Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Special Representative Zarif, for your briefing.
The United States warmly welcomes both Prime Minister Thaçi and Prime Minister Dačić back to the Council and congratulates them for reaching the landmark April 19 agreement on principles for normalization of relations. We commend the EU, especially High Representative Ashton, for continued engagement and leadership on this important issue. The historic April 19 agreement strengthens Kosovo and Serbia’s futures as multiethnic democracies based on the rule of law and respect for human rights and as neighbors on the path toward European integration.
The United States applauds both governments for their political courage and commitment to making the hard decisions to achieve this significant milestone, which holds the potential to enhance significantly stability in the region. We welcome the Prime Ministers’ agreement on an associated implementation plan and timeline and look forward to the agreement’s timely and full implementation. It will be important for both governments to cooperate with EULEX, KFOR, and other partners to advance implementation and ensure safety and security during the transition phase. We encourage the legislatures of Serbia and Kosovo to take all necessary steps in support of this agreement.
The agreement provides a durable solution for northern Kosovo within Kosovo’s legal and institutional framework and reaffirms far-reaching municipal self-governance for ethnic Serbs and other communities living in the north. Free, fair and orderly municipal elections this fall will be an essential step on this path, and we commend the OSCE for its work with Kosovo’s government to facilitate this electoral process. At the same time, however, we are concerned about the threats of violence and irresponsible rhetoric from hardliners, who are personally vested in maintaining the status quo. We encourage both governments to explain the agreement and its benefits to their citizens. We hope that the residents of northern Kosovo take note of Prime Minister Dačić’s appeal to accept and support the agreement, and we welcome the assurances by President Jahjaga and Prime Minister Thaçi that all citizens’ rights will be protected.
We applaud the remarkable progress Kosovo has achieved, including in reforming its justice sector and economy. The new Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code and the restructuring of the courts are major steps forward. Kosovo’s Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF is meeting performance benchmarks, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development just approved its country strategy for Kosovo. We are also pleased to note that over half of all UN Member States now recognize Kosovo. The United States stands with Kosovo as a partner and friend and looks forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come. Serbia is also a longtime partner of the United States, and we welcome Prime Minister Dačić’s productive trade mission to the United States in May.
By resolving political differences through dialogue and compromise, Kosovo and Serbia have collectively set a noteworthy and constructive example for the region. We look forward to continued progress by both countries and their societies on reforms and boosting economic growth. Lastly, let me take this opportunity to reiterate our strong support for the commendable efforts of Kosovo and Serbia to further their cooperation, which remains the optimal path to peace and prosperity.