Change of

30 July 1997


by Secretary General Javier Solana

I would like to thank General Crouch for his vital contribution to peace and reconstruction in Bosnia in his time here as COMIFOR and COMSFOR.

His period of command has spanned a crucial time. We have seen the transition from IFOR to SFOR - a smaller force but with an equally demanding mission.

Despite the reduction in numbers, SFOR has continued to ensure compliance with the military provisions of the Peace Agreement, and to support the civil reconstruction of this country. Firmness and fairness have been its watchword and it has carried out its duties under your leadership, General, with exemplary courage and steadfastness. But let me say clearly and firmly - SFOR will not tolerate provocations or threats. It will not be deterred and it will not shrink from action if action is needed.

General Crouch has done a superb job. He has managed the transition, showing exemplary military leadership and professionalism.

Today is a day when we can publicly express our thanks to you, General, for a job well done. I do so with pleasure, on behalf of the North Atlantic Council and all participating nations in SFOR. But let me also say a personal word to you. Over the many months we have worked together I have come to admire you as a man of fortitude, of vision and of humanity.

It is therefore with a sense of regret that I bid you farewell, but also with a sense of profound gratitude.

General Crouch's outstanding efforts have given a very strong political signal to all parties. The international community remains determined and united in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. We expect full cooperation with its letter and its spirit. Those who do not cooperate, or seek to avoid their own responsibilities, cannot expect to enjoy the support of the international community.

This country used to be renowned for its tolerance and for its diversity. It can return. The outside world can look again at Bosnia and Herzegovina with admiration. But only if its leaders work together, and begin to fashion a common destiny. NATO, through IFOR and now SFOR, has given the chance for reconstruction. That chance must not be thrown away. For NATO's part we will continue to act fairly and firmly to make sure that the progress continues.

General Crouch, on behalf of the North Atlantic Council, I thank you again.

Your successor, General Shinseki, will carry on the work and like you, will face a number of testing challenges in completing the SFOR mission. But while SFOR's mandate comes to an end in June 1998, the Alliance has a commitment to, and a long-term interest in, stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the surrounding region. There is no military option for any party or ethnic group now or in the future. The only option is peace and cooperation.

SFOR is an outstanding example of international cooperation and General Shinseki will carry forward the standard of peace. It is a demanding task but one which enjoys the support of the international community and, in particular, of the nations of the Alliance and its partners in SFOR. General, we wish you good fortune.

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