8 Dec. 1998

Statement on Bosnia and Herzegovina

Issued at the Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council
held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels

  1. NATO continues to support the efforts of the international community to help Bosnia and Herzegovina develop as a single, democratic and multi-ethnic state. This remains achievable only through the full and unconditional implementation of the Peace Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to which the Alliance is fully committed. SFOR continues to play a vital role in maintaining a secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We reaffirm our readiness to work constructively with all Parties that support the Peace Agreement and seek to implement it.

  2. Much has been achieved over the past three years in the task of re-building Bosnia and Herzegovina. The September elections were an encouraging step in this direction; they were peaceful and democratic and demonstrated a trend towards greater pluralism and tolerance. Freedom of movement by and large exists; there is a common currency, a new flag and other necessary symbols of nationhood. We welcome the recent opening of Tuzla International Airport and the progress made in establishing normal civilian air traffic at Sarajevo and Mostar.

  3. There is nevertheless still much to be done to reinforce the fragile democracy taking root in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The rule of law has yet to be established throughout the country as a whole. The common institutions so vital to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state have not advanced sufficiently. There is inadequate progress with regard to ethnic integration, dismantling illegal institutions and eradicating widespread corruption. We expect the newly elected leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to assume their full and active responsibility for peace implementation. A peaceful, stable and prosperous future for Bosnia and Herzegovina will only be achievable if the Parties fully live up to their commitments under the Peace Agreement.

  4. An accelerated return of refugees and displaced persons in particular to minority areas is a key task for 1999. We confirm that SFOR will continue, within means and capability, its efforts to contribute to conditions conducive to achieving this objective. We call on the Parties and the democratically elected representatives at all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fulfil their responsibility to ensure an effective returns process.

  5. Economic reconstruction is still at an early stage; the reforms necessary for achieving sustained economic development and growth are not yet in place. The Parties must introduce liberal and modern mechanisms within their economic institutions and markets to ensure a self-supporting economy.

  6. Progress in these areas, for which the Parties are primarily responsible, is important for creating the conditions in which peace is self-sustaining and a NATO-led military presence is no longer needed.

  7. We underline our full and continued support to the High Representative in his role of coordinating and guiding the strategy of the international community for civil implementation. We support his efforts to improve coordination and harmonise the different areas of responsibility of the various international organisations involved in the peace-building process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  8. We look forward to the meeting of the Peace Implementation Council in Madrid on 15-16 December, 1998, which will give further guidance to the efforts by the international community to secure lasting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  9. We noted with satisfaction the unique contribution of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in providing, within its means and capabilities, broad support for civil implementation of the Peace Agreement of 1995. The Multinational Specialised Unit, which we created last May, enhances the effectiveness and flexibility of SFOR. We commend the men and women of SFOR for their outstanding service in the cause of peace. SFOR continues to make an important contribution to stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  10. SFOR will continue, within means and capability, to assist and coordinate closely and efficiently in particular with:

    • the High Representative in the implementation of the civil aspects of the Peace Agreement;

    • the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as a matter of high priority, in the phased and orderly return of refugees in particular to minority areas;

    • the UN International Police Task Force in the reform and restructuring of the local police;

    • the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia including by detaining and transferring persons indicted for war crimes to The Hague and by providing security for exhumations; and

    • the OSCE in providing support for the building of democratic institutions.

    SFOR will also provide support to entity armed forces in conducting humanitarian de-mining as a key contribution to civil reconstruction and rehabilitation.

  11. However, SFOR's presence cannot be maintained indefinitely nor does it reduce the responsibility of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the stability of their country, which is best secured through full implementation of the Peace Agreement. In reviewing the size and shape of SFOR, we have decided that, at present, there is no scope for major changes, nor should its mission be changed. We note, however, that there is scope for short-term efficiency measures. We have also endorsed the commissioning of a study of options for possible longer term and more substantial adjustments in the future size and structure of SFOR. Decisions on future reductions will be taken in the light of progress on implementation of the Peace Agreement.

  12. We strongly support the continuing implementation of confidence-building measures at the local and regional level. We look forward to the beginning of arms control negotiations, as provided for in the Peace Agreement, with the goal of establishing a regional balance in and around the former Yugoslavia, including appropriate verification arrangements. We call on the Parties to commit themselves to the promotion of confidence and cooperation between their armed forces within the framework of the Standing Committee on Military Matters.

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