SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING ON SITUATION IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

14 November 2000
SC/6950

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING ON SITUATION IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

14 November 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6950

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED BY UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING ON SITUATION IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

20001114

While the international community had hoped that the elections held on 11 November in Bosnia and Herzegovina would facilitate a change to more moderate governance, it appeared that the nationalist parties had reasserted themselves, the Security Council was told this afternoon as it met to consider the situation in that country.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the third general elections since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords had taken place in an atmosphere of relative calm. Final certification of the results was not expected before 17 November -- the deadline for the receipt of out-of- country votes. Voter turnout appeared to have been higher than the April municipal elections, with an estimated 70 per cent of registered voters in and out of the country casting their ballots.

The most important voting irregularities had taken place in Srebrenica where double voting, coordinated by the Srpska Demokratska Stranka (SDS), had taken place, he said. There might also have been intimidation of voters by an SDS official who had been barred from office. Other complaints and incidents had been relatively minor. It had been hoped that the elections would produce responsible local political authorities who would work constructively to consolidate a sovereign and multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Regrettably, that had not been achieved.

The priority for the Office of the High Representative and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was now to convene the elected legislative bodies, he said. That would enable cantonal assemblies to elect the Federation House of Peoples, which in turn would elect members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Peoples. Those processes were complex and would take time, though hopefully not the six months it had taken following the last general elections in 1998.

Ukraine’s representative welcomed the elections as a new step in the establishment of democracy, pluralism and the building of State institutions. He expressed cautious optimism, however, since history showed that the country's nationalists were not always stringent in their implementation of peace agreements. Their victory could obstruct progress. The international community must send a clear message to the winners of the elections that victory meant

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6950 4222nd Meeting (PM) 14 November 2000

responsibility for further progress in pursuit of the Dayton Peace Agreement. No excuse to revise Dayton should be tolerated, he stressed.

The representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said successful implementation of the Agreement was the only realistic basis on which a sovereign and democratic State in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be built. Various requests or proposals aimed at changing or revising the Agreement were unacceptable. It was therefore important that all signatories and guarantors of the Agreement respect their obligations.

In that regard, he continued, his country was drawing on its experience following the recent major democratic changes there to study the problems and outstanding issues in implementing that Agreement in a new democratic way. He was convinced that normalization of relations among countries in south-east Europe would lead to peace, stability and development in the region. His country, he added, was ready to conclude as soon as possible an agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina as a way of demonstrating commitment to the pursuit of a foreign policy based on peace and trust.

The representative of Bangladesh said it was important that the new political leadership in Bosnia and Herzegovina create conditions for self- sustained economic growth in the country. In that regard, continued support by the partners in the peace implementation process was vital. With the many obstacles that might impede progress in the region, there was now a greater need than ever for the world community to stand by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Statements were also made by the representatives of the United States, China, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada, Tunisia, Namibia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) and Austria.

The meeting, which convened at 3:54 p.m., adjourned at 5:03 p.m.

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Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to hear a briefing on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the third general elections since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords had taken place in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 11 November under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Final certification of the results was not expected before 17 November, which was the deadline for the receipt of out-of-country votes. While the international community had hoped that the elections would have facilitated a change to more moderate governance, it appeared that the nationalist parties had reasserted themselves.

He said the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH) had monitored the development of detailed security plans by the local police and had overseen their performance during the elections, which had been overwhelmingly professional. As a result, the atmosphere of the elections had been relatively calm. Voter turnout appeared to have been higher than the April municipal elections, with an estimated 70 per cent of registered voters in and out of the country casting their ballots.

The most important voting irregularities had taken place in Srebrenica where double voting, coordinated by the Srpska Demokratska Stranka (SDS), had taken place. There might also have been intimidation of voters by an SDS official who had been barred from office. The OSCE would draw the double voting to the attention of the Elections Appeals Subcommission to seek corrective action. Other complaints and incidents were relatively minor.

