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Balkans: Madeleine Albright Address To Kosovars

Office of the Spokesman
(Rome, Italy)

For Immediate Release July 29, 1999


Pristina, Kosovo July 29, 1999

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon Kosovo!

As United States Secretary of State, and as a friend, I want to thank you all for this wonderful welcome, along with my colleagues Bernard Kouchner of the United Nations.

And let there be no mistake. As long as you choose, Kosovo will remain your home.

You have been through a terrible ordeal this past year and more. Much has been lost that cannot be regained. But an opportunity exists now to answer the question, "What kind of a home will you build?" "What kind of a Kosovo do you want?"

I hope that today, we may pledge that, here in Kosovo, never again will people with guns come in the night; never again will houses and villages be burned; and never again will there be massacres and mass graves.

Let us pledge that in Kosovo there will a new birth of freedom, based on tolerance, law and respect for every human life.

The United States and its partners want to help you build the new Kosovo. This is reflected in the work of KFOR and the steady progress being made in establishing the United Nations civilian presence here. It is reflected in the promise of countries throughout Europe and beyond to provide support for reconstruction and recovery, including America's pledge of up to $500 million for immediate needs.

And it is reflected in our support for the International War Crimes Tribunal; because we believe that justice is a parent to peace; that those indicted for ethnic cleansing and murder should be held legally accountable; and that Slobodan Milosevic should answer for his crimes.

Today, I ask you as a friend to help and cooperate with KFOR, and the United Nations, and other agencies working here. If problems arise, don't be afraid to speak your mind, but also be patient. Remember they cannot be everywhere and do everything; their job is to aid all Kosovars equally; and their goal is to help your dream of a democratic and peaceful Kosovo come true.

Now, I do not have to tell you there are those who believe Kosovo will never escape its past. They say that you will act towards the Serbs as the Serb military and police acted towards you; that you will make it impossible for Serbs to live in Kosovo. These critics point to tragedies such as the cowardly murder this past week of 14 Serbs in Gracko, and they say "see, we are right. The Kosovo Albanians are no better than Milosevic."

Today, I want to make a prediction that you will prove those critics wrong.

Your leaders understand that when an ethnic Albanian murders a Serb, he commits a crime against his own cause and against the future of Kosovo. Democracy cannot be built on revenge. And you will not have the support of the world if you are intolerant and take the law into your own hands.

I cannot tell you how to feel. No one can, who is not in your shoes. But I do ask you to embrace one principle, which is the foundation of all democracy. And that principle is that every person has the right to be judged not by his or her parentage or religious faith, but by their actions and character.

If there is to be a true victory in Kosovo, it cannot be a victory of Albanians over Serbs, or NATO over Serbs. It must be a victory of those who believe in the rights of the individual over those who do not. Otherwise, it is not victory. It is merely changing one form of repression for another. And I know you want more for Kosovo than that.

The fighting is over. Let us together win the peace. Let us make Kosovo an example for the world to follow. Let us create a democratic Kosovo, within a stable Southeast Europe, within a Europe whole and free.

I have thought about all you for a very long time. I have thought about the suffering that you have gone through. And I have thought about the future that you have ahead of you.

I have waited for a day like today when I could come to Pristina to share a very special time with you, a time of hope and opportunity.

Having now seen you in person and having felt the warmth of your greeting, let me once again pledge my own best efforts on behalf of the United States in rebuilding and renewing your permanent home.

Thank you all very much and let us now build the peace together.


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