Thank you, Mr. President. Let me begin by welcoming to the Council, Haris Silajdzić, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thank you very much for your comments today. Let me also welcome High Representative Inzko today. Thank you for your comprehensive briefing. The United States appreciates your dedication and hard work in support of implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords.
Mr. President, nearly 15 years have passed since the signing of the Dayton Accords. In that time, Bosnia and Herzegovina have made significant progress to overcome its past. The country now has a single military, has signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, and has taken steps toward NATO membership. We welcome the decision of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to destroy excess arms and ammunition; the United States is proud to be a partner in this important effort. And in January of this year, we welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina as a valued colleague on the Security Council.
These important accomplishments all show that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina want to live in a stable, functional state capable of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The United States supports the aspirations of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s people for a European future.
With this in mind, let me highlight three concerns raised by High Representative Inzko’s report.
First, while some progress has been made on defense and other necessary reforms, more needs to be done. We share the High Representative’s conclusion that Bosnia and Herzegovina has made only limited progress in addressing constitutional and other reforms necessary for EU candidacy. We urge Bosnia’s leaders to cross the ethnic divide and find the compromises needed to build a functional state that can meet EU and NATO requirements. As Vice President Biden said to the Bosnian Parliament, on May 19, 2009, “The United States is proud to support a peaceful, successful Bosnia and Herzegovina. But to achieve this goal, Bosnia’s leaders must work together across ethnic lines and party lines and interact with the rest of the world as a single, sovereign state.”
Along with our European partners, the United States will continue to engage with participants from all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s communities in promoting the constitutional reforms needed for the country’s eventual integration into the EU and NATO. But ultimately, the burden of achieving the country’s aspirations rests on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political leaders and depends on their responsibility, commitment, and willingness to compromise.
Second, like many in Bosnia and Herzegovina and many in this room, the United States looks forward to the day when the Office of the High Representative will no longer be needed. Again, we urge Bosnia’s leaders to find the compromises needed to fulfill the remaining requirements, particularly on immovable defense property.
In this regard, we also share High Representative Inzko’s concerns about what the report calls a “deteriorated” political atmosphere, including challenges to the High Representative’s authority. In numerous resolutions, this Council has affirmed the High Representative’s Bonn Powers and his responsibility to exercise them to ensure peace, stability, and compliance with the Dayton Agreement.
Third, as we approach the October 2010 national elections, we are concerned that divisive and damaging political rhetoric may threaten regional reconciliation efforts, undermine progress on the country’s Euro-Atlantic agenda, and distract attention from real national priorities. It’s simply unacceptable to propose or speculate about the dissolution of the state—even a peaceful dissolution. It is important for the country’s leadership to break the troubling cycle in which narrow ethnic and short-term political interests are pursued at the expense of long-term objectives that would benefit all of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s communities.
Mr. President, despite the challenges that lie ahead, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s responsible and constructive tenure on the Council to date demonstrates again the positive role that the country can play in the international community. We welcome the progress that Bosnia and Herzegovina and its neighbors have made to promote reconciliation, improve bilateral relations, and confront the legacy of the past by condemning war crimes. In April, NATO Foreign Ministers invited Bosnia into NATO’s Membership Action Plan, but with a clear expectation that the issue of immovable defense property must be resolved before Bosnia and Herzegovina can advance in the process. This decision shows the international community’s confidence that Bosnia and Herzegovina will undertake the important reforms still needed to strengthen its institutions and function more effectively as a state. The ultimate responsibility for resolving these issues rests with its leadership.
Mr. President, the United States remains committed to the framework established by the Dayton Accords and to strengthening state institutions. We also remain firmly committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity—and its integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, in line with the goals of its leaders and the wishes of its citizens.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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