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

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 7, 2019


Thank you Mr. President, and thank you Special Representative Tanin for your briefing today. Welcome back Foreign Minister Dacic and Ambassador Citaku.

We appreciate the understanding reached by this Council to end the practice of quarterly briefings on UNMIK and that next year there’d be two meeting “on the issue,” not necessarily on UNMIK. There is much better uses for this Council’s limited time and resources than to maintain the past frequency of these UNMIK briefings.

It’s disappointing that at a moment when the atmosphere begs for improvement these Council meetings continue to be used to employ antagonistic language, and I agree with much of what my German and UK colleagues said. This is unfortunate and one reason that many Council members are reluctant to continue these meetings, wondering whether they actually contribute to or detract from prospects for international peace and security.

We underscore that UNMIK has achieved its original mandate and its drawdown is long overdue. The United Nations continues to have an important and useful role to play in Kosovo, but through the UN Country Team and UNDP, not through UNMIK. And this should be reflected in the Council’s approach to meetings “on the issue.”

As the United States has requested previously, we would like the Secretariat to initiate a strategic review of UNMIK to develop an exit strategy. Taking this step will empower the Security Council with critical resource management and oversight information to better evaluate the UN presence in Kosovo, and such a step will also advance the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

We continue to support the EU-facilitated Dialogue talks between Kosovo and Serbia. As our President has made clear, we believe this is a unique moment for both Serbia and Kosovo to reach a comprehensive normalization agreement. We believe this is achievable in 2019. Failure to seize this opportunity would be a setback.

The Dialogue should be both countries’ overarching priority. Both Kosovo and Serbia should take immediate steps to lower tensions, remove barriers, and create conditions for rapid progress on the Dialogue. For Kosovo, this means immediately suspending tariffs on Serbian and Bosnian imports. Reaching a deal will take courageous leadership and flexibility on both sides.

Normalization of relations must be the priority for both countries. Now is the time to seek forward momentum and to pave the way for your respective EU paths. This, we believe, is the best way to ensure a stable, secure, and prosperous future for the Western Balkans.

Thank you.