Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, High Representative Inzko, for your leadership and for being back with us today.
The United States reiterates our strong support for the Office of the High Representative’s mandate as the final authority on the interpretation of the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, and reaffirms – as other speakers have also done – that the option to use the Bonn Powers remains a legitimate right of the High Representative.
We welcome the progress made towards government formation following the October elections. We urge the new parliamentarians in the Federation and the new entity government in Republika Srpska to begin the hard work of implementing reforms, and encourage the presidency to agree on policy priorities allowing formation of the state-level government.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has several opportunities on the immediate horizon to achieve its goals and strengthen its relationship with the Euro-Atlantic community. We are pleased that Bosnia and Herzegovina is completing the necessary steps towards EU candidacy. Separately, in December, NATO Allies agreed to allow Bosnia and Herzegovina to submit its first Annual National Program, proving that progress toward Western integration is possible by making difficult, but necessary, reforms. We encourage the country’s leaders to take advantage of this opportunity soon.
Mr. President, while there are opportunities, many challenges remain. Nationalist rhetoric exacerbates divisions among the three constituent peoples. There are calls for the closure of OHR from some who wish to see the country less stable, less secure, and more divided. A common characteristic among those who seek division is their resentment of authorities or institutions that prevent them from exploiting the country’s tumultuous political landscape for personal gain.
The United States is concerned with recent rule of law developments in Republika Srpska, which are inconsistent with democratic norms and a European future. We are also troubled by the lack of local elections in the city of Mostar since 2008, as the High Representative has pointed out.
The United States encourages greater engagement from the OHR on resolving these and other issues, and to facilitate confidence building and collaboration among stakeholders. Expanding cooperation, strengthening the rule of law, making institutions more functional, and tackling corruption are vital steps to ensure a bright future for the country.
Mr. President, the United States looks forward to a time when OHR is no longer essential, but the current state of affairs indicates that we are not there yet. Only when the “five plus two conditions” established by the Peace Implementation Council are met, can we and the international community confidently say that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have fully implemented its responsibilities under the Dayton Peace Accords and can responsibly take care of its own affairs. When it becomes clear that state-level institutions are viable and respected, international supervision through the OHR will no longer be required.
Until that day, the United States will continue to fully support Bosnia and Herzegovina and the OHR to realize the Security Council’s vision for the country as a peaceful, stable, and multiethnic democracy fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community.
I thank you.