Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zarif for your briefing. I’d like to welcome Prime Minister Dačić of Serbia and Prime Minister Thaçi of Kosovo to the Council today, and I thank them both for their comments.
Mr. President, I’d like to make five points.
First, the United States commends the Republic of Kosovo for several positive developments during the reporting period. We especially welcome the OSCE’s facilitation of peaceful Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections for dual nationals in Kosovo. The OSCE enabled dual nationals to exercise their right to vote without infringing upon Kosovo’s sovereignty. Kosovo and Serbia worked effectively with each other and with the international community to promote the development of strong, democratic institutions. It is unfortunate that two Serb municipalities in the north flagrantly ignored Kosovo and Serbian law by improvising a parallel voting process. We welcome Belgrade’s rejection of these actions. Parallel structures have no legitimate role in Kosovo. They should have been dismantled long ago in accordance with resolution 1244.
Mr. President, now that the new Serbian government is in place in Belgrade, we hope to see resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue. This includes implementing agreements previously reached, including on integrated border management. We welcome the commitments today of both prime ministers to pursue constructive engagement through this mechanism. The United States continues to support the EU’s efforts to foster dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia with the goal of normalizing relations between the two states in order to enable both countries to fulfill their European aspirations. As we have stated previously, the European Union is uniquely placed to lead this dialogue.
Second, the United States congratulates Kosovo on the upcoming end of supervised independence. We join our colleagues in the International Steering Group in recognizing the enormous progress Kosovo has achieved, including upholding its commitment to implement provisions embodied in Special Envoy Ahtisaari’s proposal and in enshrining these into law. The United States commends the International Civilian Office, which has worked with the Kosovo Government, to achieve these gains. The decision to end supervised independence in September is a vote of confidence in Kosovo’s dedication and ability to build a multiethnic, democratic nation.
Third, the United States remains concerned over threats to security and freedom of movement in northern Kosovo. The Secretary General’s report touches on this; however, more focus should have been given in the report to the lack of cooperation, and attacks and threats to international personnel from hardliners in the north. Blockades continue to be erected; troop movements continue to be restricted; and, EULEX officials and KFOR troops continue to be threatened. The principal threats to peace in Kosovo come from the nexus of hardline, criminal elements in the north. We look to Belgrade to set a positive tone, cooperate fully with KFOR and EULEX, and encourage Kosovo Serbs in the north to cooperate. KFOR’s efforts, in support of EULEX, to close illegal border crossings and remove road blocks, are most definitely part of its mandate. The Council expects all parties to support these efforts.
We commend the Government of Kosovo for opening the Administrative Office for Mitrovica North. The international community should not impede the Kosovo government’s natural prerogative and capacity to provide services to its citizens in the north. We hope to see cooperation from UNMIK with the Kosovo government on this issue. A significant number of northern Kosovo Serbs applied for, and were granted, positions at the administrative office. We condemn all violence against Kosovo Serbs working in the office and using its services. We hope to see these acts covered in the Secretary-General’s next report.
We commend the Kosovo Police and EULEX for their efforts to protect the local population and remain confident of their investigative capacity and professionalism. We note the collaboration between EULEX and the Kosovo police in investigating the recent double murder of a Kosovo Serb couple. We share the Special Representative’s concern that, as in previous years, hardliners used Vidovdan to incite inter-ethnic tensions. We condemn attacks both on the Kosovo police and on pilgrims.
Fourth, regarding the allegations raised in the March 8th report, the United States takes seriously all allegations of serious crimes committed in the region. We underline a full support for EULEX’s work in this regard. We also commend the strong progress made by the Special Investigative Task Force. We again underscore our staunch support for Ambassador Williamson, the task force, and the countries cooperating with the task force in its crucial work on all of its cases currently under investigation, especially cases related to allegations of organ trafficking in connection with the 1999 conflict.
Finally, Mr. President, we are concerned about the violence returnees continue to experience. Managing the returnee process is difficult, but the looting of returnee houses, stoning of vehicles, and acts of physical violence are unacceptable and stymie reintegration. We commend the Kosovo government for its commitment to supporting returning populations through its Municipal Offices for Communities and Returns. As elsewhere in the region, more needs to be done to create conditions for voluntary returns.
Mr. President, the United States remains committed to advancing peace, stability and prosperity in the entire Balkans region. We look forward to continued cooperation with both Serbia and Kosovo toward realizing their aspirations for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.