Kosovo on Tuesday awarded the Freedom Order to former U.S. President Bill Clinton for his role in helping end the country’s war 20 years ago.
Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci handed the award to Clinton, thanking his contribution to laying the “founding stone of this freedom.”
Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other international politicians are in Kosovo to attend a ceremony Wednesday marking 20 years since NATO troops were deployed to help stop a bloody Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian nationalists in Kosovo, then a province of Serbia.
A 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the 1998-99 conflict, which saw more than 10,000 people killed.
“I always will be proud of the fact that I happened to be president of the United States when you needed,” said Clinton after the awarding ceremony.
Clinton and Albright were instrumental in getting the NATO campaign approved. Both oversaw the Kosovo-Serbia peace deal after the war.
Relations between the two sides remain tense, however, and European Union-mediated talks have stalled. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence.