Kosova and the Albanian nation will never forget their great friend

Senator Bob Dole will be greatly missed. A war hero, a stateman, a great political leader, and a true gentleman, he left an indelible mark in our history.

He was a lifelong Republican and conservative, but he was also one of the most respected politicians of the last century.

The Albanian nation was fortunate to have had a friend like him: principled, determined, and with a great understanding of the developments in the region of the Balkans after 1990.

Senator Dole was instrumental in the efforts for freedom and democracy in Kosova. When he first visited Prishtina in 1990, Kosova was virtually unknown to the large American public opinion and the world. The people of Kosova were suffering under the fascist oppression of Milosevic’s regime and their plea had been ignored by the international community. Dole’s support was crucial. As the Republican leader in the US Senate, he lent his massive political weight to the cause of Kosova changing the course of history.

It was his intervention that led President George HW Bush to issue his Christmas Warning to Milosevic. He pushed hard President Bill Clinton to intervene militarily in Kosova. Senator Dole was engaged personally in every phase of the modern history of Kosova. His help was crucial for the negotiations that began in Rambouillet and opened the way for the intervention of NATO and the liberation of Kosova.

After the liberation, he visited Kosova several times and used his ties to the George W Bush Administration to lobby for Kosova’s independence.

He was honored by President Ibrahim Rugova with the Presidential Medal and remained a great friend of Kosova to the very end. During the Trump Administration he once again helped thwart the efforts of the Serbian lobby and propaganda to divide the territory of Kosova.

Last year, on the 30th anniversary of his first visit to Kosova, Senator Dole was recognized with a memorial and a bust. There is also a Bob Dole Street in Prishtina. In 2017, he was recognized also with the Order of the National Flag, by the President of Albania, Bujar Nishani.

A lot of credit goes to Mr. Dole’s good friend, Jim Xhema, a great Albanian-American leader who introduced him to the Albanian-American community and the Albanian nation. Their friendship continued to the last day.

It was an honor to work with him for the freedom and the independence of Kosova and for the advancement of the Albanian nation. I will treasure the memory of my meetings with him over the years, from the evening before his first visit to Kosova, to many years later when he was recognized by the President of Albania. I cannot imagine what the history of Kosova would have been without his generous and principled support.

For that and for everything he has done for the American nation, for his exemplary life and his tireless work, we shall be forever grateful.

Kosova and the Albanian nation will never forget him. May God bless his soul!

Harry Bajraktari

Video from the historic visit of a US Senate delegation led by Senator Bob Dole to Kosova, in August 1990: