20 Feb. 1998

Statement by the North Atlantic Council on the Continuation of a NATO-led Multinational Military Presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Following consultations with non-NATO contributors, the North Atlantic Council today agreed that, subject to the necessary mandate from the UN Security Council, NATO is prepared to organize and lead a multinational force in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the end of SFOR's current mandate in June. This decision was taken in the light of encouraging progress in the implementation of the Peace Agreement, to which SFOR has made a major contribution, the conclusions of the Peace Implementation Conference in Bonn and an assessment of the military situation provided by the NATO Military Authorities. On the basis of today's decision, the Alliance looks forward to further progress towards achieving self-sustaining stability and calls on the parties to assume their responsibilities in implementing the Peace Agreement fully and without delay.

The new NATO-led multinational force will retain the well-established name SFOR. It will have the mission to deter renewed hostilities and to contribute to a secure environment for the ongoing civil implementation efforts in order to stabilize and consolidate the peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will have an enhanced capability to help promote public security in close cooperation with the Office of the High Representative, the UN International Police Task Force and the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The force will continue to provide broad support for the implementation of the civil aspects of the Peace Agreement including the promotion of democratic institutions, support for OHR, IPTF, UNHCR, OSCE, ICTY and other international civil agencies and assistance in carrying out humanitarian tasks. As part of a transition strategy the extent of support over time should be adapted to developments in the political and security situation and to progress in the implementation of the civil elements of the Peace Agreement including the Autumn elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Force levels will therefore be reviewed later this year and at regular intervals with the aim of achieving both progressive reductions in the size, role and profile of the force as part of the transition strategy and the transfer of responsibilities to the common institutions, other civil authorities, the UN, the High Representative, the OSCE and other international organizations as appropriate.

The Council has directed the NATO Military Authorities to initiate the necessary planning. It will review the detailed Operation Plan in the Spring in consultation with non-NATO contributors taking into account national procedures.

NATO welcomes the support of non-NATO participants in SFOR for the continuation of the force and the widespread interest in continuing to contribute to the force.

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