Thank you, Mr. President.
Let me begin by welcoming His Excellency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and thanking him for his comments. Let me also welcome High Representative Inzko back to the Council and thank him for his comprehensive briefing and service in support of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Mr. President, 15 years ago this month, a Peace Agreement was initialed in Dayton, Ohio, that helped end a terrible war and established a framework for a lasting peace. The United States made a commitment back then to help Bosnia and Herzegovina achieve peace and prosperity. We stand by that commitment today. We are optimistic that Bosnia and Herzegovina can develop into a strong, stable democracy that respects the interests of all its citizens.
The Bosnian people have made enormous strides in the past 15 years. Still, as the High Representative has indicated, much more work needs to be done for the country to fully realize its Euro-Atlantic future. To move ahead with the closure of the Office of the High Representative, the objectives set by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board on state and defense property issues must be resolved, together with the rest of the “five plus two” conditions. The defense-property issue also prevents Bosnia and Herzegovina from reaping the benefits of its NATO Membership Action Plan.
Constitutional reforms are also urgently needed to address basic human rights concerns, make government more responsive to its people, and help meet the requirements for Euro-Atlantic integration. These decisions cannot be imposed from the outside. But the United States will remain engaged, and we will help however we can.
Let me make three main points addressing the High Representative’s report.
First, the United States welcomes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recent achievements. International observers considered the October 3 general elections generally free and fair. We look forward to the formation of governments that can make progress on the pressing reform agenda. We also welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress toward meeting the conditions for EU visa liberalization, which will spur economic development and open the door to greater regional integration.
The United States further appreciates Bosnia and Herzegovina’s assumption of significantly increased responsibilities in the international community, including its service on the Security Council and its important contributions to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Second, we share High Representative Inzko’s concerns about what he describes as a deteriorating political climate. Election campaigning is no excuse for provocative and divisive political rhetoric. Leaders need to work together across ethnic and party lines.
The United States is seriously concerned about expressions of public support by some politicians for war criminals indicted or convicted by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We also condemn denials of the Srebrenica genocide, which are simply indefensible. Such attitudes undermine respect for the rule of law, impede reconciliation, and hinder interethnic cooperation. We expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet all of its obligations toward the Tribunal in full, and we expect it to take seriously its commitment to implement its domestic war crimes strategy.
Third, let me affirm U.S. support for the Office of the High Representative and the use of executive powers when necessary. Numerous Security Council resolutions have affirmed the High Representative’s Bonn Powers and affirmative responsibility to exercise them to ensure peace, stability and compliance with the Dayton Peace Agreement. All parties are required to respect and implement the High Representative’s decisions.
Mr. President, following the formation of governments, we expect Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to make decisive progress on the outstanding elements of the “five plus two” agenda for transition from the Office of the High Representative to an EU Special Representative. Further, we look forward to constitutional and other reforms necessary for the country to present a credible application for EU candidacy.
We also note that the European Union’s military presence (EUFOR) continues to contribute to a safe and secure environment. It should be maintained. We support renewal of the EUFOR mandate, which the Council is currently discussing, and the continuation of a credible EU military presence.
Mr. President, the United States remains fully committed to the framework established by the Dayton Accords.
We look forward to continued reforms as the country’s citizens and elected leaders assume full responsibility for their future—eventually leading to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s full membership in the EU and NATO.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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