Visit to

12 Sept. 1997

Statement to the Press

by the NATO Secretary General, Dr. Javier Solana

I am here in Sarajevo on the eve of the municipal elections to underscore NATO's support for these elections. They are an important milestone in implementing Dayton.

The OSCE is determined that the municipal elections should proceed this weekend. I fully share this determination. I fully expect all political parties to see reason and to realise that it is in their fundamental interest to participate in these elections.

For the first time since the Peace Agreement was signed, the people of Bosnia have the opportunity to vote for the new Councils at the local level.

This is the people's chance to vote for leaders who will look after the peoples' interest and not their own interests.

It is my hope that the municipal elections will pave the way to other progress: the return of those who have been evicted from their homes, the establishment of democratic law and order and the rooting out of corruption.

I pay tribute to the OSCE for its excellent work in preparing and planning these elections. The elections are extremely complicated and can only be held due to the months of hard labour and perseverance.

I offer my congratulations in particular to the Provisional Election Commission, whom I met this morning. It has successfully tackled such difficult issues as election rules and procedures. The PEC is a good example of how the Parties can work together on difficult issues and achieve results.

I would also like to commend SFOR for its support to the planning of these elections. Recently SFOR has been temporarily reinforced by six battalions. Its strength now stands at nearly 40,000 soldiers. These soldiers will ensure that the municipal elections are held in a secure environment.

SFOR is fully ready to prevent any difficulties during the elections. Our forces will not tolerate any violence or threat of violence. A security plan has been made, the Joint Election Operation Centre is ready and the Parties should be aware that SFOR will act immediately if they disturb or block people from voting. Therefore, the secure conditions for free and fair elections are in place. I call on all the people of Bosnia to take full advantage of this opportunity and to exercise their democratic right to vote. Once the elections are over, we expect the results to be fully implemented. SFOR will help OSCE to ensure that this happens.

SFOR also stands ready to take firm action, in close co-ordination with the High Representative, against media whose output is in persistent and blatant contradiction of either the spirit or the letter of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

SACEUR has received full authority from the North Atlantic Council to take necessary steps against the abuse of media to incite violence or undermine Dayton. We will be watching the media situation throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina very carefully and we will be seeking assurances that these abuses will stop.

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