Thank you, Mr. President. It is my pleasure to welcome High Representative Inzko back to the Security Council. Ambassador Inzko, thank you for your comprehensive briefing and for your continued efforts to support the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Mr. President, the United States is steadfast in our commitment to the success of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we, like our allies, have invested much in the country since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995. As we reflect on the report presented and on the goodwill we have towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, we wish to address three points.
First, we continue to strongly support the country’s aspirations to integrate into the European Union and NATO, and we had hoped that the new coalition would make these goals their top priorities. Unfortunately, politicians throughout the country seem more interested in putting their own personal political agendas above the interests of the citizens they were elected to represent. In the Federation entity, ongoing efforts to reshuffle the governing coalition have distracted from the Euro-Atlantic reform agenda. The European Court of Human Rights’ 2009 judgment in the Sejdic-Finci case remains unimplemented, violating the human rights of non-constituent peoples and blocking the country from applying for EU candidacy. Unless the issue is resolved soon, Bosnia and Herzegovina risks holding elections next year in violation of the judgment. And the country still needs to register defense properties to meet NATO’s condition for activating the Membership Action Plan, a process that is being obstructed by politicians in Republika Srpska. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s lack of progress is all the more visible in the context of its neighbors, all of whom are rapidly moving ahead toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
Second, it has been more than five long years since the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board adopted the five objectives and two conditions for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). The so-called 5+2 consists of issues that OHR is uniquely qualified and authorized to oversee and which the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina could easily have completed in 2008 and propelled the state on its way to EU and NATO membership. Instead, a number of political leaders have focused their energies on deconstructing or undermining Dayton and the various institutions and laws established since 1995 that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs both for the common good of the people and to function as part of a modern Europe.
The local authorities have a legal obligation to respect the authority of the High Representative and the Dayton framework. Yet Republika Srpska officials have persistently undermined state institutions and made statements calling into question Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the Federation, local parties in Mostar have failed to meet their obligation to implement the November 10, 2011, Constitutional Court ruling on the electoral system. These actions disregard the most fundamental elements of the Bosnian Constitution and the Dayton Agreement. They must cease immediately.
The continuing threats to the Dayton Peace Accords are why we continue to support the presence of OHR until the 5+2 criteria have been met. It is crucial that OHR continue to receive sufficient resources and political support to fulfill its mandate under both the Dayton Peace Agreement and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Finally, I would like to highlight the continuing importance of justice and reconciliation for long term regional stability, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We join the High Representative in recognizing Serbian President Nikolic for his recent public apology for the crimes committed in Srebrenica. We strongly support the ICTY as it continues its crucial work to bring to justice those individuals responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the Bosnian conflict. The January signing of a protocol on war crimes cooperation between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia is another positive development that will help ensure locally-indicted war crimes suspects face justice.
Other local developments related to reconciliation, however, are more troubling. We are particularly concerned by the continued efforts to construct an Orthodox Church in close proximity both to an exhumed mass grave and the Potocari memorial site and cemetery, where thousands of victims of the Srebrenica genocide are laid to rest. The United States strongly supports freedom of religion, but the construction of a church in such a sensitive location where there is no local Orthodox community can only be interpreted as a deliberate provocation designed to deepen mistrust and fear between ethnic groups.
Mr. President, I again want to express the strong commitment of the United States to seeing Bosnia and Herzegovina move past its troubled past toward a thriving future. We look forward to working with the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the international community to see the Dayton Peace Agreement fully implemented and the country irreversibly moving toward its Euro-Atlantic path.
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