On this 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, as one who combats anti-Semitism and hatred of all kinds, I would like to add my voice to those who will assemble later this morning to remember and honor the memory of those who were killed and those who will be buried here today.
Never again. It is a phrase that emerged after the Holocaust, Europe’s darkest era. Never again. We repeat it after the genocide at Srebrenica and the terrible crimes that took place here, in the former Yugoslavia, when power-hungry leaders turned religious and ethnic groups against each other and brutally destroyed a society.
It is my duty to speak out against genocide, no matter who the victim. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, it is especially meaningful for me to speak out against genocide of Muslims. We should never forget the terrible crimes that took place here. We should do all in our power to prevent it around the world.
Let us take some comfort in the recent arrest of one of the most wanted war crimes fugitives, former Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990s.
On this solemn day, I join with the government officials, diplomats, military, community and family members in mourning the death and destruction and pledging to honor the dead by never forgetting their sacrifice and working toward peaceful coexistence.
QUESTION: It’s about the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What is it like in your opinion, and whether it’s time for Bosnia and Herzegovina to see more engagement of the European Union and close the office of the High Rep?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: In general the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina I wish I could say was progressing more than I can say. It has been more than eight months since an election that we hoped would really help the country turn the corner, to allow its leaders to focus on economic development and to pursue the path to the European Union. And yet in those eight months it hasn’t managed to form a government at the state level which his disappointing and frustrating, and I would think is frustrating for all of the people of the country. That’s just on the general question of the political situation.
When you talk about EU engagement and the future of the Office of the High Representative, I would say we welcome greater European Union engagement. We’re very closely in touch with the EU in terms of policy here. And the EU’s decision to strengthen its presence is a positive one. The more the international community can be engaged here the better, because we’re all committed to helping this country succeed.
That doesn’t mean, and I want to be clear about that, that we think it is time for the Office of High Representative to disappear. On the contrary, I think we’ve seen a number of occasions in recent months, most recently in April but not just then, where the role of the Office of High Representative, the ongoing necessity of that role was demonstrated. I’m here in part to underscore our continued support for the OHR. I think we’ve been very clear as the international community what conditions would have to be met before it would be time for the OHR to finish its job and unfortunately, those conditions don’t seem to be met. Until they are, we’re going to continue to give it our strong backing.
QUESTION: Can Bosnia and Herzegovina make progress on its path to European integration processes since the High Rep, his action actually represents a form of protectorate in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Is it such a state with limited capacity when it comes to decision-making and can it as such make quick progress towards European Union and European integration processes?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think anybody wants to see the Office of High Representative exist longer than necessary. Once Bosnia and Herzegovina has fulfilled the necessary conditions to transition beyond that and fulfill the conditions for European Union membership, of course an international presence of that nature would no longer be necessary. That is our goal. Nobody is seeking to perpetuate forever an international role in this country. We would all like to see that role not be necessary.
The real question is not what is ideal for the country or what is consistent with European Union membership, but does it remain necessary to have this institution in place. The international community was clear about the conditions that would have to be fulfilled. They have yet to be fulfilled. Until they are the United States is going to continue to strongly back the institution.
QUESTION: When it comes to the formation of government at the state level it has not been formed yet although it’s been eight months from the election. How much did Bosnia and Herzegovina lose because of that with regard to its international reputation and its internal reputation as a state?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think the failure to form a state level government in eight months is a setback for the country’s international reputation. I think it is an impediment to the economic growth that the country needs. Not least because it’s an impediment to support from the International Monetary Fund. I think in turn, that is not healthy for the economy because it raises questions among international investors about the country’s future, the country’s future as a potential EU member. So it’s a setback and that’s why we’re strongly encouraging the parties and that’s why I’ll do so in my meetings with party leaders here, to find a compromise and move forward. We really do think this is something that would benefit the country as a whole in a number of important ways.
QUESTION: When we are talking about the formation of the government, the federation government was established with the intervention of OHR, of the High Rep. And it was done contrary to the decisions of the most democratic institution of Bosnia and Herzegovina which is the Central Election Commission. What is your comment about that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think the intervention of the international community to help bring about a government at the entity level was not a first choice but a necessary choice. Many months had gone by without a government being formed at any level, and ultimately the international community ended up playing a role that it didn’t want to play in the first place but felt it had to play in order to bring such a compromise about. It put forward what we felt was a reasonable compromise proposal that the parties themselves didn’t seem able to come to. One set of parties, the HDZ parties, chose not to go along with the compromise presented and walked away from the process which we regretted because we thought it would be important for them to be represented, but they chose not to be. So a federation level government was formed and is now functioning and helping the federation and getting things done that need to get done that aren’t done when you have an absence of a government. So that’s why the international community reluctantly stepped in and we consider the result of that, maybe the process wasn’t ideal, but the result is a legitimate legal and functioning government and we’d like to see a similarly functioning government at the state level as well.
