Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you, High Representative Inzko, for your update on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Office of the High Representative has played a critical role for over 22 years to help Bosnia and Herzegovina move to peace and prosperity, and to promote the security and stability of the region.
I want to express our sincere thanks to you, sir, for your great service and your excellent and impartial reporting, and convey our continuing support for your office’s mandate as the final authority for interpretation of the civilian implementation of the peace agreement. We welcome language in the resolution reaffirming your mandate. Your role continues to be pivotal, especially as Bosnia and Herzegovina looks toward general elections in 2018 and contends with political divisiveness that threatens to undermine the gains made under the agreement.
Continuing challenges highlighted in the latest report underscore that this Council must remain vigilant against those who seek to weaken the constitutional order of the single state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The United States remains dedicated to upholding the Dayton Peace Accords, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and promoting its continued European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
We commend the continued work of EUFOR’s Operation Althea and NATO to promote security and capacity building in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We fully support the renewal of the mandate and the important mentorship role NATO Headquarters Sarajevo plays by assisting with implementation of the defense review and modernization plans. The United States urges continued progress towards integration with both NATO and the EU. This will require vision and political will. It will also require real follow-through on commitments, such as defense property registrations and full and timely completion of the EU Questionnaire.
We urge all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay focused on much-needed reforms including political, socio-economic, and electoral reforms. The government must work to enhance the rule of law, tackle corruption, and improve the overall political climate in the country for the benefit of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Tackling such reforms now, before the 2018 election cycle, is critical. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders must do everything possible to ensure the electoral code complies with the relevant rulings of both the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court. In advance of next year’s election, we also urge all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to avoid divisive rhetoric that hardens political differences and exacerbates ethnic divisions.
We share many of the concerns raised by the High Representative about the actions of anyone who seeks to erode state-level institutions, whether by ignoring the decisions of the Constitutional Court or acting outside the established decision-making process. U.S. sanctions against Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik should serve as a warning to those who seek to undermine the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Council should remain united behind the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina – its two entities and three constituent peoples. Likewise, it should support those who seek to protect the state constitution and the tenets of the Dayton Peace Accords.
Mr. President, once again, we look forward to the day when Bosnia and Herzegovina meets the objectives and conditions established by the Peace Implementation Council for the closure of the Office of the High Representative. We look forward to when we can say with absolute confidence that Bosnia and Herzegovina has fully implemented the peace agreement and is now a “peaceful, viable state irreversibly on course for European integration.” But that day has not arrived. We encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders, and all members of the international community, to support the actions and reforms needed to reach that milestone. Until that time, the international community must deliver on its commitments to the Office of the High Representative to help ensure it fulfills its mandate.