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U.S. Department of State
96/09/18 Statement on Bosnia Elections
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release September 18, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. The
Secretary of State has a statement to make on Bosnia -- on the Bosnian
elections -- and following his statement he'll be glad to take your
questions. He does have an appointment in a couple of minutes, so that
will have to be relatively limited.
Following that, we'll take a break of 15 or 20 minutes; then we'll be
back here to do other issues. Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon. As you probably know,
Ambassador Frowick has announced the preliminary results of the
elections in Bosnia. First, I want to congratulate the people of Bosnia
who have taken responsibility for shaping their future in a peaceful and
democratic manner. It's a major step forward for peace in Bosnia.
Let me also congratulate President Izetbegovic, who received the largest
number of votes and who will therefore chair the Presidency of the
unified Bosnia state for the next two years.
I called President Izetbegovic about an hour ago to congratulate him,
and in response he stressed the importance of strong United States
involvement in support as he proceeds to form the national government.
I'm looking forward to meeting President Izetbegovic next week -- next
Thursday, I believe -- at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.
The United States has followed this process with great determination
ever since the Dayton agreement. I said at that time we'd have to work
on it on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis, and we certainly have done
so. I assured President Izetbegovic that we would continue to do so.
This election is a major victory for the democratic process. It was
contested, as you know, by dozens of political parties. The large
turnout demonstrated that the Bosnian people were clearly determined to
go to the polls. The balloting was orderly and calm, free of violence.
This is really a remarkable achievement for a country that experienced
four years of war following a half a century of communism.
It vindicates the international community's determination to support the
Bosnian people's wish to move forward with the election on a timely
This election has at last given the people of Bosnia the central role
that they deserve in their search for peace. For four years, their fate
was debated by outsiders and overshadowed by the war. Now the Bosnian
people will have their own democratic say. This is a worthy goal in and
of itself, because the only peace that can last in Bosnia is the peace
that the people of the country freely choose.
The election was a milestone in the Dayton process. It is now possible
to establish the joint national institutions without which there could
be no single Bosnian state. Of course, these results reflect the
divisions that continue to exist within the Bosnian society. These
divisions will not be overcome overnight.
But the central structures created by Bosnia were designed to insure
that each ethnic group would see that its interests can and will be
protected within a unified Bosnia.
It is in this way, and only in this way, that it is possible to build a
consensus for unity within Bosnia.
The election is a critical advance. But as we've always said, it is
only one step in a long process. We must now move forward with both
speed and determination.
The national institutions that the election created must be quickly
established. We will work hard with the parties to make sure that they
function effectively. We'll continue to accelerate the necessary
process of reconstruction within Bosnia. And we'll continue to insist
that Bosnia's newly elected leaders meet their obligations -- the
obligations that they assumed at Dayton which include the obligation to
maintain a unified Bosnia.
Now, as Nick said, I'll be glad to take a few questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, pretty much on that last point. The notion
that there will be a nation called "Bosnia," and will have functions --
I don't know if this came up in your conversation with the President --
but what do you see so far as a national state of Bosnia? We all know
what the Bosnian courts provided, but what functions? What traditional
national functions would that state have?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: First, it will have the foreign affairs function
which is a critical function for a national government.
Second, it will have the basic financial functions. The Treasury
functions will be a national function.
Third, to give you another example, there will be a national
So, I think, when it's finally resolved, you'll see that the national
government has strong and important functions to provide; the basic
functions, in most instances, of a national government.
QUESTION: Does the United States now support a complete lifting of
sanctions on Serbia?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we have to wait until the OSCE reaches its
final judgment about the election. As you know, there's a 72-hour
appeal process. But Dayton calls for the U.N. Security Council to act
within a period of days after the election process has been completed.
And, we'll be following that. But, I think that would be in
contemplation because, as I say, the election was orderly and calm and
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when would you like to see the municipal phase
of the elections carried out?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We have said that we hoped that that could be
done this year. It seems to us desirable to move on with that. That
will be, once again, a decision by the OSCE. But, we'll be urging them
to do it this year, so that process can move forward as well.
QUESTION: Would there be a link between those elections and the
maintenance of the U.S. forces in Bosnia?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It appears to me that based upon the results of
this election that IFOR will be able to depart within about a year of
its commencement -- that is, sometime in December. If the elections are
held before the end of the year, that question really doesn't arise
because IFOR will still be there at that time.
QUESTION: Does the election mean that the withdrawal of IFOR is on
track? Is it a very good indicator?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes. I think it is a strong indicator that
IFOR's basic mission can be completed within the year, as President
Clinton earlier anticipated.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Will any Americans stay behind if the largest
body of IFOR leaves?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That will have to be a judgment that's made.
The United States and its allies will be discussing that question in the
months ahead to see whether there is the need for some kind of an entity
or some kind of a presence there thereafter.
Of course, there will be very major economic responsibilities that will
follow. But, I think now that this election has taken place, there
clearly will be a discussion between the United States and its allies
under NATO auspices to determine whether it's necessary to have
something follow on after IFOR has withdrawn.