QUESTION: The legitimate representatives, as they call themselves, of Croat people say that their election will was not respected. Would it be good for Bosnia and Herzegovina to form the government at the state level without two HDZs? HDZ, BIH and HDZ 1990, or is it better to have broader coalition? Is it better for Bosnia and Herzegovina taking into account the tasks ahead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It’s not for me to dictate or put forward a specific recipe of what the state level government should be. As a general rules, yes, broader is better. We’d like to see a broad coalition of parties from the entities across the country represented. That would be the best outcome all around. As I said at the federation level not having the HDZs represented was not the first choice, but it was a choice that they made when they chose not to accept the compromise that was put on the table.
So we strongly encourage the parties to talk to each other and find a way to have the broadest representation possible so there can be a government at the state level which would be in the interest of everybody in the country.
QUESTION: What do you expect from the structural dialogue which already started when it comes to judicial reform? And in your opinion, what is the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Is that reform which we have seen so far, did it actually yield the expected results?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think everybody would recognize that more progress needs to be made in terms of the judicial institutions of this country. That’s one of the reasons the European Union has been prepared to offer such a structural dialogue. It’s part of the EU accession process so it’s necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina in that sense, but it’s also necessary to have a more effective and efficient and functioning judicial system. So that is a positive development. I don’t think it should be seen as a reward or punishment for anyone’s behavior or solely in terms of what the country needs to do to be on the EU track, but while clearly we believe this country needs state level judicial institutions, those institutions, there’s room for progress and the EU has a pretty strong track record in advising countries, in particular candidate countries, on measures it can take to ensure the rule of law and the fight against corruption which is absolutely essential for any country’s future.
QUESTION: So far we have heard different rumors and speculations on Dayton II. Do you think that for Bosnia and Herzegovina this new Dayton II is needed or consistent implementation, application of Bosnia and Herzegovina could also open the path to Bosnia and Herzegovina to European Union and NATO?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think I understood you were talking about Dayton II?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I just wanted to be clear. We don’t talk about Dayton II. Anything called Dayton II would imply a major international effort to redo institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to rethink the basic elements of the institutions of this country. That is not what we are thinking about, it’s not anything we have proposed. We’re strongly committed to the Dayton institutions as they exist.
It is true that from time to time over the past years different ideas about constitutional reform have come up, usually in the context of EU membership, and in the context of creating a more functional state. As I’ve said, a more functional state would be in the interests of all of the people of this country and should be considered, but needs to be considered by the parties.
So we have never put forward major institutional changes. This is necessarily for the people and the leaders of the country to do. And very specifically on the issue of Dayton II it’s not something that is on our agenda.
QUESTION: What are the priority requirements Bosnia and Herzegovina should meet? Not immediately, but it was all ready to meet them yesterday. What is your opinion? What are the priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina, priority requirements to meet so it could become a stable and prosperous state in this region which is always kind of shaky?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Again, I would underscore it’s not for me, it’s not for an outsider to say what the priorities of the country should be. I believe a number of leaders of this country have said their priority is to join Europe in the broadest sense of that term. To benefit from the same degree of stability and prosperity and democracy and openness and rule of law that the countries of the European Union benefit from. Countries, I would add, that have overcome the harshest of disputes and wars and crimes and killing realized after several of these wars, that their future was in cooperation regardless of their ethnicity or religion or borders. I think all of those countries of the European Union would tell you that learning that lesson was one of the most important things they ever did and the consequence of it now is that they are among the wealthiest countries in the world, among the most stable, among the most open.
I think that’s what, if I were a citizen of this country, my priority would be. To overcome those divisions, come to terms with the past, and focus on reconciliation and getting over ethnic divisions rather than perpetuating them. And by doing so, taking a step for my country down the road to the European institutions which would protect the country’s security and prosperity and stability.
QUESTION: In your opinion, is Bosnia and Herzegovina a safe country? Taking into consideration that there are still persons who are considered a security threat. It had an obligation to get rid of these persons 30 days after the Dayton.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Tell me more specifically what you’re referring to.
