Kosovo is my personal matter, Clinton says

PRIŠTINA -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Priština Wednesday that Kosovo’s independence was indisputable.

Hillary Clinton and Hashim Thaci (Tanjug/AP)
Hillary Clinton and Hashim Thaci (Tanjug/AP)

However, she added that normalization of relations with Serbia would be crucial for Kosovo’s progress.

“It will take political will, even courage, but if they make progress on the pathway, Kosovo and Serbia will get help in their efforts to resolve other urgent issues, such as strengthening of the economy and creating opportunities for their people,” Clinton said.

She and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton met with Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and PM Hashim Thaci on Wednesday.

After the meeting with Thaci, Clinton said that the U.S. would not allow anyone to question Kosovo’s independence.

“We are opposed to every talk on the change of borders or reopening of the issue of Kosovo’s independence. This cannot be discussed,” the U.S. official noted.

“For me, my family and my fellow Americans this is more than a foreign policy issue, it is personal,” Clinton stressed.

She said that she had conveyed to Kosovo leadership a message about the necessity to continue dialogue with Belgrade and reach concrete results in the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Clinton also stated that agreements reached so far in the Belgrade-Priština talks needed to be implemented.

The U.S. secretary of state said that the U.S. had always supported the people of Kosovo and they would stay partners on Kosovo's further path of development.

“I am here today with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton because the U.S. fully supports aspirations of the people of Kosovo to become part of the EU and Euro-Atlantic integration,” she explained.

Clinton added that Thaci had taken the political risk by meeting Serbia’s PM Ivica Dačić in Brussels.

“Kosovo’s future is in Europe. We will be with you on that road, we will be with you while you discuss normalization of relations with Serbia,” she stressed.

Ashton said that the EU pathway was not easy but that Kosovo would in the end be a country where law and order are respected and economic prosperity is ensured.

Speaking about the dialogue and normalization of relations, Ashton said she felt that this was not an easy process for the people of Kosovo because of their history.

“New meetings will take place very soon, the aim is to improve things, and this process should move forward. You should know that not only the EU will be engaged in this. We will closely cooperate with the U.S. in this process,” she said.

Thaci said that citizens of Kosovo would forever be grateful to the U.S. and the Western European countries for everything they had done for Kosovo but stressed that “despite the enormous progress, Kosovo is still not Kosovo of our dreams”.

“We are working for European and Euro-Atlantic Kosovo. We are aware that we still have a lot to do in law and order, against corruption, we should work for wellbeing of the citizens and for greater participation of minority representatives in Kosovo’s social and political life,” Thaci noted.

As for northern Kosovo, he pointed out that, “although a lot has been done for this part of the country, even more should be done”.

“We will work on attractive projects for the north. The presence of Serbian structures causes us great difficulties,” the Kosovo PM pointed out.

“Kosovo’s institutions will fulfill all the criteria in order to integrate in the EU and NATO. The EU integration has no alternative,” he added.

“The state of Kosovo is being consolidated, independence, sovereignty, internal organization cannot be questioned. The dialogue is of crucial importance for the two states’ relations,” Thaci concluded.

According to announcements, Clinton and Ashton will also meet with leaders of political parties in Kosovo.

Clinton and Ashton arrived in Priština on Tuesday night, after their short visit to Belgrade. They were welcomed by Jahjaga and EU Special Envoy in Kosovo Samuel Žbogar at Priština airport.

Priština-based Albanian language daily Koha Ditore’s Editor Agron Bajrami told B92 Radio earlier on Wednesday that he expected that messages similar to those heard in Belgrade would be heard in Kosovo.

“Since we are at the beginning of the dialogue on the political level, I think general messages that have already been heard in Belgrade can be expected, that Kosovo’s integrity will not be a topic of the talks, that Kosovo’s independence is a done deal as far as the U.S. is concerned and that it cannot be negotiated but they will have to negotiate other things that should lead to better relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The north is among those things,” he said and added that he believed that the north of the province would be discussed in the end of the negotiating process.

On the other hand, certain Kosovo Albanian analysts believe that the visit is aimed at exerting pressure on Priština to give up on the north and grant this part a special status. They have warned that the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština would be meaningless if Kosovo was not accepted in the UN and if it was not recognized by all EU member states in the end.

Priština-based Albanian language daily Zeri has quoted analyst Behgjet Shala as saying that “Priština is not in a position to request anything”.

“This visit has only one goal, to ask Kosovo to give up on the north and for the northern part to get a special status,” Shala said.