10 Years After Dayton Accords, Rice Urges Bosnia to Further Its Goals
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Rice praised the Dayton Accords during ceremonies at the State Department. Reached Nov. 21, 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the agreement brought an end to the bloody Bosnian conflict.
The agreement ended what Rice called "a tragic, unwanted chapter" in Europe's long history of violence. More than 200,000 people died in the fighting, and millions more were driven from their homes, she noted.
In addition, the slaughter at Srebrenica marked "the most vicious murder of innocents in Europe since Hitler's army stalked the continent," Rice said. Some 8,000 Muslim men and boys are believed to have been killed during the five-day massacre.
The Dayton Accords ended the conflict and established the framework for peace.
Operation Joint Endeavor, NATO's largest military operation ever undertaken, implemented the agreement's military aspects. The multinational force, initially known as the Implementation Force, included tens of thousands of U.S. troops who were responsible for transferring territory between the two entities and moving both sides' heavy weapons into approved sites.
NATO forces also patrolled the demilitarized boundary line, provided support for elections, and helped enable the civil aspects of the Dayton Accords to advance. That contingent, which became known as the Stabilization Force, completed its mission in December 2004, when the military aspects of the Dayton Accords were completed.
Today, just under 250 U.S. troops form the bulk of a 300-member NATO force in Sarajevo that continues to help Bosnia-Herzegovina with military reform as it also works to pursue war criminals and combat terrorism.
Ten years after the Dayton Accords helped smooth the way for this process, it's now time to move beyond them, Rice said at today's ceremony.
"A weak, divided state was appropriate in 1995. But today, in 2005, the country needs a stronger, energetic state capable of advancing the public good and securing the national interest," she said.
"To seize the opportunities of the 21st century, we must transform Dayton," said Rice, who promised U.S. support in the effort.
That transformation already is under way, with Bosnians building new national institutions to police their borders, spur economic growth and fight organized crime and terrorism, she noted. Bosnia-Herzegovina also is creating a modern, unified military, which will fall under civilian control and be compatible with NATO.
In addition, Bosnia's leaders are working toward constitutional reforms that will make stronger, more efficient democratic institutions that empower their citizens, Rice said.
"This is an historic step toward modernizing the Dayton Accords, and implementing this commitment is essential if Bosnia and Herzegovina are to reach the full goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions," she said.
But that process can't proceed fully until Bosnia-Herzegovina confronts what Rice called "the demons of its past" and finally brings its war criminals to justice. These include Ratko Mladic, the alleged architect of the Srebrenica massacres, and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Bosnia's current Serb leaders have assured Rice they promise to capture and arrest both men and transfer them to the international criminal court at The Hague, Netherlands, for prosecution.
"These are encouraging words, and now they must lead to serious action," the secretary said. "There can be no more excuses and no more delays. Ten years is long enough."
The nation's top diplomat emphasized the U.S. position on the matter. "America's position is clear and uncompromising," Rice said. "Every Balkan country must arrest its indicted war criminals, or it will have no future in NATO."
She expressed optimism that U.N.-led talks that began this week will reach a final resolution on the status of Kosovo. "Now is the time to chart Kosovo's future," she said, expressing hope for an agreement that allows Kosovars to live freely and in peace.
The Dayton Accords helped pave the way for Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the war-torn Balkans to live at peace in a democracy, Rice said. She urged the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to continue the reconciliation that's been started "in their hearts as well as in their politics."
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