QUESTION: I’m talking about persons of Afro-Asian origin who are deeply incorporated in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s structures. They have become part of domiciled population included domiciled population into the Wahabbi movements last year. We saw the terrorist attack in Bugojno, and that’s why I’m posing this question. It’s related to these persons.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: You’re asking if Bosnia and Herzegovina is a safe country. All of our countries face security threats, face threats from extremism of different sorts. We all need to take measures and be vigilant and develop the types of institutions, judicial institutions, police forces, rule of law, in order to prevent that extremism from posing a threat to the well-being of the citizens of the country. I think that is true, as I say, across the board, and this country needs to do work in that area just like other countries do.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Welcome. Maybe I’ll just say a couple of very brief things at the beginning and then I’ll look forward to your questions.
I’m very pleased to be back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think you know, spoke at a conference this morning and have spent the day meeting at the tri-presidency, meeting with a number of party leaders and others, and I hope my visit will be seen as a sign of the United States’ continued engagement and interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We’ve invested a lot over the past years in this country and remain committed to its success, remain committed to its aspirations to join Euro-Atlantic institutions, and I wanted to express that strong support which I did publicly and to a number of the individuals that I met with.
I also came to express an interest in the formation of a state level government. I won’t hide that we in the United States are frustrated at the amount of time it has taken. The last visit I made to Bosnia and Herzegovina was with Secretary Clinton last October which was just after the elections which we hoped would quickly lead to the formation of a functional government that could start tackling the very real challenges that this country faces. Now eight months have gone by in the mean time without such a government and I wanted to talk to party leaders about their ideas for how to put such a government in place.
I was encouraged to hear that the party leaders agree that it’s not in the interest of the country to have a vacuum at that level, to not have a government, but I was disappointed at the lack of progress and encourage them to think creatively and get together in the interest of the country as a whole.
I also came and expressed the United States’ strong and ongoing support for the Dayton institutions and the Office of High Representative. There have been various challenges to those institutions in particular over the past year, and I’m including in that recent or earlier RS legislation on state property and more recently the April 13th proposed referendum and conclusions and I think we were very clear at the time that we found that proposed referendum and conclusions unacceptable and inconsistent with Dayton and that we supported the OHR in rejecting that approach. We made that clear at the time and I underscored that it remains our view that those conclusions are inconsistent with Dayton and we would continue to back the High Representative in his approach to the issue.
So those are some of the messages that I conveyed and some of the issues that I discussed. Again, the overall point is that we remain engaged and committed. We want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a full-fledged and thriving member of the European Union and NATO. Ultimately a lot more work needs to be done. We will stand ready to help in every way we can, but it is something that the leaders of the country and the people of the country are going to have to take responsibility for. We will be with them as they do so.
I’m happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Today you had an opportunity to meet with several political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Are you optimistic after these discussions that Bosnia and Herzegovina could in near future, by the end of June, agree on parliamentary majority at the state level?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I did meet with a lot of party leaders and talked about the urgency of forming a government. As I noted, I was encouraged to hear all of them committed to forming a government. They all seem to recognize that this country cannot do without a state level government, there are real issues that need to be tackled on behalf of all of the people of the country and they expressed interest in doing so which was welcome news.
I was, however, disappointed that they didn’t seem to be near a solution, that so much time has gone by without it, that they remain dug in on certain positions and inflexible which might be in the interest of their party or their ethnic group but not in the interest of the country as a whole which is precisely the approach that we’re encouraging. That is to say encouraging leaders to think about the people of the country as a whole and the success of the country as a whole and not narrow political interests. So I was disappointed in that.
I don’t want to put a timetable on it. I do think that they understand that this needs to get done. I think it would be too optimistic to say the end of June or any other near term deadline, but I can tell you that we are going to continue both to press them to do so and to offer whatever ideas we might have that would help, but ultimately the responsibility is for the leaders.
QUESTION: After the government is formed and the entities, can you tell us what the United States expects from this government? The new government is made up of old parties, the SDP is the only new party. So what does the United States expect after the formation of the government? What do they expect from the new government? The fact is that the new government is made by all the parties of which the old government was made except for SDP and that period, past period, the main characteristic was the lack of reforms implemented and needed for Euro-Atlantic path for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think we would expect similar things from whatever government that may be formed. Again, it’s not really a question of what we expect, it’s what the country needs and what the people of the country expect, but I think we all know what the issues are. You concluded your question by referencing the European Union and that I think is near the top of anyone’s list. There are a set of measures that would be expected of any government dealing with the EU accession process, dealing with the question of a census and state aid and Sejdic-Finci and whatever the stripe or composition of the government they’re going to have to take steps to deal with those issues to move this country down the path towards the European Union.
