Updated: 24-Jul-2003 Press Releases


23 July 2003

NATO-Russia Council Statement

The NATO-Russia Council is committed to ensuring that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a peaceful, viable, multi-ethnic state on course to becoming an integral part of the Euro-Atlantic family of nations. We underline the need for increased efforts by BiH officials, on the basis of the Dayton Peace Accords, toward this goal. We express our strong support for the role and efforts of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Paddy Ashdown, in supporting this process. The NRC recognizes that to accomplish this objective, Bosnia and Herzegovina should take action across the full spectrum of political, socio-economic, social, law enforcement, judicial and security fields. The NRC expresses its support for the OHR Mission Implementation Plan, which sets out the core tasks for the organisation and seeks to guide the efforts of International Community and BiH officials in all of these domains. We call upon the BiH authorities to take responsibility for their own affairs and fully endorse the High Representative’s objective of assisting them in doing so.

In the context of these shared political objectives, we discussed during our meeting today Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ongoing efforts to reform armed forces, and in particular the need to create an effective state level, democratic, civilian command and control structure. The Standing Committee for Military Matters (SCMM) will have an important role to play in this regard. We agreed that these reforms are essential for normalising BiH and building a successful, democratic and prosperous state.

We agreed that in strengthening the state level dimension of defence, BiH must ensure, in particular:

  • that the Presidency, as the supreme command authority over all armed forces of BiH and the sole authority to order the employment of those armed forces, has at its disposal the mechanisms and resources necessary to carry out its responsibilities in this regard, which will include, in due course, a state level ministry responsible for defence matters and a general staff;
  • that the Presidency has the ability to guarantee that safeguards are instituted to ensure that neither Entity shall threaten or use force against the other Entity;
  • that the armed forces are prepared to fulfill their missions, including the protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH, to contribute to internationally sanctioned multinational Peace Support Operations, as well as to assist civil authorities in BiH.
  • that a state level parliamentary defence committee, with the appropriate authorities and resources to carry out its responsibilities, is created to ensure that defence plans and budgets are subject to transparency and parliamentary oversight.

We also agreed that defence allocations should be affordable and appropriate to BiH circumstances, which requires significant reductions in the armed forces. Weapons stocks in BiH are oversized and many existing weapons are outdated and of limited operational value. As downsizing of the armed forces proceeds, there is an urgent need to consolidate weapons storage areas and to reduce weapons holdings to a size appropriate to the legitimate needs of the armed forces, taking into account, inter alia, Article II and Article IV of Annex 1.B. of the General Framework Agreement. Further reductions will contribute to an improved security situation in BiH and will reduce pressure on stretched military budgets.

Recent events underscore the urgency of strengthening state level command and control of the armed forces and bringing the weapons industry under state level civilian control. We underline the need for the BiH authorities to prepare implementing regulations to rectify this deficiency, as required by the High Representative, as a matter of urgency.

We expressed our full support for the efforts of OHR, the OSCE and SFOR to facilitate these reforms, and in particular the recent establishment of the Defence Reform Commission (DRC). Bearing in mind the commitment made by the representatives of BiH at the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board meeting in January of this year to prepare their country for membership in Partnership for Peace by July of 2004, we call upon them to work expeditiously, inter alia, through the DRC, to this end.

We recognise that cooperation and mutual understanding among all the parties concerned will provide a lasting basis for security and stability in BiH and we therefore urge the BiH authorities to adopt a common approach to the implementation of these essential reforms. We look forward to agreement on these important issues in the DRC.

We agreed that the Chairman of the NATO-Russia Council would transmit this statement, on our behalf, to the BiH Presidency, with copies to the High Representative and the Secretary General of the SCMM.

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