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Sunday, February 8, 2015

AMBASSADOR PRESSMAN'S COMMENTS ON KOSOVO

FROM:  U.S. STATE  DEPARTMENT
02/06/2015 01:44 PM EST
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
New York, NY
February 6, 2015
AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Special Representative Zarif for your briefing. We welcome Foreign Ministers ThaÒ«i and DaÄiÄ back to the Council. I commend both countries for their continued dedication to the normalization of relations. We particularly welcome Kosovo’s continuing integration into the community of states as demonstrated by its participation in regional meetings and fora in recent months and, specifically, we congratulate Kosovo on its recognition by the International Olympic Committee and look forward to seeing Kosovo’s athletes competing under the Kosovo flag in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
 The United States welcomes the successful formation of a government in Kosovo in December 2014. Although this process took time, it represents the first democratic transition of political authority resulting from free and fair elections across the entirety of Kosovo’s territory. This coalition government, and the process that led to its formation, demonstrated the resilience and vitality of Kosovo’s democratic and political institutions. The United States appreciates the leadership of President Jahjaga in helping to facilitate the political dialogue that led to government formation in accordance with Kosovo’s constitution.

The new government, which includes representatives of minority communities, has been tested over the last month by violent protests and by the separation from government service yesterday of the Minister for Communities and Returns. The importance of a fully representative, fully participatory and multi-ethnic government and parliament cannot be understated. With respect to the protests, let’s be clear: All citizens have the democratic right to protest, but violence is illegal and it’s unacceptable. We condemn all acts of vandalism to public and private property and the intimidation of journalists and TV crews. All citizens of Kosovo should exercise their democratic rights and they should do so legally and responsibly.

We encourage the new government to move quickly to address the socio-economic challenges in the country. Economic growth and new employment opportunities will demonstrate to the citizens of Kosovo, regardless of ethnicity, that they have a prosperous and free future at home, stemming the tide of migration out of the country. We additionally encourage efforts by Kosovo to undertake those measures necessary to encourage the return of those displaced both internally and outside of Kosovo as a result of the conflict, including by adjudicating property claims and enforcing court decisions. We will continue to urge Serbia, Kosovo, and all states in the region to increase cooperation at their shared borders. Such cooperation will advance the rule of law, increase security, counter criminal activity, including smuggling and trafficking in persons.

We again condemn the actions of those who seek to oppose the work of building inclusive democracy in Kosovo by committing acts of violence or by sowing tensions, mistrust, and fear between communities. The use of violence against religious pilgrims, as we unfortunately saw in Gjakove/Djakovica on Orthodox Christmas, is clearly unacceptable. All sides must guarantee freedom of movement for local populations. To this end, KFOR and EULEX continue to exercise indispensable roles in facilitating a safe and secure environment.

The United States notes the visit of Prime Minister VuÄiÄ to Kosovo in January and the cooperation of Kosovo authorities to provide protection. This act was another step toward the normalization of relations. The EU-facilitated Kosovo-Serbia Dialogue and implementation of the April 2013 agreement continue to be critical elements of building a strong, inclusive and multi-ethnic democracy in Kosovo. We welcome the forthcoming high-level meetings in Brussels next week and hope that the session on Monday will lead to concrete progress that will directly benefit the citizens of both countries.

The United States commends Serbia and Kosovo for your work, as well, on combatting foreign terrorist fighters, as demonstrated by your attendance at the first ministerial-level plenary session of the counter-ISIL coalition in December in Brussels. Kosovo’s dedication to this effort is also apparent in the recent work to arrest and prosecute foreign terrorist fighters in Kosovo and by the introduction of a law to criminalize participation in such activity.

Mr. President, in closing, I would like to stress that while the United States believes the situation in Kosovo remains an important issue, and there is much work to be done to advance the Dialogue. There is important work to be done to discuss issues critical for long-term stability, reconciliation, and development in the region. There is little, however, that such regular briefings contribute to those issues. We reiterate our preference that the Council extend the reporting period for the Secretary-General to every six months.

Thank you, Mr. President.