Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 20, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Ziadeh, for your briefing today. We look forward to working with you. I would also like to thank Foreign Minister Selakovic and Foreign Minister Gervalla-Schwarz for participating in the meeting.
Mr. President, as has been noted, this is the first UNMIK briefing since Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine. With Europe and the world responding to the consequences of President Putin’s war of choice, the preservation of stability in the Western Balkans remains of utmost importance. In that regard I just need to respond to the comments of the Russian delegation earlier in this meeting. The Russian intervention opened with the usual misinformation and disinformation we have come, I think regrettably, to expect from the Russian delegation these days; for example use of the scare term “radioactive”, “depleted uranium”. I won’t take the Council’s time rebutting the falsehoods that we heard, but colleagues, I think we’ve all seen pictures live in the past few days from Bucha, from Mariupol – pictures of course no Russian citizen will be freely able to see. And I think as long as pictures like this continue to directly flow from Ukraine, daily, no delegation involved in causing those pictures has the standing or credibility to lecture anyone in the chamber on respecting human rights or to accuse any other state of reckless behavior.
Let me be clear, the United States remains committed, together with our European partners, to fostering peaceful, prosperous, multi-ethnic societies that uphold and respect human rights and the rule of law across the Western Balkans. The United States strongly urges both parties to engage energetically in all aspects of the EU-facilitated dialogue, to find solutions for the outstanding issues, implement existing agreements, and make concrete progress toward normalizing relations with the goal of mutual recognition. The EU-facilitated dialogue remains the best platform for achieving progress, not only to existing tensions, but also on issues that impact the daily lives of people in the region. We therefore welcome the EU Special Representative’s plans to host chief negotiators from both parties this month to continue this important work.
We call on both Pristina and Belgrade to resume cooperation on missing persons. This working group has previously achieved tangible results in providing answers to the families of the missing, and we join the Secretary-General in welcoming the commitment of both parties to advance such efforts, including through the European Union-facilitated dialogue process.
Mr. President, it remains as clear as ever that UNMIK has fulfilled its purpose as outlined in Security Council’s original mandate in 1999. We commend the work of the UN entities, agencies, and funds that are active in the country to further the development of democratic norms and institutions in Kosovo and the region. However, a peacekeeping mission is clearly no longer necessary for this work to continue. It is time to reduce the frequency of these briefings to an annual basis. UNMIK played an important role in the early days of Kosovo’s stabilization and development, but it has outlived its purpose. The Council needs to devote its limited time and resources to addressing other issues.
We therefore call again on the Security Council to end UNMIK’s mandate and enable the UN presence in Kosovo to transition into a more effective role, for the benefit of Kosovo and for the entire region.
Thank you, Mr. President.