QUESTION: Can I follow up. On the French situation in the Persian
Gulf, since it's widely believed that the U.S. -- and the Republicans
have criticized the French, saying the U.S. is there to help the French
out in Bosnia. Is there any quid pro quo in the discussions that the
U.S. will keep a body there if the French will help out more in the
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've not heard any relationship between those
two issues in my discussion with the French. I've had good discussions
on both subjects but they've not been related in our discussions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have followed this process from Dayton all
the way through and several years before, and the tragedy of the war
before that. How do you personally feel at these elections going
through and the lack of violence that there was in them? Do you feel
personally vindicated and triumphant?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You know me well enough to know that's not the
way I approach things. I feel it's a very important step in a long
Dayton was a major diplomatic achievement, I think, for the United
States and the other countries that were involved there. But it
launched one of the most complicated and difficult processes that you
can possibly imagine in a country that had been troubled by three and a
half years of war and probably centuries of differences -- deep
So as we've moved through this process, it's been necessary for the
United States to be involved, as I say, weekly and many times daily.
We've had our representatives in Bosnia. I've made several trips
I regard this as an important threshold we've crossed, but,
nevertheless, we're going to have to continue to be involved.
What pleases me about it is that the country remains at peace. There's
so much satisfaction one can take by being in Sarajevo and see a country
at peace and hope that the people of the country are beginning to see
the benefits of peace and that they will strongly influence their
leaders away from any reversion to violence and combat.
I think that the way that people conducted themselves in this election
is really very heartwarming. You know, as you look around the world,
people do want to take the advantage of voting when they can, and I
think there's a quality about an election that is enabling to people and
one for which I think that they take great pride in what they've done
and ought to.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, having said that, how much do you feel
personally the whole Dayton process is diminished by the fact that
Mladic and Karadzic are still at large and are not facing the
international tribunal; and that there is still basically not freedom of
movement for people who were displaced?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Certainly, with respect to Mladic and Karadzic,
that's an uncompleted story and one that we won't be satisfied until
they are in The Hague or part of The Hague process. Clearly, Karadzic
has been marginalized. He was not able to run in the election. He was
not able to lead his political party. He's largely been invisible
during this process, so progress is being made.
But you're quite right that I don't think any of us who were deeply
involved in Dayton will be satisfied until the War Crimes Tribunal is
able to proceed with all of those who they've indicted.
With respect to the freedom of movement, I hope that the national
government that will be created following these elections will help to
insure freedom of movement, and I certainly expect IFOR in the months
that it remains there will take steps that will be conducive to greater
freedom of movement. There was some freedom of movement, of course,
across the boundary lines for purposes of voting, and I hope they've
established some ability that will enhance the chances of doing that in
MR. BURNS: We have time for two more questions. Steve Myers, New York
Times; David Ensor, ABC.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, given the results, how confident are you that
the state of Bosnia will be able to function in the years ahead?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The people who are there now participated at
Dayton. They signed the Dayton agreement. By participating in the
election, once again they pledged themselves to a unified Bosnia. The
United States is going to join with its allies in holding them to the
commitments that they made at Dayton and subsequently. We think the
leaders that have been elected by their people should carry out those
commitments and should form this national government, which will give a
unified Bosnia a chance to not only survive but prosper.
QUESTION: Sir, you mentioned that the time is soon to come for
discussions about a possible follow-on force, whether one is needed or
not. Is there really any doubt in your mind that there will be the need
for a follow-on force, and that there will be the need for a U.S. role
in that force?
And by what time would you say -- given that these things take time to
organize -- by what time would you say that decision will have to be
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I would say that there will certainly be a need
to have some kind of a follow-on international presence, but the nature
of that and where it will be located and the type of equipment it will
have and the kind of individuals that will be present in it is something
that's going to have to be determined during this period.
We'll have to see how the national government goes together. That will
affect the nature of this. So although one can see the need for some
sort of an international presence because of the need to help with the
economy, help with reconstruction, the nature of it, as I say, will be,
I think, considered very seriously between the Contact Group and at NATO
levels in the next several months.
I certainly don't want to set any deadline or any time schedule for
this. There are some practicalities of it, but NATO will be the best
one to determine whether or not decisions have to be made on a certain
time schedule in order to carry out their recommendations.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a view -- if I could just follow up -- on
whether or not there should be U.S. troops involved in such a follow-on
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The United States does not have or express a
view on that. That will depend upon conditions as they evolve. If I
can just say one more thing about this, we really have to take it one
step at a time. People keep trying to drive us forward and anticipate
questions that are not before us at the present time.
The kind of force that will be necessary will be affected by the
smoothness with which the national institutions are created, and so
that's what we're going to focus on in the next month or so to make sure
those national institutions get created as well as possible. And we'll
address the other questions on a timely basis.
QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the no-hitter by the Japanese
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I was absolutely thrilled by that. (Laughter)
And I was surprised with a no-hitter in Denver against Colorado. You
know, usually they have football scores when you're playing Colorado
rather than a no-hitter. So when I heard that early this morning, I was
really thrilled. (Laughter)
ÿÿÿÿÿúià û*png to have töì main?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Tim, I think, as I said, IFOR troops -- the
commitment of troops the American people heard the President make --
they will be gone by about December 20. Whether some
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