Thank you, Mr. President. First let me thank Special Representative Tanin for his briefing. I also want to thank both honorable representatives from Serbia and Kosovo.
There is always more progress to make, but the conditions in Kosovo have changed markedly since the United Nations Mission in Kosovo that was established in 1999 – and changed for the better. This is work that we should be proud of, and it’s work the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia must now seek to build on.
As my colleagues know, peacekeeping reform has been a focus of my work on the Security Council. Central to this reform agenda is the support of political solutions on the ground, among them, the parties themselves. Without the political buy-in of the different parties, no real progress can be achieved.
What we end up with is an artificial, subsidized peace that is imposed from the outside. But what we want is real peace that is created by the people who must nurture and sustain it.
As Kosovo approaches the tenth anniversary of its independence, we believe that the opportunity is at hand for such a genuine peace. The people of Kosovo are establishing the institutions of self-government. Last year a new administration was formed following free, fair, and peaceful democratic elections.
A functioning, multi-ethnic democracy continues to strengthen in Kosovo, one that respects the rule of law and human rights of all. The UN Mission in Kosovo has been an important part of this achievement. But now it is time for leaders in Kosovo and Serbia to take their future into their own hands. Both nations’ leaders must come together to reach an agreement on the normalization of Kosovo-Serbian relations as soon as possible. Much work has been done, but more progress is necessary in crucial issues like ending corruption, strengthening the rule of law and laying the foundation for economic growth.
For Kosovo and Serbia, normalization is a win-win proposition. Both nations will benefit from expanded ties with one another, and with the wider European community.
To facilitate this, the United States reiterates our support for the Brussels Dialogue. We appreciate and we thank the European Union for their leadership in this effort. Their support and their guidance has helped create the opportunity for both sides to make progress towards normalization and lasting peace.
In the strongest terms, we urge the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to take this opportunity. The coming months are crucial. The stage is set. The benefits are clear. All that is needed is the political will to come together to create a just and lasting peace between Kosovo and Serbia.
A good indication of whether or not Kosovo and Serbia can come together to normalize relations will be on how both nations respond to the murder last month of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic.
The United States has condemned this killing in the strongest of terms. We have offered our support of a full and impartial investigation by Kosovo’s police and judicial institutions. The world will be watching to see if this investigation results in accountability for those responsible.
We trust that Kosovo’s institutions are capable of handling this professionally and impartially to hold those responsible to account, without external interference. We call on all parties to avoid dangerous rhetoric at this sensitive time.
Another pillar of our peacekeeping reform agenda is to know what success looks like, and once it is achieved, to set the countries on a path to operate independently from the peacekeeping mission. We believe we have achieved this measure of success with the UN Mission in Kosovo. It is long past time to wind down the mission to preserve scarce UN resources. Significant changes are needed in the role of the United Nations in Kosovo. I urge this Council to waste no time in making these changes.
Finally, we continue to strongly support Kosovo’s membership in all relevant international organizations, including the United Nations and INTERPOL. Much has changed in the 19 years since this Council authorized the creation of the UN Mission in Kosovo. The time has come for the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia to do what the mission cannot do – to do what the mission was never intended to: to independently and cooperatively build a future of mutual security, prosperity, and peace for all the peoples of the region.