Meeting of the

9 Dec. 1997


by the Secretary General

Mr. Chairman,

One year ago, in London, I addressed the Peace Implementation Council on how NATO planned to help consolidate the peace in Bosnia in 1997, in particular by organizing and leading a Stabilization Force. I am pleased to be able to report that SFOR has carried out these plans with great success, thanks to the skill and dedication of the men and women from the 36 countries participating in SFOR.

  • There is no fighting in Bosnia. SFOR continues to ensure the full implementation of the military aspects of the Peace Agreement. SFOR is actively supporting the IPTF in reforming the police and enhancing freedom of movement. It is also providing support to the Office of the High Representative in many fields, including restructuring the media. It has played a full part in ensuring the successful conduct of elections.

  • Last week NATO Defence Ministers reviewed SFOR's operations and the situation in Bosnia and took two fundamental decisions:

  • The first - that SFOR would continue its firm and even-handed approach to implementing its mandate and supporting civil implementation. To do this, SFOR will continue at its current force levels, subject to some prudent adjustments, until otherwise directed by the NATO Council.

  • The second decision concerns the longer term - the NATO Military Authorities will develop on the basis of the Council's politico-military guidance a full range of options for a possible NATO-led military presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the end of SFOR's mandate.

  • Defence Ministers also endorsed an initial set of security cooperation activities with Bosnia and Herzegovina, to include both Entities and all three parties. These activities are aimed at promoting confidence and cooperation among the Bosnian armed forces and encouraging the development of democratic practices and central defence mechanisms such as the Standing Committee for Military Matters.

  • For the duration of its mandate SFOR will continue to guarantee the peace and secure environment necessary to allow others in the international community to rebuild Bosnia and return it to normalcy. Much more work in this regard remains to be done. I see two specific objectives this Council should address:

  • First - we need to send a clear political message from the International Community that there is no alternative to the Peace Agreement. We need also to obtain a renewed pledge of full cooperation at all levels of the Bosnian authorities. We cannot accept gridlock in the common institutions that are so crucial to consolidating the peace. We cannot accept that while our own citizens sacrifice to assist the people of Bosnia in transforming their war-torn country, Bosnian politicians and officials block progress over petty differences such as the size of lettering on passports or the numbers on an automobile license plate.

  • Second - concrete commitment. The High Representative and the International Organisations require our full support in terms of financial and manpower resources as they strive to implement the peace. The governments represented here today must, in particular, devote even more attention and commit even more resources to the restructuring of local police, led by the IPTF, and to the reform of the judicial and penal systems in Bosnia.

  • Without a climate of public security, we cannot expect progress in other aspects of the Peace Agreement, including economic redevelopment, the return of refugees and the fight against corruption.

  • I would like to conclude by, first, thanking the countries contributing to SFOR, who have given so much to advance the cause of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Advances made by SFOR have been significant, but not without cost. Since December 1995, 76 soldiers of IFOR and SFOR have died. 378 more have been wounded. Furthermore, countries around this table have expended enormous financial and material resources in support of the same cause. We must do everything in our power to ensure that these sacrifices have not been made in vain.

  • Secondly, to the members of the delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, allow me to remind you that neither our patience nor our resources are infinite. We are providing you and your people a chance to rebuild your country and economy. I urge you to seize this opportunity before it is too late.

  • The rest of Europe is rapidly integrating, economically and politically, while Bosnia lacks even a common currency or foreign investment law. Bosnia's Central and Eastern European neighbours are forging partnerships and preparing to join NATO and other European institutions. Meanwhile Bosnia remains unable to agree to re-open airports in its largest cities, or to other issues related to the day to day life of every other civil society in Europe.

  • Mr Chairman, implementation of the Peace Agreement is our common goal. NATO will continue to play its full part by providing the leadership of SFOR, which will carry out its mandate firmly and fairly. The leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina must play their full part too. I call on them to declare today clearly what steps they intend to take and when, to meet this responsibility.

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