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U.S. Department of State
95/11/01 Statement:  Balkan Proximity Peace Talks
Office of the Spokesman


                       U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                        Office of the Spokesman 
 
               (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio) 
____________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                               November 1, 1995 
 
 
 
                           STATEMENT BY  
               SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER 
              OPENING THE BALKAN PROXIMITY PEACE TALKS 
 
                  Wright-Patterson Air Force Base 
                        November 1, 1995 
 
 
Good afternoon.  President Izetbegovic, President Tudjman, President 
Milosevic, Prime Minister Bildt, Deputy Minister Ivanov, honored 
colleagues:  on behalf of President Clinton and the American people, I 
welcome you to the United States for the start of these historic 
proximity peace talks.  My special thanks go to the people of Dayton, 
Ohio and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for their magnificent support. 
 
We have an urgent and important purpose today.  We are here to give 
Bosnia-Herzegovina a chance to be a country at peace, not a killing 
field -- a place where people can sleep in their homes, walk to work, 
and worship in their churches, mosques, and synagogues without fear of 
violence or death.  We are here to prevent a wider war that would 
undermine the security of Europe at a time when the whole continent 
should finally be at peace. 
 
The talks that begin here today offer the best chance to achieve peace 
since this war began four years ago.  If we fail, the war will resume, 
and future generations will surely hold us accountable for the 
consequences that would follow.  The lights so recently lit in Sarajevo 
would once again be extinguished.  Death and starvation would once again 
spread across the Balkans, threatening to engulf the region and possibly 
Europe itself. 
 
To the three Presidents, I say that it is within your power to chart a 
better future for the people of the former Yugoslavia.  The United 
States, the European Union, Russia, and others in the international 
community will help you succeed.  But while the world can and will help 
you make peace, only you can ensure that this process will succeed.  And 
you must begin today. 
 
As President Clinton said yesterday, the "whole world is watching."  We 
must persevere until an agreement is reached and the promise of this 
hopeful moment is fulfilled. 
 
There are some who say these talks can only end in failure.  They have 
written off the Balkans as a region cursed by its past to a future of 
endless hatred and retribution.  I have heard those arguments before -- 
in the Middle East, where Arabs and Israelis are now ending an armed 
conflict that has lasted ten times as long as the one in the former 
Yugoslavia.  I have heard the same arguments applied to Northern 
Ireland, where a centuries-old conflict may be nearing resolution.  I 
have heard them applied to South Africa, where former enemies have 
abandoned apartheid to build a multi-ethnic democracy.  I know that 
negotiations can work when people have the courage and patience to make 
them work. 
 
We have reached this moment because the international community took 
firm measures to enforce its mandate in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and because 
for the first time, all sides have agreed to a cease-fire, to 
constitutional principles, and to a common set of institutions for a 
single Bosnian state.  We must all resolve to stay on the path that 
brought us here.  For each of us, the stakes are enormous. 
 
For the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whatever their heritage, the 
success of our efforts can mean an end to the killing and the beginning 
of hope for a normal life.  The people of Bosnia deserve a chance to 
live as they once did -- in harmony with their neighbors in a country at 
peace. 
 
For the nations at war, the stakes are clear as well.  They have a 
choice between two futures -- a future of peace and integration, or a 
future of violence, poverty and isolation from Europe and the world.  We 
must always remember:  as this region is engulfed in flames and 
violence, a new Europe is being built around it.  Some of the fastest 
growing economies in Europe today are found in this region.  The new 
democracies of Central Europe are resolving disputes with their 
neighbors and earning the right to be considered for membership in NATO 
and the European Union.    
 
When the Cold War ended, nobody imagined that once vibrant cities like 
Sarajevo, Mostar, and Vukovar would be set so tragically apart from 
Europe by the sight of tanks and the sound of gunfire.  The door to 
Europe and the West is still open to the nations of the region, if you 
end this war peacefully and respect the human rights of your people.  
You alone can choose your destiny. 
 
The United States and the international community also have a vital 
stake in sustaining progress toward peace.  If war in the Balkans is 
reignited, it could spark a wider conflict, like those that drew 
American soldiers in huge numbers into two European wars in this 
century. 
 
