Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 21, 2020
Thank you, very much. And I also want to thank Special Representative Tanin for his briefing this morning, as well as thank the Foreign Ministers of Kosovo and Serbia for their participation.
Mr. President, we also believe that the discussion this morning would have been more fulsome if we were also able to hear from the EU Special Representative. But I will turn to a few of the substantive issues that we’d like to highlight today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed serious challenges to security and prosperity in the Western Balkans, especially among its most vulnerable populations. But we have been encouraged by the cooperation between Western Balkan countries to address the crisis and mitigate its effects.
Much has happened, Mr. President, since this last briefing. As other colleagues have mentioned today, on September 4 the world witnessed a truly historic day at the White House. President Trump hosted Kosovo Prime Minister Hoti and Serbian President Vucic at the White House to sign a historic economic normalization agreement. The United States applauds the leadership of Kosovo Prime Minister Hoti and Serbian President Vucic in advancing relations between their countries. These leaders demonstrated tremendous courage by embarking on the talks.
The agreements signed at the White House on September 4 spanned a range of economic normalization issues. They will bring growth, investments, and jobs to citizens in both countries and set a new tone of reconciliation in the pursuit of progress for the Western Balkans.
The commitments made by Kosovo and Serbia are a significant step forward. They will create new opportunities for broader collaboration and enhance trust-building measures that will lay the foundation for continued dialogue.
The significant commitments made at the White House are a starting point, and we will be closely monitoring the parties’ progress in implementing the agreements. Skeptical publics in both Kosovo and Serbia are too accustomed to seeing agreements made with much fanfare, but with little or no implementation or tangible impact. It is incumbent on both leaders in both countries to demonstrate to their citizens that reconciliation has concrete benefits.
The September 4 agreements present also the greatest opportunity for real progress in many years and we will continue to encourage the parties to build on this milestone and move further toward a normalization agreement, which remains critical for the region. Seeing the full normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo remains a shared goal as well for the United States and the European Union. The U.S.-brokered agreements complement the EU-facilitated talks, which we continue to strongly support.
For both Kosovo and Serbia to secure their European future, both will need to address painful parts of recent history. The United States maintains its strong advocacy for justice for all victims of the wars in the Western Balkans and encourages the countries in the region to utilize existing mechanisms to ensure accountability and justice for all victims. As part of this, the United States has complete confidence in the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutors Office.
I want to conclude by emphasizing that the important progress mentioned here today underscores that UNMIK’s role in Kosovo and the region as a peacekeeping mission has long since outlived its original purpose. The Security Council now has the responsibility to redirect limited peacekeeping resources to areas and issues where they are more needed. The UN can still play an important role in furthering the development of democratic norms and institutions in the region, but it does not require a Chapter Seven-mandated mission to advance recognition, integration, and normalization.
The United States expresses disappointment that the many prior calls from Council members to end the UNMIK mission have gone unheeded, and that a plan to do so has not been produced for the Council’s review. We strongly encourage the development of such a plan. We urge UN Security Council members to think seriously about UNMIK’s transition and to begin taking the steps needed for a responsible draw down. We are confident that doing so will ensure a more relevant and effective role for the United Nations in helping Kosovo and the rest of the Western Balkans realize its full potential.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.