|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press conference at Police Headquarters
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 1, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 3, 1997
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. We have just completed a walking tour of this part of Sarajevo. We walked down what used to be known as Sniper's Alley. We stopped at a playground full of children that was built by USAID. I must say that embracing those children and getting pictures from them will be one of my fondest memories of Sarajevo on this trip.
We crossed the Grbavica bridge where the first Sarajevan to be killed in the war was shot by a sniper. I could not help but think of my visit to this city during the darkest, most helpless days of the war. No one would have dreamed then of taking the route that we just did -- at least not without dodging bullets and hiding in the shadows.
Now Sarajevo is not only at peace, it is what I said I hoped it would be back in 1994 -- the united capital of Bosnia, where church bells are ringing. Much of the credit goes to the men and women of every community who have struggled and sacrificed and risked danger to make its new multiethnic institutions work. They are men and women like these police officers who guided us in our walk today. Thank you very much. I want to thank them for showing me their beat and most of all I want to thank them for their service to Sarajevo. These are the heroes you do not hear about very often in Bosnia. These are the dedicated people of many ages who are proving cynics and tyrants wrong. They are part of the Federation's first multiethnic canton police force, 1700 strong. The United States, the Office of the High Representative and the International Police Task Force have mounted a major effort to provide them with the training and equipment that they need.
On Friday, in Sintra, I called on the international community to redouble this effort. If we want to see lasting public security in Bosnia, if we want to ensure that thugs and criminals never again terrorize the people of this country, if we want to make sure that Sarajevo citizens of every ethnic group can come home in safety, then we must support professional police forces here to the highest standards of democracy and the rule of law.
I congratulate these officers. I congratulate Federation officials for demonstrating that this kind of cooperation is possible, and I pledge to you that America support for your efforts will endure as long as you move forward. And I must say, doesn't this young woman police officer look like somebody off our TV shows?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is exactly the kind of issue that we are working on. We want to make absolutely sure that the Federation does in fact support the restructuring of the police, that it does do everything it can in terms of refugee returns and freedom of movement, that there is freedom of expression, and a commitment to arms control. Those are the kinds of issues that we believe the Presidency and the Federation officials must address themselves to.
QUESTION: Given the success of your mission today, how disturbing is it for you to know that the man held most responsible for the siege of Sarajevo is now living in Pale, basically coexisting with NATO? How disturbing is that to you?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is very important for there to be compliance with the War Crimes Tribunal. It is a priority issue. Those who are indicted war criminals should be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal so that the good people of this region can live freely and they have an opportunity to be able to move into the future and stop thinking about the past.
QUESTION: A number of Croatian, Serbian and Jewish residents of Sarajevo prior to the war are having difficulty returning to their homes. There have been obstacles put in their way by the authorities. In view of your earlier statements that the U.S. would not provide economic assistance to any party not fulfilling the Dayton Accords, I wonder what action you're planning to take to assure that these people can return to their homes here?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are making very clear. Ambassador Gelbard, one of his prime missions here is to deliver that message loud and clear, that it is an essential part of the Dayton Accords, that there be the ability of people to return to their homes, and that there be reconstruction. The reconstruction part is, I think, essential. What I have found in my travels around Bosnia is that it seems that everybody is in the wrong house, and in the end, there is a missing house. Therefore, it is important to have reconstruction and we need to insist on that. But if these kinds of communal projects do not go forward, the kinds of projects that help to knit the multiethnic society together, then there will not be American assistance.
QUESTION: What kinds of pressure can you put on Sarajevo which is again supposed to be a multiethnic city to bring back some of the multiethnic character which existed before the war?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I said, this is the kind of problem that concerns us because it is a roadblock to the future. And we believe that the Presidency, and the Council of Ministers and the various officials must take their responsibilities seriously. The feeling that I have -- and I certainly got it this morning again -- is that there are countless peoples, people in this city, young and old, but many very young, who want to make this city work, who want to live here together. The leaders must follow the leadership of their people who want to live together. We cannot have any roadblocks.
QUESTION: You said that you want more cooperation on the indicted war criminals. It's becoming obvious that the parties are not going to hand over their indicted war criminals. Will there be a change in policy where the United States will ask for an international effort to go after them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On my way here, I stopped in The Hague, at the War Crimes Tribunal, and I made very clear there as I have in the past, that the United States is looking into options of how to strengthen the work of the War Crimes Tribunal. We do believe that getting the war criminals is a priority issue. They are, when I talk about roadblocks, they are the major roadblock to progress. And we believe that the full implementation of Dayton is essential, and turning over war criminals is one of the prerequisites.
QUESTION: Three days ago the Bosnian Presidency agreed on a draft law on the Central Bank, ending a six-month dispute. But they also agreed to let Bosnian Serbs use Yugoslav dinars in official transactions. Experts believe that this will directly undermine the monetary unity of Bosnia. Knowing your commitment for a unified Bosnia, how do you feel about this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we need to make sure that there are central institutions and that everything that is done here is done in order to unify the people and not divide. We were very pleased with the signing of the Central Bank legislation as well as with the customs legislations and I personally made sure that the budget law was signed by all three of them, having lent them my pen. I think that it is very important that everything that brings the people together has priority and those points that divide be set aside.
QUESTION: During the years of the war, you pushed for forceful intervention here. That never came. Do you feel that if President Clinton had listened to you back then, this reconstruction you're fighting so hard for now might have happened sooner?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, there was intervention and I am very proud of what President Clinton directed the American forces within NATO to do. One of things I am proudest of is the fact that thanks to the resolve of the United States and our allies, we were able to put a stop to the killing and bloodletting here. There is a great deal to be done, but let us never forget that three years ago people were still dying on these streets. We would not be able to be taking these kinds of walks, nor would I be able to be meeting with the children. So I am very proud of what the United States and President Clinton directed. I think that we can all be proud of the role of the United States.
In its year of celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, I think yet again America has proven that we can put out a helping hand -- and on the other end of that hand have to be many other hands that are willing to pick up the work. That is what it is about. What is happening here in Sarajevo is the modern-day version of a Marshall Plan, where America provides assistance, but it provides assistance to those who help themselves.
Thank you all very much.
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