasibility study for a stabilization and association agreement with Kosovo. This represents a step toward European Union membership for Kosovo, and it shows that leaders in Kosovo and in the EU are committed to strengthening their relationship.
Finally, the International Steering Group for Kosovo recently announced the start of preparations to end supervised independence for Kosovo in 2012. Although more work remains, the government is enacting the legislation and building the institutions that will promote democratic reform and effective rule of law for all the people of Kosovo. This decision signals that a stable and independent Kosovo is ready for full participation and partnership in the international community.
Again, Prime Minister, the United States is standing side by side with the people of Kosovo as they chart the course for their country’s future, and I want to thank and applaud you for all that you have done for the progress that we celebrate today.
PRIME MINISTER THACI: Madam Secretary Clinton, members of the press, as always it is a great pleasure to be in D.C., especially now in April with the cherry blossom, it is so beautiful. (Laughter.) The United States of America and you personally have always inspired Kosovar people with the values of freedom, democracy, and justice.
Kosovo is a young democracy. We still have a long way ahead with reforms – strengthen the institutions and economy, good governance, fight against corruption, and other affirmative agenda – in order to transform our society and make positive changes. But some things will never change. That is our freedom, our independence, our territorial integrity and sovereignty, our right to exist as a proud nation in the big family of the nations.
I use this opportunity to thank Madam Secretary Clinton for her personal role and contribution in reaching the latest agreements between Kosovo and Serbia on regional representation and IBM, integrated border management. My vision for Kosovo and the region is a future with open borders and good neighborhood relations.
Today, we discussed also about many important bilateral issues. I am proud of our eternal friendship between our two nations. We both believe that the latest agreements help open a new chapter in the relationship between Kosovo and EU as well.
All countries in the region share the same goal and the same vision for the European integration and NATO membership. But to make that happen, we still need the strong focus and presence of the United States of America and EU, not only in Kosovo but also in the rest of the Western Balkans.
Madam Secretary Clinton, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much.
MR. TONER: We have time for two questions today. The first goes to Brad Klapper of Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thank you. In the last couple of days, Iranian officials have floated alternative venues to Istanbul as the possible site for future P-5+1 talks: Baghdad, Beijing, even Damascus. (Laughter.) Are the United States and its P-5+1 partners willing to go to any of these places to hold the talks? And more importantly, what does this weeks-long haggling over dates and venues instead of substance suggest about the seriousness of Iran’s intentions, especially at a time when many officials, including yourself, have suggested that time is running short for a peaceful diplomatic solution?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Bradley, the EU High Representative Lady Ashton and her team are consulting with their Iranian counterparts. We understand that these consultations are at an advanced stage, and we expect that Lady Ashton will formally announce the date and place of the talks once it is finally confirmed.
Now in its response to Lady Ashton’s letter, Iran expressed its readiness to resume negotiations and engage in a sustained dialogue. And as I’ve said before, we are not interested in talks for the sake of talks. We want to engage in serious discussions that will lead to concrete results. So I want again to urge the Iranian Government to take this opportunity to begin addressing the international community’s concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program.
As I said just Sunday in Istanbul, there is still time and space to pursue the objectives that we seek through diplomacy. We want to see a peaceful resolution of the international community’s concerns. But the time for diplomacy is not infinite, and all options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And until Iran comes into compliance with its international obligations and demonstrates the peaceful intent of its nuclear program, they will continue to face strong pressure and isolation. So the sooner that we can begin talks, the better it will be, and I await Lady Ashton’s confirmation of the details.
MR. TONER: All right. Our next questioner on the Kosovo side is (inaudible) of Radio Television Kosovo.
QUESTION: The question is for Secretary Clinton. The United States with the EU countries help Kosovo to be independent. Will you continue to support in Kosovo in the future for process of integration in Euro-Atlantic institution here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I believe strongly in Kosovo’s independence and territorial integrity and in its aspiration to become a full partner in the international community and a member of the European Union, and eventually, NATO. The United States will continue to support Kosovo and work with the European Union to resolve the outstanding issues that exist between Kosovo and Serbia.
But I am encouraged by the progress that Kosovo has made, not only with respect to European integration, but economically. The prime minister told me Kosovo has grown 5 percent this year. That’s a very strong signal of the kind of progress that Kosovo is making, and we want to help fully integrate, particularly the young people of Kosovo, into Europe and the international community.
Thank you all very much.