He said the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had carried out the Bosnian- Croat “referendum” despite a warning from the OSCE. The HDZ had failed to provide the OSCE with a list of locations for the “referendum” polling stations, of which there were 389, placed beyond 50 metres of official election polling stations. That case had also been submitted to the Elections Appeals Subcommission for adjudication. Barring unforeseen developments, it was not expected that the holding of the “referendum” would result in the invalidation of the elections.

He said HDZ President Jelavic’s rhetoric had intensified. After the polls had closed, he had announced that his party had been victorious, which he claimed signalled the end of the OSCE, the Office of the High Representative and UNMIBH missions. He had also added that the Bosnian Croats no longer recognized the administration of the international community because it wanted to transform Bosnia and Herzegovina “from a State of three equal nations into a State without the Croat people”.

He said Mr. Jelavic claimed that 70 per cent of the Bosnian Croats had voted overwhelmingly for the HDZ. The head of the OSCE had described Mr. Jelavic’s statements as “election rhetoric”. The High Representative had accused Mr. Jelavic of being “the only one in the whole region to oppose … the peace implementation”, adding that he “needs to look around at what is happening in the region and think twice about what he says”.

He said it had been hoped that the elections would produce responsible local political authorities, who would work constructively to consolidate a sovereign and multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Regrettably, that had not been achieved. The traditionalist nationalist parties had done better than expected. The priority for the Office of the High Representative and the OSCE was now to convene the elected legislative bodies. That would enable cantonal assemblies to elect the Federation House of the Peoples, which in turn would elect members of the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Peoples. Those processes were complex and would take time, though hopefully not the six months it had taken following the last general elections in 1998.

Statements

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that he welcomed reports that the elections were free and fair for the most part with the exception of a few isolated incidents in Srebrenica. He was encouraged by the early results in the Federation. It had appeared that the influence of the hardliners had continued to decline as seen in the previous elections. At the same time, the SDS appeared to have won the Republika Srpska presidency. There were important decisions that remained to be made about the co-presidency. The SDS continued to be controlled by those who were committed to seeing Dayton fail. The dramatic political changes in the region over the past months boded well, but it was still necessary to monitor progress. Dayton could not be allowed to be obstructed by elements acting behind the scenes.

CHEN XU (China) said that he appreciated the work of the OSCE and of the parties concerned during the elections. They were the third general elections since the signing of the Dayton peace agreements and were an important step for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He hoped the elections would help Bosnia achieve proper independence and self-reliance at an early date, as well as promote peace and stability in the Balkan region. Only by achieving tolerance and reconciliation among Muslims, Croats and Serbs could confidence be restored and peace achieved. He hoped that the leaders of the three sides would proceed from the basic interests of their people and safeguard their hard won peace.

GENNADI M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said Bosnia and Herzegovina must be united as a full-fledged viable democratic State that was made up of two units on an equal footing. The international community should draw up a process that was acceptable to the Bosnian sides and not one that was forced on them. International structures could not, and should not, replace the legitimately elected organs of power. His delegation believed that the elections results would be of significance to the Bosnian peace process. He repeated that the most important factor was that the two entities stood on an equal footing.

ALISTAIR HARRISON (United Kingdom) welcomed the successful and peaceful elections held last Saturday, which were efficiently organized and well run. While the official results would not be ready for a while, he expected those elected to act to preserve peace and address reforms and the return of refugees. There had never been a better time for peace.

ANA MARIA MOGLIA (Argentina) expressed her gratitude to the Under-Secretary- General for the detailed information he provided. The elections held on 11 November were a valuable tool to strengthen democracy. She was pleased that they were carried out in an orderly manner without any violence. However, she noted that there had been incidents during the elections campaign, such as the encouraging of ethnic hatred. It was clear that the Council and the international community must follow very carefully events in Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure that Dayton was fully implemented.

DAVID R. ANGELL (Canada) was pleased at the positive showing in the recent elections. At the same time, he was concerned at the strength of the nationalist parties of each community and the effect of that on the Federation. He posed two questions to the Under-Secretary-General. First, was there any sense that the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina would respond to some of the extreme views expressed? Secondly, did he have any sense of the timing of the presidential elections?

ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said recent democratic developments in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and encouraging events in Croatia were important factors for promoting peace and development in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His delegation welcomed the good conditions under which the elections took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the high turnout of voters. He hoped that the moderate parties would make significant gains and that, ultimately, the results of the elections would be commensurate with aims of the international community -- a multi-ethnic society based on tolerance and plurality.

TJI-TJAI UANIVI (Namibia) said that, however limited it might be, there was peace and progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Overall progress had been slow with the leadership lacking in political will. Nevertheless, the ground had shifted slowly in favour of those who wished to see a multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. In May, the Peace Implementation Council had approved three strategic priorities for the country: comprehensive economic reform; accelerated refugee returns and the strengthening of State institutions. Those were priorities that would make it easier for Bosnia and Herzegovina to gradually gain its position among the European States.

He urged the authorities in both entities to take their responsibilities seriously and cooperate fully with the institutions and the representatives of the international community, to ensure their country did not revert to war. The assistance of the international community was vital so young people of Bosnia and Herzegovina could convince themselves that their future depended on their ability to bring a united democratic and multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European table. He hoped all parties would, therefore, respect the outcome of the recent elections.

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that the smooth conduct of the recent elections demonstrated the level of engagement of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their commitment to peace in their country. They must now focus efforts on building their society, based on peace and tolerance. Those elected must focus on economic reconstruction and sustainable development. The points she had stressed at the last meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina remained relevant in light of the recent elections.

The following points must be taken into account, she said. First, there must be the full implementation of the New York Declaration. Second, they must focus on the return of refugees and other matters related to refugees and displaced persons. Third, judicial reform must take place. Fourth, a multi- ethnic society with multi-ethnic institutions must be created. Also, there must be continued international support for institution-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the full involvement of the people in charting their own future. She hoped that the outcome of the elections would be a springboard to ensuring the country’s functioning as a multi-ethnic State.

KARMAIN MISRAN (Malaysia)said his delegation had followed with deep interest the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina last Saturday. That the elections had been held in a fair and free manner was a strong tribute to the international community and the people of Bosnia themselves. His delegation looked forward to the final and official outcome of the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He was hopeful that those eventually elected would be committed to pursue the peace process in the region. He called upon the elected leaders to work together, in cooperation with the international community to strengthen the political, economic and social foundations for national reintegration and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Finally, he expressed serious concern at the illegal referendum that had been organized by the Croatian Democratic Union. The referendum had clearly been illegal and represented a serious threat to the integrity of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The referendum should therefore be rejected by the international community.

MAMOUNOU TOURE (Mali) said the Security Council must monitor the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina very closely to make sure that the peace process prevailed.

VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said his delegation welcomed the general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a new event in the establishment of democracy, pluralism and the building of State institutions. He expressed only cautious optimism, however, since the history after the Dayton Accords showed that the country's nationalists were not always stringent in their implementation of peace agreements. Victory by such elements could obstruct progress. It was important for the international community to send a clear message to the winners of the Bosnian elections that victory meant responsibility for further progress in the pursuit of the agreements laid out in the Dayton Accords. No excuse to revise Dayton should be tolerated, he stressed.

RUHUL AMIN (Bangladesh) said there were now reasons to be cautiously optimistic that the Dayton implementation process would now move forward more quickly. To that end, he welcomed the success of the recent general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. All the participants -- Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and other minorities -- should be commended for the peaceful manner in which those elections had been carried out. From the preliminary information, it appeared that pluralism in Bosnia and Herzegovina was spreading its roots. That was likely to usher in a new era where the leaders would hopefully rise above their ethnically driven political agendas and work for the well-being of common citizens. It would now be the duty of all leaders representing their peoples to work hard for the political stability and economic development of the country.

