As we have said, from time to time we will be making announcements when specific progress is made at these talks. Today we are announcing an important agreement that will implement the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as an annex on the city of Mostar. In simple terms, this agreement will bring the Federation to life.
This agreement will be signed by President Izetbegovic and Prime Minister Silajdic on behalf of the Bosnian government, and by President Zubak and Deputy Prime Minister Prlic on behalf of the Federation. It will be endorsed by President Tudjman, and witnessed by Assistant Secretary Holbrooke and Ambassador Ischinger.
I would also like to recognize some of the other people who have joined us here to make this possible. The two mayors of Mostar, Mr. Orucevic and Mr. Brajkovic, are here to sign the annex on Mostar, as is the European Union's Administrator for Mostar, Hans Koschnick. We also owe a great deal to the hard work of Dan Serwer, our Special Envoy for the Federation, and to Germany's Contact Group representative, Michael Steiner.
We will now proceed to the signing of the agreement. I will then make a statement, as will Ambassador Ischinger, the three Presidents and finally Assistant Secretary Holbrooke.
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The Federation is an essential building block of peace in Bosnia- Herzegovina as a whole. In the peace agreement we are discussing, the Federation will be one of Bosnia's two constituent parts. For a settlement to endure, the Federation must be functioning and strong.
A year and a half ago, the United States helped to mediate the agreement that created the Federation. That agreement saved countless lives by ending the fighting between the Bosniac and Croat communities of Bosnia- Herzegovina. Until today, however, many serious obstacles to implementation remained, including the slow development of common institutions, restrictions on the freedom of movement within the Federation, and the continued division of Mostar. Today, the parties have adopted a plan to resolve each of these problems.
As it is implemented, today's agreement will bring the Federation to life. It will create common political and economic institutions that will unite the two communities. It will be a model for inter-ethnic cooperation and renewed trust in a country that is sorely in need of both.
This agreement was negotiated under the auspices of the U.S. and German delegations in Dayton. It certainly could not have been reached without the determination of President Izetbegovic, and of President Tudjman.
The Contact Group and the European Union were also our full partners. Like the United States, the EU is dedicated to the idea that one community can be forged from many disparate parts. We share the conviction that Europe's post-Cold war peace must be based on the principle of multi-ethnic democracy.
The agreement finally gives the Federation the authority to govern effectively. The central government of Bosnia-Herzegovina will keep the powers it needs to preserve the country's sovereignty, including foreign affairs, trade, and monetary policy. It will transfer most of its other responsibilities, including police, courts, tax collection, health and education to the Federation. The new structures the agreement creates will replace all of the separate local Croat and Muslim authorities on Federation territory.
The agreement commits the Federation to respect the human rights of all who live within it, regardless of their ethnic background, and to allow them to move about its territory freely. Federation authorities will develop and implement a comprehensive plan to permit refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes.
The agreement provides for the sharing of revenues and a joint customs administration. Internal customs check points, which had marred the Federation before, will be removed.
Finally, the parties have agreed to the reunification of the city of Mostar under a single administration.
Of course, the true test of this agreement will lie in the way it is carried out. The parties have agreed to report to the United States, Germany and the EU every two weeks on the progress they are making. We will monitor that progress carefully. And we stand ready to help them however we can.
It will not be easy. But today, we can celebrate another moment of hope in this long, hard process of building the Federation. The parties have understood that peace means more than the absence of war. It requires practical cooperation, and the mutual recognition of shared interests. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ugly alternative is starkly symbolized by the shattered bridge that once united the city of Mostar.
It is certainly harder to build bridges than it is to tear them down. And some people, of course, still believe that the conflict between Muslims, Croats, and Serbs is insoluble. By making the Federation work, the communities this agreement unites are showing that view to be cynical and false. After all, until recently, the peoples of Bosnia- Herzegovina lived together in peace. They deserve a chance to do so again. If the Federation can succeed as a multi-ethnic democracy, then so can Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole. A comprehensive peace remains our fundamental challenge here in Dayton. The agreement we signed today is an important first step and a sign that progress is possible when the parties are determined to achieve it.
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