19 Dec. 1997

Press Statement

by NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana

I came to Bosnia today to meet with President Plavsic in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Presidency in Sarajevo, The High Representative and the SFOR commanders and troops in the field who are doing such a magnificent job in bringing peace to this country.

NATO's Foreign and Defence Ministers recently reviewed the status of the SFOR operation twelve months into its eighteen-month mission.

One of their conclusions was that SFOR must continue its active and determined approach to implementing its mandate and supporting civil implementation. SFOR's actions yesterday to detain 2 indicted war criminals, to control Specialist Police and to help the IPTF in restructuring civil police are examples of that approach. SFOR will continue working hard to further implement the Peace Agreement and to continue to counter the efforts of those who seek to obstruct it.

In my meeting with President Plavsic, we discussed the results of last month's RS Assembly elections. The results show encouraging signs of emerging genuine multi-party politics, which are essential for a strong democracy. NATO looks forward to the early establishment of a new Assembly and a new government committed to implementing the Peace Agreement and thereby allowing the people in this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina to benefit more fully from the peace.

In my discussions with the joint Presidency, I underscored NATO's strong support for the conclusions of last week's Peace Implementation Conference in Bonn. NATO fully backs the High Representative's intention to use his authority fully to break through gridlock and to help the common institutions function. We will not tolerate obstruction and delaying tactics.

I also conveyed to the Presidency the work now in train within the Alliance to develop options for a possible military presence after June 1998. I explained that a follow-on force, if agreed, would be NATO-led, have robust rules of engagement and operate under Annex 1A of the Peace Agreement. Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of NATO's involvement on the ground in Bosnia. We will stay the course, and continue to secure the peace, not just now, but also in the future. Let me add in this connection that I very much welcome the clear announcement by President Clinton yesterday on US involvement.

Allies have taken no decision yet on what role NATO will play in Bosnia after June 1998. We must therefore focus on what can be achieved now through the end of SFOR's mandate. Much was achieved in 1997, but much more remains to be done - and can be done - to establish the institutions and conditions necessary for a lasting peace. SFOR is doing its part. The Parties must do theirs, and live up to their obligations under the Peace Agreement.

I would like to say finally something about indicted war criminals. Yesterday's action by SFOR is a clear warning to all indicted war criminals who are still at large that they too will be held accountable. They will not escape justice. So I insist that these individuals should take steps immediately to surrender themselves voluntarily to the International Tribunal. At the same time, we will maintain our firm pressure on the parties to comply fully with their commitment to transfer indicted war criminals to The Hague.

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