Bosnia and Herzegovina

Chronic Divisive Rhetoric, Genocide Denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina Thwarting Prospects for Stability, Senior Peacekeeping Official Warns Security Council

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SC/14568

Several Delegates Welcome Incoming High Representative Tasked with Advancing Implementation of 1995 Dayton Accord, as Foreign Minister Says Much Work Remains

Chronic divisive rhetoric and genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina are contributing to polarization and hindering prospects for national and regional stability and prosperity, a senior peacekeeping official told the Security Council today during a briefing on recent developments.

Hervé Lecoq, Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Peace Operations’ Europe and Central Asia Division, expressed concern about the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina relating to the consolidation of peace and reconciliation, despite progress made in certain areas. Hate speech and instances of revisionist narratives and the glorification of convicted war criminals are persistent, he said, adding that, during a recent 10-day visit, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Wairimu Nderitu, called for an increased commitment to trust‑building and reconciliation.

Turning to recent developments in the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board in Sarajevo, related to the appointment of the new High Representative, he said the United Nations is not a member and therefore did not participate in the process. However, the Organization remains committed to supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards sustainable peace and development and looks forward to continuing its work with all stakeholders in the country towards that end.

During the ensuing discussion, Council members expressed their support for the country, with many calling on all parties to refrain from taking any steps that could threaten hard-won gains after the three-year war in 1992 caused widespread suffering. Many urged the parties to fully implement the General Framework Agreement for Peace — initialled in Dayton, Ohio, in the United States and signed on 14 December 1995 in Paris.

Many delegates welcomed the new High Representative, Christian Schmidt, and his task to advance the implementation of the Dayton Agreement. China’s delegate, highlighting that the Dayton accord outlined the procedure for appointing the High Representative, encouraged all parties to find a reasonable solution. Recalling that Republika Srpska had issued a document calling for the closure of the Office of the High Representative, he said the international community should assess its role.

The United States representative, recognizing the critical role played by the Office of the High Representative, said that, before its closure, Bosnia and Herzegovina must meet the goals set in the “5+2” agenda, adopted by the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board, which outlines a set of conditions.

Expressing another view, the Russian Federation’s delegate said his delegation does not agree with the confirmation of the new appointment, which should have been done through a logical, democratic and transparent process. However, this was not the case and the Steering Board confirmed the appointment without discussions. He wondered how work can begin on reconciliation when such an act only compounds differences.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that, hopefully, a climate can be created in which all parties can work together and overcome problems. She encouraged members of the Peace Implementation Council to work in a spirit of collaboration and coordination and to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties. “Consensus in decision-making is desirable and should be our aim,” she said.

Bisera Turković, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, assured the Council that her country looks forward to the day when the Office of the High Representative can close, but “that day has not arrived yet”. While some progress has been made towards fulfilling the requirements set out in the “5+2” agenda for the Office’s closure, much work remains to be done. Noting that the new High Representative will take office on 1 August, she invited all members of the Peace Implementation Council to continue supporting the mandate, which helps Bosnia and Herzegovina progress towards becoming a prosperous, effective democracy on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

Also delivering statements were representatives of India, France, Viet Nam, Mexico, Niger, Tunisia, Norway, Kenya, Ireland, United Kingdom and Estonia.

The representatives of the Russian Federation and Bosnia and Herzegovina took the floor for a second time during the meeting.

The meeting began at 3:40 p.m. and ended at 4:52 p.m.

Briefing

HERVÉ LECOQ, Officer-in-Charge, Europe and Central Asia Division, Department of Peace Operations, briefing the Council on recent developments, expressed concern about the overall situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina relating to the consolidation of peace and reconciliation, despite progress made in certain areas. Persistent instances of revisionist narratives, divisive rhetoric, denial of genocide and war crimes, glorification of convicted war criminals and hate speech are contributing to polarization and hindering prospects for national and regional prosperity and stability. During a recent 10-day visit, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Wairimu Nderitu, called for an increased commitment to trust‑building and reconciliation.

Noting that the United Nations continues to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, he said more must be done to advance reforms. In recent years, many people — including youth — have been leaving the country in search of a better future elsewhere. Young people have an important role to play in shaping the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and their voices must be heard, he said, adding that the United Nations is working with the Government, municipalities and civil society organizations to support women and youth empowerment.

Turning to recent developments in the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board in Sarajevo, related to the appointment of the new High Representative, he said the United Nations is not a member and therefore did not participate in the process. He also highlighted that the United Nations was not a signatory either to the Dayton Peace Agreement or to its annex 10. However, the United Nations remains committed to supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path towards sustainable peace and development and looks forward to continuing its work with all stakeholders in the country, as well as with regional and international partners, towards that end.

Statements

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said his delegation does not agree with the confirmation of the appointment of Christian Schmidt. Appointing a High Representative is logical, transparent and democratic process, with candidates confirmed by the Steering Board on the Bosnian side and the Security Council adopting a related resolution. However, this was not the case with Mr. Schmidt, as the Steering Board confirmed the appointment without any discussion or heeding the views of the Bosnia side and the Russian Federation. He wondered how work could begin on reconciliation when such an act only compounds differences.

