Monthly report to the United Nations Security Council on SFOR operations
- There are approximately 33,000 SFOR troops currently deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with contributions from all the NATO countries and from 19 non-NATO countries.
- Over the past month, SFOR has continued to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance through ground and air patrols, and to make random inspections of cantonment sites. Increased patrolling was maintained in Mostar, with SFOR continuing its close cooperation with the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in the city. An average of some 150 patrols have been conducted daily, and over 3,000 aircraft sorties and 5,000 helicopter sorties have been flown since the beginning of SFOR's mission.
- SFOR troops were closely involved with preparations for the Pope's visit to Sarajevo on 12 and 13 April and provided a considerable contribution to the security arrangements. In total, 6,540 SFOR personnel were involved, in cooperation with the Office of the High Representative, IPTF and local police. All multinational divisions were involved in providing a secure environment, including anti-sniper operations, emergency ordnance disposal teams, the manning of observation points in Sarajevo and reinforced patrolling along main roads in and around the city. In addition, all major routes were monitored throughout Bosnia.
- Support continues to be provided to the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), with SFOR maintaining its regular, coordinated close air support training missions over Eastern Slavonia to exercise plans to provide close air support if necessary.
Cooperation and compliance by the parties
- Overall, the parties are assessed as being in general compliance with the military provisions of the Peace Agreement. However, over the past month there have again been isolated incidents of lawlessness, including attacks against religious buildings, both churches and mosques, in central and south-western Bosnia. Although there were no injuries, these attacks added to the climate of mutual fear and suspicion, especially in the run-up to the Pope's visit to Sarajevo on 12 and 13 April. Since the beginning of SFOR's mandate, 14 religious institutions have been severely damaged - five mosques, eight Catholic churches and an Orthodox church. These attacks have all been investigated by the civil police and IPTF.
- In the month since the last report, SFOR troops have conducted approximately 261 weapons storage site inspections and monitored 240 authorized movement and training activities and 50 mine-clearing operations. Several minor instances of non-compliance arose during the site inspections, all of which resulted in the confiscation and subsequent destruction by SFOR of the weapons concerned. In line with SFOR policy, the parties have now submitted plans for the 25 per cent reduction of their barracks and cantonments. Since the plans contained some duplications and questionable site locations, they were returned to the parties for correction and were resubmitted for evaluation on 21 April. The total number of sites currently stands at 787, which is a reduction of approximately 10 per cent from the Implementation Force (IFOR) baseline of 876 in August 1996.
- In response to requests from the parties to carry out essential radar maintenance on air defence systems (which are in cantonment sites), it has been agreed that this activity may take place, subject to strict monitoring by SFOR.
- The weapons and ammunition declared by the parties as a result of SFOR's temporary suspension of its confiscation policy (para. 5 of last month's report refers (see S/1997/257)) have now been moved into authorized cantonment sites and henceforward will be subject to SFOR's usual inspection policy. In all, over 300,000 small arms and grenades were declared, along with approximately 400 heavy weapons and 52,000 mines.
- SFOR troops remain deployed in and around Mostar in order to prevent the recurrence of any violence. Over the reporting period SFOR, in cooperation with IPTF, dismantled a number of illegal checkpoints in the city. A Unified Police Force for Mostar has now been agreed, consisting of 100 Joint Police (50 Bosniac and 50 Croat), commanded by a Bosniac Commander and a Croat Deputy, with equal powers. IPTF will monitor the Force, which currently has an area of responsibility only in central Mostar. The Force's first patrol took place on 4 April.
- With respect to freedom of movement, SFOR continues to support IPTF in the dismantling of illegal checkpoints. Since the beginning of SFOR's mandate, 81 illegal checkpoints have been reported, a significant decrease from 1996 when IFOR was disbanding approximately 80 per month. Between 1 and 28 April, 18 illegal checkpoints were reported. Nevertheless, freedom of return remains problematic and returns to the zone of separation have been hampered by security concerns following the Gajevi incident (paras. 7- 9 of last month's report refers). However, there have been a number of spontaneous refugee returns over the past month, primarily to majority areas. In mid-April, SFOR personnel met with representatives from Gajevi and Celic in order to discuss the resettlement of Gajevi. Current plans call for the construction of prefabricated homes to commence at the beginning of May, with settlers moving in as soon as construction is completed.
- At a Joint Military Commission meeting at the end of March, the parties put forward their plans for the demining activities to be carried out by their armed forces, and also submitted plans for training their soldiers in demining activities. These plans were approved by SFOR on 21 April. Over the past 30 days, more than 3,000 mines have been removed by the parties and 164 troops have completed their demining training. SFOR is encouraged by the demining activities conducted to date. It is noteworthy that, since 18 April, and for the first time since October 1996, there is no training ban on the forces of any party in the theatre because of their progress in demining.
Cooperation with international organizations
- SFOR continues to provide support within its capabilities to the international civil organizations in theatre. As noted above, SFOR's close cooperation with IPTF continues in Mostar, and elsewhere, most notably in Brcko. On 27 March, SFOR hosted a meeting with the new IPTF Commissioner and his Regional Commanders, with the aim of further improving coordination. In addition, over the reporting period, SFOR participated in joint working groups with IPTF, the Office of the High Representative and the parties in order to prepare for the 12 and 13 April Papal visit to Sarajevo. SFOR has established a Law Enforcement Support Team and is actively supporting an IPTF operational study and the tracking and analysis of organized crime.
- SFOR continues to cooperate closely with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in its preparations for the September 1997 municipal elections in Bosnia. SFOR has assisted in the identification and reconnoitering of voter registration centres and polling stations and is helping to man the Joint Elections Operations Centre. Planning is under way with the OSCE mission in Bosnia for SFOR to provide the security framework and other support as appropriate during the elections themselves. SFOR also continues to provide data on weapons holdings to OSCE to assist in its role in implementing the provisions of annex I.B of the Peace Agreement.