Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate U.S. Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
October 18, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Ziadeh, for your briefing. I would also like to thank Foreign Minister Selakovic and Foreign Minister Gervalla-Schwarz for participating in this meeting.
I want to begin by reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding stability in the Western Balkans, especially during this time of greater tensions in Europe caused by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The United States will continue to work closely with our European partners to foster peaceful and prosperous multi-ethnic societies, in addition to strengthening democracy and the rule of law.
The United States reaffirms its support for Kosovo’s path towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and the European paths of all countries in the Western Balkans.
Serious and urgent engagement between the sides in the EU-facilitated Dialogue is needed in order to achieve comprehensive normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, centered on mutual recognition. I want to commend EU Special Representative Lajcak’s engagement with the two parties. The United States will remain closely engaged with him and our European partners in support of the Dialogue.
Through the EU-facilitated Dialogue, Serbia and Kosovo adopted an Energy Roadmap and peacefully resolved the issues of exit and entrance documents at their borders. We hope that a similar consensus will be reached regarding issuance and recognition of license plates. We likewise encourage implementation of steps outlined in the Energy Roadmap and serious discussion on the potential establishment of the Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities.
We cannot stress enough the need for stability in the Western Balkans. The EU-facilitated Dialogue is a key component of that. We strongly encourage Serbia and Kosovo to keep tensions low by focusing on Dialogue progress and avoiding inflammatory rhetoric. We urge both sides to work with the United States and European partners to implement the agreed Energy Roadmap and to avoid tensions over license plates.
The EU-Facilitated Dialogue continues to be the principal mechanism for reconciling issues between the two neighbors, which has made UNMIK’s role in the region increasingly redundant.
As we have said in this chamber many times before, UNMIK has long fulfilled its purpose as outlined in the original mandate. Make no mistake: UNMIK played a critical and important role in maintaining peace in the past. However, Kosovo, with the aid of its European partners, has developed and strengthened its institutions to take on much of the responsibilities once under UNMIK’s jurisdiction. These briefings no longer need to be held on a six-month basis, and should be reduced to annual meetings.
We are disappointed that the Council has not moved toward sunsetting UNMIK including developing a plan to close the mission. This Council has far more pressing priorities to address and its resources are limited. We urge the Council to take steps that would allow for a more productive and relevant role for the UN in Kosovo that would facilitate a normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and thereby help advance stability in the Western Balkans.
Thank you, Mr. President.