Response to the Kosovo Security Force Transition
As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Harry Kamian
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
December 20, 2018
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Canada aligns itself with the statement.
Mr. Chair, the United States has supported the gradual, transparent transition of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) to a professional, multiethnic, NATO interoperable force, as is Kosovo’s sovereign right. Ultimately, Kosovo’s security – and regional stability – is best served by normalizing relations between Kosovo and Serbia. We believe the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia should take immediate steps to lower tensions and create conditions for rapid progress toward comprehensive normalization of relations through the EU-facilitated Dialogue. This should be both countries’ overarching priority. We urge both parties to remove any barriers to returning to the negotiating table and to reaching an agreement.
Mr. Chair, the December 14 vote in the Kosovo Assembly brought no immediate change to the structure, mission, or operations of the KSF. This step represents the beginning of the practical work of building a force that serves and reflects all of Kosovo’s communities, in accordance with the government of Kosovo’s 10-year transition plan.
The legislation adopted by Kosovo’s Assembly is in line with UNSCR 1244, which authorized the establishment of an international security presence in Kosovo and charged it with demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups. These provisions do not apply to the KSF. The KSF is neither the “KLA” nor an “armed Kosovo Albanian group.” The KSF is a distinct, multiethnic force established after Kosovo’s 2008 independence.
Mr. Chair, executed properly, the transition of the KSF will contribute to peace and stability in Kosovo and the region. To this end, it is very important that the government of Kosovo closely coordinate with NATO allies and partners and engage in outreach to minority communities throughout the years-long process ahead. We appreciated President Thaci’s reaffirmation in the UN Security Council that Kosovo will respect all existing arrangements with the Kosovo Force (KFOR) concerning movements and operations of forces in Kosovo. All stakeholders within and outside Kosovo should support citizens of Kosovo’s minority communities participating in its security forces, which is in their own interests.
Finally, Mr. Chair., as we have heard today, a complex issue like this is prone to misunderstandings and miscommunications. It is unfortunate that we cannot hear directly in the Permanent Council from the government of Kosovo on this important matter. Were they present, Kosovo’s democratically elected leaders would lay out for the Permanent Council their thoughts on the KSF transition, explain the laws passed, and clarify plans moving forward. The OSCE is a venue designed to encourage this kind of dialogue to promote understanding and to prevent tensions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.