Several Council members added “fuel to the fire”, he said, noting that a letter dated 3 June from the current High Representative was not circulated until the matter was raised and insisted upon. These types of steps have served to amplify an overall unpleasant situation. The issue cannot be examined without a historical perspective, he said, recalling the horrific war’s impact on the population and emphasizing that the Dayton accord must be implemented. The Council’s duty is to make sure this fragile agreement is respected, he said, adding that the fate of the country must be determined by its people and not high representatives. While the Russian Federation remains ready to engage in honest discussions with Council members, he said in this case, there has been an attempt to avoid talking about the appointment of the High Representative. “Why try to deceive and play hide and seek when it is not necessary?”, he asked, noting that such actions will impact support for the peace agreement, compound existing differences and destroy gains made to date.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Council President for June, said it was up to the Secretary-General to distribute the 3 June letter.

ISIS GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) took note of the difficulties the Office of the High Representative has faced in meeting its mandate. Hopefully, a climate can be created in which all parties work together and overcome problems. She encouraged members of the Peace Implementation Council to work in a spirit of collaboration and coordination and to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties. “Consensus in decision-making is desirable and should be our aim,” she said, adding that it would have been prudent to consult the Council on this most recent matter. Going forward, the parties should move past their differences surrounding the appointment of the new High Representative and work together to fully implement the Dayton Peace Agreement, she added.

GENG SHUANG (China), noting that the Dayton accord outlined the procedure for appointing the High Representative, encouraged all parties concerned to find a reasonable solution that contributes to the maintenance of security and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. Republika Srpska had issued a document calling for the closing of the High Representative’s Office, and the international community should assess the Office’s role. The rights of all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be protected, he said, encouraging them to promote national harmony and advance the country’s development. Since its inception, the peace and reconciliation process has benefited from international assistance, including from the Security Council, he said, expressing hope that future actions come with good faith and refrain from interfering with the internal affairs of a Member State.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the expeditious implementation of the “5+2” agenda must be a top priority. He expressed hope that the new High Representative has a positive impact on the situation. Differences about this appointment must be resolved within the parameters of the peace agreement. He likened the problems to those experienced by peoples of different cultures and languages who are working to build a nation, pledging support to the country in these efforts.

SHERAZ GASRI (France) said that, although some progress has been made towards stability over the last 25 years, there are worrying developments on the ground, including worsening community tensions and certain political leaders calling for secession. Closing the Office of the High Representative will not benefit Bosnia and Herzegovina if it is not done according to the 2008 “5+2” agenda, and such conditions have not yet been met. Stressing that the political situation is still too fragile for the Office to close, she said that France will continue working with all partners to support Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territorial integrity and economic and social development as that country pursues European integration.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) said divisive rhetoric, political instability and community tensions pose serious threats to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peace and stability, pointing out that this situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government must increase efforts to stabilize the political situation and promote economic development, while all parties must engage in constructive dialogue and confidence-building measures. He called on the international community to continue assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina in a consistent, meaningful manner in accordance with international law and the aspirations of the country and its people, while respecting its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) emphasized the importance of the High Representative’s work in fulfilling the civilian aspects of relevant agreements and stressed that progress on the “5+2” agenda is a prerequisite for the Office’s eventual closure and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s European integration. Dialogue is the only path to solving disagreement, he added, reiterating Mexico’s readiness to continue working towards peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

MOUSSA MAMAN SANI (Niger) expressed hope that the new High Representative will work with different parties to promote lasting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and implement the “5+2” agenda. The post-election period provides an opportunity to conduct necessary constitutional and electoral reforms that enforce the rule of law and improve the transparency and inclusivity of the electoral system. He urged various levels of the Government to work together to facilitate the COVID-19 vaccination programme and improve the national health‑care system, stressing that the return of refugees and internally displaced persons requires special attention. Actors at all levels should work towards creating a sociopolitical climate that facilitates the safe, voluntary return of these individuals, he added.

ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) called on all political parties to refrain from taking any actions that would jeopardize peace, with a view to paving the way for younger generations to have a future of unity. He expressed support for the High Representative’s efforts and the EUFOR-ALTHEA operations, calling on all stakeholders to foster peace in the country. The “5+2” agenda outlines steps for the closure of the Office of the High Representative, he said, voicing hope that efforts will meet the aspirations of all people in the country.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said her delegation fully supports the High Representative, who should continue to discharge the mandated tasks. The authorities must now take the necessary steps to implement the closure of the Office, in line with the “5+2” agenda. Encouraging the Government to improve the rule of law, she welcomed efforts by the EUFOR-ALTHEA operation.

RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States) said the country’s peace cannot be taken for granted. The Office of the High Representative plays an important role in implementing the Dayton accord, but Bosnia and Herzegovina must meet the goals set in the “5+2” agenda prior to its closure. However, his counterpart from the Russian Federation now maintains that the Office should be closed now, he said, adding that Moscow does not approve of the appointment of Mr. Schmidt. Recalling that all Steering Board members except the Russian Federation had agreed to Mr. Schmidt’s appointment, he said there is no requirement that the Council take action to confirm his appointment, which is now a closed matter. Redrawing borders is not on the table, he said, adding that the Dayton Agreement is guiding steps forward.

MICHAEL KIBOINO (Kenya) said solutions to differences must lead towards cohesion and progress on the provisions set by the Peace Implementation Steering Board. As such, he called on all parties to work together to effectively implement to the Dayton accord. In the same vein, he called on Council members to work together constructively on this issue.

JIM KELLY (Ireland) expressed support for the role played by the Office of the High Representative in building a stable, prosperous future for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is important for that country’s accession to the European Union. Welcoming the Steering Board’s appointment of the new High Representative, he said that, while the Council’s practice of marking such appointments constitutes an expression of political support, such recognition is not legally necessary in order for the new High Representative to assume his office. The Office must remain open, as the Government has not fully implemented the “5+2” agenda, which is a prerequisite for its closing.

SONIA FARREY (United Kingdom) pointed out that the “5+2” agenda’s objectives necessary for the closure of the Office of the High Representative have not been met, and that such provisions were agreed upon by all Steering Board members, recognized by the Government and supported repeatedly by the Council, including in resolution 2549 (2020). The absence of a High Representative at this stage would negatively impact Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region and would hinder implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The Council must focus on achieving sustainable peace and security in the country and supporting the Office until conditions for its closure have been met. The decisions of the Steering Board do not require unanimity, she added, and the Council’s endorsement is not necessary to finalize the appointment of the new High Representative, who will assume his duties on 1 August “whether the Council welcomes his appointment or not”.

Mr. JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity to express support for a robust, effective Office of the High Representative, which contributes to national efforts to maintain a safe, secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although some progress has been made towards this end over the last 25 years, political tensions remain, and he called on Republika Srpska to cease advocating for secession. Considering that urgent reforms are needed, and divisive rhetoric is on the rise, the conditions established in the “5+2” agenda for closing the Office have not yet been achieved. He said, therefore, that the new High Representative will assume office on 1 August, stressing that there is no requirement that the Council take action to confirm that appointment, as the decision rests with the Steering Board and consensus is not required.

BISERA TURKOVIĆ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, assured the Council that her country looks forward to the day when the Office of the High Representative can close; however, she emphasized: “that day has not arrived yet”. While some progress has been made towards fulfilling the requirements set out in the “5+2” agenda for the Office’s closure, much work remains to be done. Underscoring the important role played by the High Representative in implementing the Dayton Peace Agreement, she said that the process of transferring responsibility to national elected officials must be done “at the right time”, when all agreed-upon preconditions have been met. The past six months have witnessed deplorable actions and statements by certain political actors, illustrating the need for the Office to continue its work.

Noting that some politicians have found it beneficial to protest either the High Representative himself or the work of his Office, she instead urged all actors to focus on creating a national administration that can both meet citizens’ current needs and face future challenges. On 27 May, the Steering Board formally appointed a new High Representative consistent with relevant Council resolutions, and announced that the High Representative will assume his duties on 1 August. She invited all members of the Peace Implementation Council to continue supporting the High Representative’s important work, which helps Bosnia and Herzegovina become a prosperous, effective democracy on its path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. She added that the “collective immunization of the Bosnian political and legal systems has not yet been completed”, and if the procedures the country has diligently followed for 25 years are interrupted or suspended, “we expose ourselves to a high risk of reinfection”.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), taking the floor for a second time, asked his counterpart from Bosnia and Herzegovina if her position is in accordance with all the country’s entities. Drawing attention to a letter from the Chair of the Presidium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said it shows that she is not permitted to make a national statement. Indeed, the Dayton accord requires that foreign policy must be coordinated with all entities. As such, the statement delivered by the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a personal view, one that does not reflect the position of the country. Turning to the requirements for appointing a new High Representative, he said that previous appointees required consensus on the Steering Board.

Ms. TURKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), taking the floor for a second time, questioned whether her counterpart from the Russian Federation had the authority of Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov. She said her statement is based on foreign policy documents. Those drafting and adopting such documents, including relevant entities, expect her to represent all views.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said he is authorized, including by President Vladimir V. Putin, to speak on his delegation’s behalf and is ready to produce a letter to that effect. He wondered if the representative of the Bosnia and Herzegovina has a letter giving her such authorization.

Ms. TURKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said she indeed has statements from all three entities in her country.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) asked for clarification about whether consensus or a majority is required in order to be authorized to speak on behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ms. TURKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that, if someone wants to set limitations, then those measures should be agreed upon.

Mr. JÜRGENSON (Estonia), Council President, said he agreed with the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) recalled that it is not up to the Council to decide whether Bosnia and Herzegovina’s delegate is authorized to make the statement she just delivered. That matter should be taken up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.