QUESTION: Hello, Mrs. Secretary. I am Ilir Ikonomi with the Voice of America, and I have a few questions on the agreement today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, thank you, Ilir. I’m delighted to talk to you. I think this is a very, very, significant step forward for Kosovo.
QUESTION: Yes. This is what I wanted to ask you. What is the importance of these two agreements reached today in Brussels?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to begin by saying how committed the United States is to Kosovo’s strengths and enduring partnership with us. And we are fully committed to her independence, her territorial integrity, her sovereignty. And I commend the government, under Prime Minister Thaci, for its constructive attitude and hard work in the EU-facilitated dialogue with Serbia. The United States has supported this process from the beginning, and we know that this is a tough political choice, but it is going to move the people of Kosovo closer to European integration, and we think that’s very much in the interest of all Kosovars.
QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, there have been concerns – and there still are in Kosovo – that the agreement on the representation of Kosovo with a footnote which makes reference to the Resolution 1244 of the Security Council – this might jeopardize the gains achieved so far, the independence and the territorial integrity. What do you make of that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I disagree with that. I actually think that this will assist in increasing the number of countries that already recognize the Republic of Kosovo, because it will remove an excuse that there’s no progress between Kosovo and Serbia. The United States and the 85 other countries who already recognize your independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity will actually have a stronger argument, that as Kosovo is moving toward European integration we are looking to the future.
And please remember that UN Security Council Resolution 1244, in fact, paved the way to Kosovo’s independence. It required Serbia to remove security forces. The International Court of Justice carefully considered 1244, and the whole world knows the conclusion, which we firmly agree, that Kosovo’s declaration of independence does not violate Resolution 1244. So I actually think this is a very smart, very clever, and very brave decision on the part of the government, because it will move Kosovo closer to Europe, and it will increase the number of countries that will recognize it.
QUESTION: But Mrs. Secretary, do you think there is the need of some safeguards against any conditions that Serbia might come up with in the future that might prevent Kosovo from joining the European Union in the future? Because this is a major concern today in Kosovo.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that Kosovo is closer to joining the European Union by doing this then you would be if you did not, because it very much has a recognition on the part of the European Union that Kosovo will be moving towards its own candidacy, something that was not possible in the past, because, remember, there are five European countries that do not recognize Kosovo. And the United States believes that today’s events significantly advance Kosovo’s European aspirations, that it further solidifies your status as an independent nation. Kosovo will now sit at the table as an equal partner with the ability to speak with your own voice. So I think that there are so many positive advantages for Kosovo in this agreement that I am very encouraged.
QUESTION: But precisely these five European countries that have not recognized Kosovo, that you just mentioned, is this a concern to you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course it’s a concern. We want every country to recognize Kosovo. But we also know that it will take time and we’ve been making steady progress, which we will continue. But I believe that by being a presence, able to sit at the table with these countries, able to participate in regional events and forums – that increases the likelihood that we will obtain recognition.
QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, thank you very much, and thank you for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. I am enthusiastic about the progress that Kosovo is making and very pleased that this important political decision will move Kosovo closer to European integration. And I encourage the people of Kosovo to stand behind the decision, support the progress that is being made. It’s come so soon after celebrating your fourth anniversary as an independent state. And I am looking forward to continuing to work with the government and the people on even better things in the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.