Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 14, 2018


Thank you Mr. President, and thank you for your briefing, Special Representative Tanin. We appreciate your service and your contributions to the UN Mission in Kosovo. We also thank Foreign Minister Dacic and Ambassador Citaku for being here today.

The United States applauds the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo for their expressions of commitment to normalization between their countries. We hope to see that normalization dialogue continue to intensify. Neither side should engage in any effort to undermine the legitimacy, including diplomatic recognition, of the other side. That has no place in a genuine commitment to normalization.

Mr. President, now is the time for both parties to be flexible in reaching compromises that both can agree to. The United States is committed to supporting the talks in whatever way possible, and we will seriously consider any deal that is durable, implementable, and sellable in both countries and that enhances stability.

We urge Kosovo and Serbia to recognize the value of fully committing to normalization, which will bring great benefits to the people, the economy, the culture, and the peace and security of both countries. Mutual recognition and normalized relations between Kosovo and Serbia are the future. All sides will benefit from recognizing that reality and embracing it.

Mr. President, considering the future of UNMIK, as we have noted many times before, we feel the mission has fulfilled its purpose and should draw down. We request the Secretary-General and UNMIK initiate a strategic review to provide Council members with critical information so that we can assess and evaluate the UN presence in Kosovo and ensure good stewardship of valuable UN Member State time and resources. We also need to assess and develop a viable exit strategy for UNMIK. This is a principle that guides our approach to all other peacekeeping missions and should be possible with UNMIK as well.

The United States also supports the gradual, transparent transition of the Kosovo Security Force into a multiethnic, NATO-interoperable military with a limited territorial defense mandate. The legislation pending before Kosovo’s Assembly is fully in line with Resolution 1244. It’s the sovereign right of Kosovo to establish and maintain an armed force. This force, as planned, would contribute to regional and global security. We encourage all sides to avoid disinformation and provocative rhetoric about this legitimate, gradual, multi-year transition.

Finally, Mr. President, the U.S. continues to encourage countries who have not yet done so to join over 110 other UN Member States in recognizing the reality of Kosovo’s independence. We strongly support Kosovo’s membership in all relevant international organizations, including the United Nations. We particularly encourage all INTERPOL members to support Kosovo’s membership at the INTERPOL General Assembly on November 20. Kosovo meets all membership criteria for INTERPOL. UN membership is not a requirement for joining INTERPOL.

Mr. President, Kosovo’s membership in INTERPOL fundamentally is about enhancing the international law enforcement community’s collective ability to combat terrorism, violent extremism, trafficking, cybercrime, and other international criminal activity in the Balkan region and beyond. It’s neither an impediment to the dialogue on normalization of relations, nor is it in the international community’s interest to postpone it until Serbia and Kosovo reach an agreement. UNMIK long ago ceased police functions in Kosovo, and having the Kosovo Police – recognized by both Belgrade and Pristina as the sole law enforcement authority in Kosovo – join INTERPOL will no doubt strengthen international security. We urge all to support Kosovo on November 20.

Finally, Mr. President, we reiterate our call to both sides to fully embrace normalization and support each other in all aspects of the enhanced relations that will come with it.

I thank you.