If this conflict continues, and certainly if it spreads, it would 
jeopardize our efforts to promote stability and security in Europe as a 
whole.  It would threaten the viability of NATO, which has been the 
bedrock of European security for 50 years.   
 
If the conflict continues, so would the worst atrocities Europe has seen 
since World War II.  As President Clinton has said, the "only way to 
stop these horrors is to make peace."  We must and we will stay engaged 
to advance our interests and to uphold our values.  
 
The United States and its Contact Group partners will make every effort 
to help you reach an agreement that will settle outstanding questions 
over territory, constitutional arrangements, elections and the return of 
refugees.  We have worked hard to create the right atmosphere for 
progress at this site.  And I know that Ambassador Holbrooke, Prime 
Minister Bildt, and Deputy Minister Ivanov will continue to provide the 
most effective and evenhanded mediation that is possible.   
 
If peace is to endure, we must do more than separate the military 
forces.  For peace to last, several key conditions must be met. 
 
First, Bosnia-Herzegovina must continue as a single state within its 
internationally recognized borders, and with a single international 
personality.  The principles to which the parties have agreed provide a 
firm foundation for achieving that goal. 
 
Second, the settlement must take into account the special history and 
significance of Sarajevo and its environs.  Sarajevo was the city where 
the first of this century's two bloody world wars began.  But ten years 
ago, it was also the city where the world came together to celebrate the 
Olympics -- a city of many communities, living, working, and prospering 
together in peace.  It must have a chance to become that wonderful city 
again.  It deserves that chance. 
 
Third, any agreement must guarantee that the human rights of all the 
citizens of the region are respected.  This terrible war has uprooted 
people from every ethnic community.  All must be able to return home or 
to receive just compensation.  And it is vital that all those who have 
committed atrocities are held accountable.  Full investigation of all 
such charges, regardless of where they occurred, must be undertaken 
swiftly and firmly.  And responsibility must be assigned.  
 
Finally, we also believe that these talks must establish a process of 
normalizing the status of Eastern Slavonia, as a part of Croatia and in 
a peaceful manner. 
 
If and when a formal agreement is reached-- but only then-- the United 
States and its partners, including Russia, will provide military 
personnel to help implement the peace.  NATO is the only organization 
with the resources and capacity to perform this task.  It has already 
begun planning for a robust peace implementation force.   
 
For each nation participating in the implementation force, deploying 
soldiers is a difficult and solemn choice.  The American people and the 
United States Congress are asking serious and appropriate questions 
about U.S. participation in the Implementation Force.  They will watch 
very closely for signs that the parties are finally ready to lay down 
their arms and to begin a lasting, stable peace. 
 
The United States will not send troops where there is no peace to keep.  
Before we deploy, the parties must reach a peace agreement.  They must 
be prepared to stick to it.  They must use the time when our troops are 
on the ground to consolidate it.  And the Implementation Force must have 
a clear exit strategy. 
 
The international community is also determined to help the people of the 
region rebuild their institutions, their economies, and their lives.  
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will help to 
organize and supervise elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which ought to 
come at the earliest possible date, to ensure that they are free and 
fair.  Under the leadership of the EU, a major effort to support the 
reconstruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina will be launched.  Lasting security  
will depend on bringing the region's economy back to life.  
 
In other words, once an agreement is signed, a multi-dimensional effort 
will begin to help ensure its success.  It will be backed by soldiers, 
diplomats, bankers and engineers, by governments and by private 
organizations from countries around the world.   
 
We know that Bosnia-Herzegovina will not easily recover from four years 
of ethnic cleansing and destruction.  Nothing we do will erase our 
memory of the violence or bring back its victims. 
 
But if we succeed, we can make it possible for the sons and daughters of 
those who have died to live without fear.  If we succeed, we can ensure 
that the sons and daughters of America and Europe do not have to fight 
again in a larger, more terrible war.  If we succeed, we may yet realize 
our vision of a Europe at peace, united, prosperous and free.  We must 
rise to the challenge. 
 
This will be a long journey.  But it all starts here.  Let us get to 
work, and let us reaffirm our pledge to make it work. 
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