He went on to say that it was important that the new political leadership create conditions for self-sustained economic growth in the country. In that regard, continued support by the partners in the peace implementation process was vital. That would set the stage for success despite the hurdles put in place by obstructionist political forces. It was also important to ensure the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Attention should also be paid to capacity building, including the modernization of the judiciary, the training of police and border-service personnel, as well as increasing support for key legislative projects. With the many hurdles that might impede progress in the region, there was now a greater need than ever for the world community to stand by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta and Norway, said that the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina had taken place in proper conditions without significant incident. That was progress compared to the elections held in 1996 and 1998. In carrying out substantive action to promote democratization and respect for human rights, the High Representative, the OSCE and UNMIBH had contributed to that development. He particularly thanked the OSCE for the good organization of voting.

Regarding the results, he said that it was clear that, at present, a stand could only be taken based on preliminary data, which showed the dominance of nationalist parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the territory of the Federation, multi-ethnic parties had not made the showing that was expected. In addition, the referendum organized by Croat nationalists, which proposed the creation of new institutional structures based on ethnicity, was declared illegal by the OSCE. That referendum had no legal force, and the majority of voters wisely rejected it.

The members of the Security Council had an opportunity to show their support in the meeting, held on 26 October, in the presence of the High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, he said. Bosnian officials had the responsibility for strengthening institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and for fully implementing the Dayton agreements. Those were key to reconciliation and economic development. Also, the continued development of mindsets was necessary so that voters did not take stands based on ethnicity.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria), speaking as representative of the Chair-in- Office of the OSCE, said that, three days ago, the international community had witnessed peaceful and orderly elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the OSCE had retained overall responsibility for the elections, it was the local Municipal Election Commissions and the over 4,000 polling station committees that carried out most of the work on the ground. In addition to over 900 international observers, nearly 40,000 Bosnian citizens assisted in the elections. While there were indications of minor problems in Srebrenica -- the only municipality in which municipal elections were also held -- in general, observers agreed that the voting procedure had been a success, with participation from a majority of the population. It was now up to the authorities to ensure an efficient and orderly transfer of power, and to guarantee that the country's public resources and funds were protected during the transition period.

He went on to say that, while this was not the time for the OSCE to comment on the results of the elections, it was clear that the international community hoped the outcome would strengthen the Dayton process. Irrespective of the outcome, however, it was necessary to emphasize that the elections constituted a milestone in the realizations of the concept of ownership in Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 11 November, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina had demonstrated that they were prepared to participate in establishing their political destiny in a democratic, free and peaceful manner. It would be up to the newly-elected officials to prove they were worthy of the trust the people had placed in them.

VLADISLAV MLADENOVIC (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) said successful implementation of the Peace Agreement was the only realistic basis on which a sovereign and democratic State in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be built. Various requests or proposals aimed at changing or revising the Agreement were unacceptable. It was therefore important that all signatories and guarantors of the Agreement respect their obligations. In that regard, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was drawing on its experience, following the recent major democratic changes there, to study the problems and outstanding issues in implementing that Agreement in a new, democratic way. He was convinced that normalization of relations among countries in south-east Europe would lead to peace, stability and development in the region.

He said the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the new Government had identified, on a number of occasions, that the Agreement was acceptable and they would call for its implementation. His country had no territorial claims against its neighbours, and one of the main foreign policy priorities was the normalization of relations with all the former Yugoslav republics. His country was ready to conclude, as soon as possible, an agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a way of demonstrating its commitment to the pursuit of a foreign policy based on peace and trust. Yugoslavia would also work towards establishing relations with Republika Srpska. It was important to note that closer relations with the Serbs would not be detrimental to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or to the establishment of diplomatic relations.

He went on to say that his country considered that one of the first priorities in implementing the Agreement was the return of refugees and displaced persons. According to the data of the Yugoslav Red Cross, the Federal Republic was currently hosting well over 800,000 refugees and displaced persons from Bosnia and Herzegovina and from Croatia. That humanitarian, economic and political problem could not be solved without the support of the international community. Therefore, all existing means should be sought to help. Approaches should serve the interests of the refugees and be aimed at strengthening stability in the region. The economic reconstruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the success of the transition process were also very important for Yugoslavia, in view of the interdependent nature of the economies of the two countries.

Mr. GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, responding to a question on the timing of presidential elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said it was a political issue -- there was not enough information on when those elections would take place.

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For information media. Not an official record.