PRISTINA -- Kosovo is marking 20 years since NATO troops were deployed to help stop a bloody Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian nationalists in the then-Serbian province.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and ex-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined other foreign officials at Skenderbeu Square in downtown Pristina to attend a ceremony on June 12.
Recalling the NATO intervention, Albright told the crowd gathered there: "I am proud of what we did together and with all that you have done."
The 1998-99 war in Kosovo killed some 13,000 people and ended following a 78-day NATO air campaign.
Clinton and Albright were instrumental in getting the campaign approved and oversaw the Kosovo-Serbia peace deal after the war.
Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Although more than 110 countries recognize Kosovo, Belgrade does not.
EU-mediated talks between Pristina and Belgrade to settle their differences have stalled.
In his speech on Skenderbeu Square, Clinton called on Kosovars to "never forget the challenges" ahead, saying that "a new form of courage and patience is needed to build the future."
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mathew Palmer said Washington will continue to support Kosovo and urged the country’s institutions to empower the rule of law.
On June 11, Kosovar President Hashim Thaci awarded the Freedom Order to Clinton in gratitude for his role in helping end the war, describing the former U.S. president as a “hero of Kosovo."
Speaking upon accepting the award, Clinton said, “I have always been proud that I was president of the United States when you needed someone to stand up and say: ‘No more ethnic cleansing, no more running people out of their homes, no more killing innocent civilians.’”