Thank you Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Under-Secretary-General for your briefing today. Welcome to President Vucic and President Thaci. We thank you for your remarks and for joining us here today.
The United States reaffirms its support for the gradual, transparent transition to a professional, multiethnic, NATO-interoperable force that serves and reflects all of Kosovo’s communities.
The legislation passed by Kosovo’s Assembly last week is fully in line with Resolution 1244. It is the sovereign right of Kosovo to establish and maintain an armed force.
Resolution 1244 authorized the establishment of an international security presence in Kosovo and charged it with demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups.
These provisions do not apply to the Kosovo Security Force. The Kosovo Security Force is neither the “KLA” nor an “armed Kosovo Albanian group.” The Kosovo Security Force is a separate, multiethnic force established following Kosovo’s 2008 independence, which the International Court of Justice clearly ruled in 2010 did not violate international law or Resolution 1244.
The vote in Kosovo on December 14 brings no immediate change to the structure, mission, or operations of the force. Rather, it was a first step, representing the beginning of the practical, ongoing work of building a multiethnic force in accordance with the Government of Kosovo’s 10-year transition plan.
We call on the Government of Kosovo to continue its close coordination with NATO allies and partners and to engage in outreach to minority communities now and throughout the years-long process ahead.
We expect the Government of Kosovo to adhere reliably to all existing arrangements and commitments made regarding troop movements and operations of forces in Kosovo, particularly Kosovo’s 2013 commitment to the NATO Secretary-General that any operations in northern Kosovo require consultation with the Commander of KFOR.
Ultimately, however, Kosovo’s security is best served by normalizing relations with Serbia. Dialogue should be both countries’ overarching priority. And we urge both parties to remove any barriers and to not take provocative actions that prevent returning to the negotiating table and reaching a comprehensive normalization agreement.
We encourage both Kosovo and Serbia to take immediate steps to lower tensions and create conditions for rapid progress on the normalization dialogue.
Mr. President, we urge Kosovo and Serbia to recognize the value of fully committing to normalization, which will bring great benefits to the people, the economies, and the peace and security of both countries. Mutual recognition and normalized relations between Serbia and Kosovo are the future, and all sides will benefit from recognizing and embracing that reality.
Thank you, Mr. President.