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United States Sees 2006 as Crucial Year for Kosovo and Its Region 18 juin 2006

Posted by Acturca in South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, USA / Etats-Unis.

The Washington File – Europe Edition (International Information Programs in the U.S. – Department of State)

Fri, 16 Jun 2006, Washington

(State’s DiCarlo testifies before Helsinki Commission on situation in Balkans)

The Bush administration continues to view 2006 as a crucial year for the Balkans, placing renewed emphasis on integrating the region with Europe while pursuing a permanent settlement for Kosovo, a senior U.S. diplomat says.

« As we move forward to resolve the one major outstanding issue – the future status of Kosovo – we have the opportunity to put the conflicts of the 1990s behind us once and for all, » the State Department’s Rosemary DiCarlo told a congressional panel June 15.

« But we cannot resolve Kosovo’s status without devoting increased attention to the entire region, » she added. « Therefore, the administration has intensified its engagement with the countries of South Central Europe and is committed to pursuing a policy that will accelerate the region’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. »

DiCarlo is deputy assistant secretary of state for South Central Europe in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  Her remarks were delivered at a hearing of the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), commonly known as the Helsinki Commission.

Kosovar Albanians make up more than 90 percent of the province’s population and seek independence from Serbia, which for centuries has claimed deep cultural ties to Kosovo. The United Nations has administered the province since 1999, when a U.S. and NATO military campaign drove out Serb forces in response to a pattern of human rights abuses. U.N.-sponsored talks began early in 2006 to determine Kosovo’s future status, and U.N.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said the talks could result either in autonomy — with the province remaining formally part of Serbia — or independence.

The government of Serbia is particularly concerned about the safety and protection of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, who have been targeted by ethnic violence.

« I’d like to stress that a stable, prosperous Serbia is key to stability in the region, » DiCarlo told the Helsinki Commission.

She told the commission that the United States intends to continue being part of an international civilian and military presence that would remain in Kosovo after the future-status talks conclude, DiCarlo said. The goal would be a « seamless transfer » from U.N. administration to whatever administration is agreed upon by the status talks.The past several years have « witnessed a marked overall improvement in human rights, democracy and the rule of law in South Central Europe, » she said. « Today the image of the Balkans is no longer that of a dark and dangerous corner of Europe, but a place where democratic governments are in place and progress is apparent every day. »

Still, she said, « Euro-Atlantic integration cannot be achieved without progress in key areas. » For example, six indicted war criminals still have not been taken into custody throughout the Balkans, she said.  And, although the majority of refugees and displaced persons have returned to their homes or found new homes, approximately 650,000 remain displaced. (See related article )

« Just as there can be no true reconciliation until all war criminals have been brought to justice, » DiCarlo said, « there can be no lasting peace until religious and ethnic minorities feel welcome and secure. »

In March, DiCarlo participated in a State Department-sponsored webchat in which she said Kosovo’s current situation is « unsustainable and undesirable » and « risks creating further instability in the region. »  She also said the settlement « must ensure that multi-ethnicity is sustainable in Kosovo. »

In recent developments in the Balkans, Montenegro on May 21 voted to end its 88-year-old union with Serbia. On June 3, Montenegro formally declared independence, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on June 13 that the United States has recognized Montenegro as an independent state.

DiCarlo’s June 15 written testimony  is posted on the Web site of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.



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