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Tenth Anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords

Remarks in Honor of the Tenth Anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 22, 2005

(12:45 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Please be seated.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being here today as we commemorate the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords which ended the war in Bosnia ten years ago. I would like to welcome the many leaders of the Bosnian Government who are joining us here, especially Presidents Jovic, Tihic, Paravac and Prime Minister Terzic.

I would like to welcome the members of the Diplomatic Corps for joining us here and, of course, I'm pleased to see Sandy Berger and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who is, of course, the architect of Dayton. Thank you for the lasting contribution to peace that you have made and continue to make. Welcome to the many distinguished members of our government who are here today and of other places around the world. There are many friends here in this room, friends of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I want to welcome religious leaders who have joined here to give their voice to the importance of religious tolerance and freedom.

And finally let me offer a special heartfelt greeting to the families of Robert Frasure, Joe Kruzel and Nelson Drew, we honored earlier today in the lobby of the State Department. These three men gave their lives so that millions of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, men and women they never met, could enjoy normal days rich with peace and opportunity.

The goal of peace in the Balkans, so admirably advanced at Dayton, has been a bipartisan American effort for the past 15 years. And today, under President Bush's leadership, the United States is working energetically and ambitiously to help Bosnia-Herzegovina become a unified country to arrest all war criminals and to reach a final peace in Kosovo.

Ladies and gentlemen, on this important anniversary of peace, we look forward to the future with unfailing hope. For we now have a tremendous opportunity to achieve real security and lasting democracy and true reconciliation in the Balkans. But today we also look back on the past with solemn thoughts, never forgetting the suffering endured by millions and the hardships overcome with time and the challenges that we met together. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina added a tragic unwanted chapter to the long history of violence in Europe. A quarter of a million people perished in the fighting and millions more were driven from their homes. And the slaughter at Srebrenica marked the most vicious murder of innocence in Europe since Hitler's armies stalked the continent.

In the fall of 1995, however, the United States and our NATO allies helped the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina fight back. We supported our just demands with real force and paved the way for diplomacy to prevail and it prevailed in a small Ohio city. By finally ending the Bosnian conflict, the Dayton Accords enabled many refugees to return home without fear and helped to revitalize the international community's confidence in its ability to defend its weakest members from aggression.

For nine years after Dayton, NATO kept the peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina without one shot being fired between the parties and without any soldiers from the alliance dying in hostile action. This achievement enabled the European Union to advance the mission over the past year and it helped steadfast civilian leaders like High Representative Paddy Ashdown and many of our other partners in the United Nations and the OSCE to implement the requirements of peace.

Today I would like to thank all of the men and women from NATO and from the EU and from the international community for joining us here.

The greatest contributions to peace, however, were not made by foreign leaders in distant capitals. Those contributions have been made by Serbs and Croats and Muslims living and working every day for reconciliation in places like Sarajevo and Mostar and Brcko and Banja Luka. They are slowing beginning to create a new more hopeful national story. And today Bosnia and Herzegovina is not merely a passive recipient of international support. It is joining the international community to defend liberty and to fight for the freedoms of others in Iraq and to fight terrorism across the globe.

To advance the promise of peace and progress, we must now move beyond the framework constructed a decade ago. 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.

My friends, to seize the opportunities of the 21st century, we must now transform Dayton. And in this new challenge, as with every other challenge in the past decade, all Bosnians know that they can count on America to be a dedicated partner.

The Bosnian Government and the people are already working to transform Dayton. They are beginning to build new national institutions to police their borders, to foster economic growth and to fight organized crime and terrorism. The elected leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina have also approved the creation of a modern, unified military firmly under civilian control and fully compatible with NATO.

These are important reforms and the major political party leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina who are joining us today all recognize that more change is needed. In our meeting this morning, they reaffirmed their pledge to embark on a process of constitutional reform and to complete it by March 2006, to create stronger, more efficient democratic institutions that can empower their citizens to meet the challenges of modern Europe.

This is an historic step forward in 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.

