|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement at the Bosnia Contact Group Ministerial
New York, New York, September 24, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Bosnia Contact Group Ministerial
Before we begin our discussions today, I want to pause for a moment of silence to honor the lives of the twelve colleagues who died in last week's helicopter crash. May they be long remembered for their courage and dedication; and may we find the strength and wisdom to ensure that their loss was not in vain.
As we meet for the first time since Sintra, we have some progress to note. There is no doubt that much of that progress has come from our willingness to set firm deadlines for action and to impose strong measures against parties that do not respect them.
In short, we have told Bosnian authorities to lead, follow or get out of the way as Dayton is implemented. That policy must continue.
While we have encountered obstructionism on all sides, there is no doubt that the Pale clique's tactics, and its attempt to maintain a stranglehold on economic and political life in the Republika Srpska, comprise the major obstacle before us.
We all agree that President Plavsic has shown a great deal of courage in standing up to Pale's corruption, vicious propaganda, and outright thuggery.
Our support for her is not based on personalities. It is based on the simple fact that she is more willing to implement Dayton by maintaining the Republika Srpska as a single, law-abiding entity whose people can build a future within a unified Bosnia.
In dissolving the Srpska Assembly and calling elections, President Plavsic has acted according to the procedure spelled out in the republic's constitution.
I fully understand the Russian concern that going ahead with elections now is risky. But I am very glad that we have agreed that leaving Plavsic and the Bosnian Serb reformers -- and the integrity of the electoral process -- at Pale's mercy would be even riskier.
It is essential that those elections be free and fair. It is therefore in our common interest to make sure that the OSCE is able tomorrow, at its Permanent Council meeting in Vienna, to agree to supervise the November Assembly elections and to allot sufficient resources to do so. I urge all of you to instruct your delegations accordingly.
We all owe Ambassador Frowick and the OSCE, as well as SFOR, the IPTF and the Office of the High Representative, our thanks for their efforts to make the municipal elections held earlier this month a success. But most of all we must congratulate the Bosnian people, who shamed the skeptics by turning out in large numbers -- to vote peacefully for a wide variety of parties.
And if we are tempted to believe those who say that the people of Bosnia have acquiesced in their own partition, we should remember how many voted not where war, flight and politics have sent them, but in the places where they lived before the war. In the places to which they still hope to return.
Those hopes lay a heavy responsibility on the international community, and an even heavier one on the Bosnian government.
Bosnia's people have spoken. We expect all authorities, including cantonal and local officials, to honor their choices. That means installing new governments rapidly; sharing power equitably; and creating conditions for officials to function safely and effectively.
Through the Office of the High Representative, the OSCE and SFOR, the international community must be prepared to support the new office-holders. We need to think now about creative measures to accomplish this.
And there must be absolute certainty that any attempt to impair the functioning of municipal authorities will swiftly be met with sanctions.
The United States is also deeply concerned with the problem of corruption. I want to highlight the hesitation and reluctance of some to meet their obligations to reform and restructure police forces. Clashes among police units this week only underscore the need to move ahead rapidly, particularly but not exclusively in the Republika Srpska.
As we work to build strong democratic institutions, we also face the challenge of helping re-build, and in some places create, the structures outside government that are so crucial to a well-functioning democracy. One of the more important of these is a free media.
At Sintra, we agreed that the High Representative has the authority to suspend networks, broadcasts or publications that contravene Dayton's letter and spirit. And in close coordination with the international community and SFOR, he must also have the ability to do so.
All sides must be held to their commitments to allow accurate information to reach the Bosnian people.
While we work to improve Dayton compliance within Bosnia, we must not lose sight of the broader picture. Unfortunately, that picture is disturbing. Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia continue to stonewall, resist and evade their Dayton responsibilities.
In particular, of course, we are concerned with cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal.
Croatia and the FRY should understand that not only does compliance with the Tribunal remains vital to the success of Dayton, it remains vital to our consideration of assistance for those countries. It remains central to our support for assistance by others. And it remains the sine qua non for our backing for full integration into the international community.
We also stress our growing concern with the situation in Kosovo. Our British colleague has proposed that the Contact Group issue a separate statement today on Kosovo, stressing the need for dialogue and confidence-building. The United States agrees.
As student demonstrations scheduled for October 1 approach, there is a serious risk of major outbreaks of violence in Kosovo. We would be negligent if we did not do everything we can now to urge restraint.
Finally, let me mention a bit of good news. Since Sintra, we have begun to see progress in our efforts to help refugees and the displaced return home. I am guardedly optimistic that our Open Cities program is making a real difference.
One account reached me of a refugee who returned home in great fear, and only with an ICRC official escorting him. When he reached his village, his pre-war neighbors came out to greet him. After a few tense minutes, he dismissed his escort. Returning later to check on the situation, the ICRC officer found the neighbors merrily roasting a pig in honor of the refugee's arrival.
That is the Bosnia of Dayton. Those are the Bosnians who will vote with the assistance of our observers; who will rebuild, with the support of our aid programs; and who, with the assurance of our presence, will see that the institutions of a single, multi-ethnic and democratic state take root.
That is the Bosnia to which so many of our colleagues have given their lives. Let us give our utmost to see it built.
And now, since we did not prepare a formal agenda for this meeting, let me suggest that we hear a report from Carlos Westendorp, and then open the floor for discussion.
[End of Document]
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