Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Zarif for your briefing. I would like to welcome both 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 today.
First, the United States welcomes the peaceful participation by dual nationals in Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections in Kosovo on May 6, and we look forward to an equally incident-free second round on May 20. Kosovo’s and Serbia’s coordination with the OSCE, which allowed dual nationals to exercise their right to vote without infringing on Kosovo’s sovereignty, demonstrated how both countries can effectively work with the international community to overcome political differences. Going forward, this successful cooperation should serve as a model for future peaceful elections, and promote the development of democratic institutions in the greater region. We are hopeful that both governments will use this practical approach to discuss ongoing problems in northern Kosovo over the coming months. We also welcome that Serbian authorities dismissed as illegitimate local elections held in northern Kosovo.
Second, we echo the Secretary-General’s hope for a “normalization of relations” between Pristina and Belgrade. It is time for this long-standing problem to end. The United States continues to reject any action that would undermine Kosovo’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Government of Serbia’s ongoing support for illegal parallel structures and Serbian security forces in northern Kosovo remains a barrier to progress. We call on Belgrade to remove its security forces from Kosovo immediately and call for the implementation of all agreements the parties have reached thus far in the course of the EU-facilitated Dialogue. We express concern over the difficulties implementing the EU Regional Representation and Cooperation Agreement and hope that both governments use this opportunity to participate fully in regional fora. We congratulate Serbia on its selection as an EU candidate nation and Kosovo on its Feasibility Study for an EU Stabilization and Association Agreement, which is underway. Both nations are making good progress on the road to European integration.
Third, we note that, unfortunately, freedom of movement within Kosovo remains hampered. While we welcome the news that Gates 1 and 31 reopened during the reporting period, we also note that EULEX must continue to transport Kosovo police and customs officers by air to those gates, only because northern Kosovo Serbs continue to deny EULEX full and unconditional freedom of movement. KFOR has also been denied full freedom of movement. We look to Serbia to cooperate with KFOR and EULEX to restore complete freedom of movement for all people and to support KFOR’s efforts to restore and maintain a safe and secure environment. All parties wishing to promote law and order along the border must provide full, unhindered support.
Finally, Mr. President, the United States takes seriously all allegations of serious crimes committed in the region, including in connection with the 1999 conflict. We welcome Albania’s cooperation with EULEX’s ongoing investigation into these allegations, as underscored by the Albanian Parliament’s adoption of legislation in this regard last week. We again underline our full support for EULEX’s work and the progress made by the Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) under the leadership of Mr. Clint Williamson. Let me also say that any attempts to politicize the investigation or duplicate its efforts do a disservice to the alleged victims and their families and risk calling into question the impartiality of any decisions reached.
Mr. President, the United States stands with the international community in our commitment to long-term peace and stability for Kosovo and for the entire Balkan region. Kosovo’s progress towards developing a plan to implement Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is but one example of how seriously Kosovo is taking its obligations as a sovereign state and responsible member of the international community. The OSCE’s facilitation of voting in the May 6 Serbian presidential and parliamentary elections, and the upcoming second-round May 20 presidential elections in Kosovo, is yet another example of how international, multilateral institutions are effectively promoting peace, stability, and reconciliation in the region. We look forward to seeing both Serbia and Kosovo continue on their paths toward full cooperation and European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
Thank you, Mr. President.