On this point, however, we must be very clear. To enjoy the full blessings of integration, Bosnia and Herzegovina must fully confront the demons of its past; in particular, the urgent and long overdue need to bring to justice war criminals like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. We will never forget the massacre at Srebrenica. And America's position is clear and uncompromising. Every Balkan country must arrest its indicted war criminals or it will have no future in NATO.

I am pleased that earlier today the leaders of Bosnia's Serb community stated publicly their unequivocal commitment to the capture, arrest and transfer to The Hague of Mladic and Karadzic. These are encouraging words and now they must lead to serious action. There can be no more excuses and no more delays. Ten years is long enough.

Ladies and gentlemen, America's hope for Bosnia and Herzegovina is inspired by a much broader vision, a vision of a Europe whole and free and at peace, which has summoned the efforts of every American administration since the Cold War. This vision has incorporated Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries and one day it will fully incorporate the Balkans, too.

In the coming months, we can take an important step toward realizing this vision of Europe by reaching agreement on the final status of Kosovo. The United States fully supports the UN-led talks that began this week and we are using our influence to make a positive difference. Now it is time to chart Kosovo's future. With vision and courage and compromise, we must reach and agreement that enables all Kosovars to live freely and in peace.

Ten years ago, many doubted whether democracy would be possible among Serbs and Croats and Muslims in the war-torn lands of the Balkans. Today, we are seeing those doubts dismissed. Bosnia and Herzegovina is emerging as yet another example of how democracy can help diverse peoples live together without fear or repression. Now, if all Bosnian citizens tear down the walls of separation that still stand between them, if they advance reconciliation in their hearts as well as in their politics, then the lands of Southeastern Europe will join in the democratic peace of their continent and the vision of Europe whole, free and at peace will finally be complete.

Thank you very much and now I would like to invite His Excellency President Jovic to take the podium.


PRESIDENT JOVIC: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Madame Secretary Rice, on these wonderful words directed to all of us and allow me, please, to greet you, all of you dear friends, excellencies, eminences. I'm calling you all my friends, dear friends. I stepped up here to speak and I look at this hall, this dining hall; we almost all know each other and I have a feeling that we are in Sarajevo.

When you are among your people, among dear friends, those that did everything so we could be here today and speak of ten years of time that passed since the signing of the Dayton Agreement, about the cease of wartime activities, (inaudible) of wartime activities, the greatest thing that we have learned with the great help from the United States, friends from the United States, is that you cannot accomplish things with war. We have to achieve progressively in order to make it better for our children in our country. In our neighborhood in Europe, you cannot resolve things with war except do evil with war.

This learned lesson, since the Dayton Agreement up until now, is constantly in our minds of all the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina regardless which nationality they draw their origin because to build a society, a community of equal peoples, is possible only through agreement and not through war.

It is the same today so this should be a message that we have gathered together on the tenth anniversary of Dayton to talk about what we have achieved so far, the good, what we have omitted and could have done and what we'll do in the future.

Here, our dear friends in the United States -- I keep repeating it because really the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina carry continual gratitude towards the government but also towards the people of the United States for the all-encompassing contribution and assistance that we have received during the war and after war and even today. And we are expecting it in the future because we are a small and relatively undeveloped, destroyed country in our souls and in our factories so we need great assistance.

But Bosnia-Herzegovina does not expect humanitarian assistance. We have healthy, educated people turned to the future and they need to be encouraged with the most basic issues, such as develop the human rights and democracy. So we have, as our goal, the European Union considering and thinking that the entry into European Union we will all be able to enjoy the standards that are valued throughout Europe in modern Europe.

Europe waged war for centuries within the countries and between the countries and they found a key to live together, a life that brings future. And this key that opens this door of the future has been given to us, but only if we know how to use it and open the door. This key is still being brought to the lock with the help of our friends here in the United States and Europe and I'm deeply convinced that the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina is guaranteed and in front of Bosnia-Herzegovina there are brighter and better days.

I wish to thank you all, to all of those who are contributing so the children in Bosnia-Herzegovina could have a future. Thank you so much.

(Applause.) 2005/1102

Released on November 22, 2005


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