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WASHINGTON, April 7 -- The U.S. Department of State's International Information Programs issued the following press release:
The United States stands ready to work with the new Kosovo prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, and his government as they prepare for a comprehensive review of the "Standards for Kosovo" later in 2005, American diplomat Paul Jones told the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) April 7.
"Standards for Kosovo," a document issued by the U.N. Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), outlines steps toward democratization that Kosovo must take before a decision is made on its final status - a policy commonly referred to as "standards before status."
The standards include requirements for functioning democratic institutions, rule of law, freedom of movement, sustainable returns and rights of communities, market economy, property rights, political dialogue, and development of a civilian Kosovo Protection Corps.
Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Austria, Jones said, "We note that a positive standards review in mid-2005 is not assured and much remains to be done in terms of implementing the Standards, particularly on security and protection of minority rights, and on decentralization and reform of local government."
Jones was responding to a presentation by Nobojsa Covic, the president of the Coordination Center for Kosovo.
Jones acknowledged that progress has been made in several areas: security is improving, democratic institutions are functioning, progress on implementing the standards and devolving power to the local level is being achieved. "If the outcome of the comprehensive review is positive - and we hope that the people of Kosovo will take the necessary steps so that it will be - we will support launching a process to determine Kosovo's future status," said Jones.
"The U.S. - and the Contact Group - have made clear that we see a future for Kosovo that supports the stability of the region as a whole, and the rapid integration of the region into Euro-Atlantic institutions," he added.
The Contact Group, which includes representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany and Russia, was set up in 1994 to coordinate action on the Balkans.
Following is the text of Jones' statement as provided by the U.S. Mission to the OSCE:
United States Mission to the OSCE Vienna, Austria April 7, 2005
REPLY TO DR. NEBOJŠA COVIC, PRESIDENT OF THE COORDINATION CENTER OF SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO AND THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA FOR KOSOVO
As delivered by Charge d'Affaires Paul Jones to the Permanent Council
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States welcomes Dr. Covic back to the Permanent Council. Much has changed in Serbia and Montenegro and in Kosovo since Dr. Covic's last visit two years ago, but many tough challenges remain, not least of which is ensuring sufficient progress on the "Standards for Kosovo" as Kosovo prepares for the comprehensive review of Standards later this year.
But before addressing this very important subject, we would like to congratulate you, Dr. Covic for the encouraging news that emerged from southern Serbia as you referred to in your statement a little more than a month ago. On March 3, three municipalities in this region agreed to appoint representatives to eight coordination groups coming under the Coordination Body for Southern Serbia, which you also lead. Ambassador Massari, who will address the Permanent Council later this morning, also deserves credit for helping to facilitate Albanian participation in these working groups.
We believe that the decision of these representatives to participate in coordination groups will stimulate dialogue between the Serbian government and the different communities in southern Serbia on a range of difficult issues relating to security, economic development, justice, and education.
The willingness to engage in dialogue, of course, is an important step toward reconciliation and conflict resolution. We would encourage all authorities in Belgrade to support inter-ethnic political dialogue also in Kosovo as firmly as you, Dr. Covic, have done in southern Serbia.
We would urge you, Dr. Covic, as President of the Coordination Center for Kosovo, as well as the governmental authorities in Belgrade, to immediately support Kosovo Serbs taking their positions in the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and rejoining the political life in Kosovo, so that their voices can be heard and their interests can be taken into account. Progress on key issues such as reform of local government must go forward.
We also urge the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina to continue to expand the direct dialogue on technical issues, which resumed March 16 in Belgrade. While that session was devoted to the issue of missing persons, we hope this dialogue will soon be expanded to include other issues of mutual interest.
Mr. Chairman, we share Mr. Soren Jessen-Peterson's assessment of the situation in Kosovo as presented to this body two months ago, in which he highlighted the following points:
* Security has improved considerably in the last few months but remains fragile;
* Democratic institutions are functioning;
* Progress in implementing standards has been achieved, although many shortcomings remain, in particular with regard to freedom of movement for minorities, and the return of displaced persons;
* Headway has been made in the devolution of powers to the local level.
We are also encouraged by the generally calm reaction in Kosovo to the indictment of Mr. Hardinaj by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia last month, and his quick transfer to The Hague.
At the same time, we note that a positive standards review in mid-2005 is not assured and much remains to be done in terms of implementing the Standards, particularly on security and protection of minority rights, and on decentralization and reform of local government. The United States stands ready to work with the new prime minister, Bajram Kosumi, and his government on these and other issues.
If the outcome of the comprehensive review is positive - and we hope that the people of Kosovo will take the necessary steps so that it will be - we will support launching a process to determine Kosovo's future status. The U.S. - and the Contact Group - have made clear that we see a future for Kosovo that supports the stability of the region as a whole, and the rapid integration of the region into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, we would like to restate our view that the OSCE's Mission in Kosovo should continue to focus on helping the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government meet the Standards. Our view is that we should leave the question of Kosovo's status to the United Nations and the Contact Group. We in the OSCE can do the most good for Kosovo by focusing on what this organization does best - institution and capacity building in Kosovo.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.