At the Peace

30 May 1997


by the NATO Secretary General

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank the High Representative, Carl Bildt, for the invitation to participate in this important meeting. Carl, let me say again how much I have enjoyed working with you. On behalf of the Alliance, thank you for your collaboration and contributions to peace in Bosnia.

We are meeting against the backdrop of historic changes in the European security landscape. [NATO and Russia have opened a new era of cooperation; NATO and Ukraine have agreed on a new partnership. This morning we inaugurated the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. NATO is enhancing the Partnership for Peace, strengthening its Mediterranean dialogue, and preparing to invite one or more countries to join the Alliance.]

The trend is very clear -- the Alliance is broadening and deepening its relations with new democracies in Europe able and willing to cooperate with us in strengthening European security. The notable exception to this broad movement towards greater integration, peace and stability in Europe is the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Despite the unprecedented efforts of the international community, 18 months after the signing of the Dayton Peace accords basic conditions for a lasting peace in Bosnia -- law and order, freedom of movement, functioning of common institutions -- are far from being achieved. NATO and the rest of the international community have made enormous contributions of energy and resources toward the implementation of the Peace Accords. Soldiers of IFOR and SFOR have endured great hardship and sacrificed much, some with their lives, for the cause of peace in Bosnia.

The Allies and other countries participating in the multinational peace force have done their part. It is now up to the Parties to the Peace Accord to meet their obligations. To the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina assembled around this table, let me remind you we are counting on your leadership and commitment to the success of the peace process.

SFOR will continue to provide for the duration of its mission the secure environment necessary for you to meet your responsibilities. I urge you to take advantage of this period of stability, supported by the international community, to rebuild your country together. If you do not, Bosnia and Herzegovina risks being left behind the rest of Europe's new democracies, who are riding the wave of integration, cooperation and stabilization I mentioned earlier.

I know that the challenges before you are considerable. But there is much you can and should do now. Let me underscore two examples of particular interest to NATO, both of which I raised with the members of the Presidency when the North Atlantic Council visited Sarajevo last month.

  • First, establishment of an effective Standing Committee on Military Matters, the SCMM, as agreed at Dayton. There should be no further delay in forming this SCMM, and in commencing an immediate series of meetings to agree its responsibilities, procedures and near-term priorities.

  • Second, it is important, as soon as possible, to open additional airports in Bosnia to civil aviation. While the rest of the region is building links and trade with greater Europe, major cities in Bosnia remain shut off from civilian aviation. The Civil Aviation Authority should be reconstituted now, with associated Ministerial responsibilities agreed as well. Politicians must overcome their divisions and special interests, and begin to consider the interests of their people. If they do, SFOR is ready to assist with the immediate opening of the three airports in Banja Luka, Mostar and Tuzla to civil air traffic, thus encouraging economic redevelopment and bringing Bosnia closer to the rest of Europe.

Let me conclude by reaffirming that NATO has both an immediate and long-term interest in stability in Bosnia and the neighbouring region. But SFOR's mandate will end next summer. It is crucial, therefore that the people of Bosnia, beginning with their leaders present here today, strengthen and accelerate their efforts to forge a lasting peace in their nation.

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