Also in the context of joining Euro-Atlantic institutions there’s the NATO question, and a government we hope would tackle the question of fixed defense properties which, as you know, is the precondition for the Membership Action Plan process to begin which will be a very positive thing for the country.
There’s the question of a deal with the IMF for which a state level government is necessary and which would benefit the economy as a whole. I made references in my speech to slow growth and economic problems that would need to be tackled by this government.
Beyond that there are other questions of governmental reform and efforts to make the government more functional and effective. I think you could come up with a whole list of things that any government would have to tackle, but first things first, you need a government in place before any of these issues can be dealt with.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. administration, current administration, have some new proposals for Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to constitutional reforms? We had Butmir package of measures and it failed and recently there were certain statements in the media and certain initiatives in relation to a new conference that will be called Dayton II.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: First, just to be clear, we have no plans for anything resembling or known as Dayton II which implies a major international conference, restructuring or structuring a constitutional system and institutions. Dayton I was a set of measures to end the war and to set up a country and no reform program that I’m familiar with is being considered in Europe or the United States to do anything remotely like that. Indeed, as I said, we support the Dayton institutions that are already in place and we’re not proposing to replace it with anything. So I don’t know where that notion comes from but there’s no plan for a Dayton II.
In terms of constitutional reform or other types of reforms, I would say what I said about government formation. It’s not for the United States to come in with a plan. One of the things we’re trying to do is encourage this country to, and its leaders, to act in the interests of the country as a whole. To do that, the views of all of its constituents need to be represented. Nothing can be imposed on the different peoples and entities. Therefore you’re not going to hear the United States come up with the plan for constitutional reform. Sure, we can help, we can provide ideas, we have a lot of experience with this sort of thing, we have constitutional experts. So does the European Union. The European Union has advised a lot of transition countries on setting up their legal systems, judicial structures, and we’re more than ready to offer such thoughts and creative ideas. But we’re not in the business of putting forward plans and ultimately they would have to be agreed to by the parties in the country. Again, I said the same thing about government formation. We can offer thoughts, creative ideas, paths forward, but we can’t do it for them.
QUESTION: My next question would be in that context as well. Recently in Banja Luka the structural dialogue on reform of judiciary started with the European Union. Does the United States intend with advice or in any other form to support the judicial reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We will be supportive. I think the structure dialogue specifically is an EU process that exists and has been used in other candidate countries, and we don’t have a direct role in it. We do support it because I think this process has demonstrated in the past that it can help countries improve the functioning of their judicial systems which is an absolutely critical measure in their success. And the EU has a pretty good track record in this. I think the enlargement process itself has been very positive in helping countries fight corruption, reform their judiciaries, and install the rules of law. If that can help in Bosnia and Herzegovina then it’s a good thing and we very much support it even though we’re not going to have a direct role in it.
QUESTION: Another question related to the recent tensions caused in Bosnia and Herzegovina related to the decision of RSNA on referendum and referendum on imposed decisions of HR. It was pulled back when the dialogue on reform of judiciary started, but the conclusions of the RSNA are still valid.
Do you think that by not pulling back these conclusions the story on referendum remains topical?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I can only speak for the United States and we’ve been pretty clear about that. We said that the referendum was a direct challenge to Dayton that was not acceptable and needed to be dropped. I’ve heard different references to the degree to which it has been abandoned. I know that Mr. Dodik said it was dropped for now, which raises some prospect of bringing it back up, but I can tell you that were it to be brought up our view of it would be the same as it was when it was brought up in the first place, that it’s an unacceptable challenge to the Dayton institutions and the High Representative would be fully within his rights and obligations to oppose it. Our view of that hasn’t changed and won’t change in the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you all.
Thank you very much. It really is an honor and a pleasure for me to be back in Sarajevo, particularly with so many good friends and colleagues in the room. This conference comes at a very timely moment. I am glad to see Bosnia and Herzegovina getting the high-profile attention it deserves and to be able to lend the voice and perspectives of the United States to the discussion.
Let me begin by thanking the conference hosts for having me here and for organizing this conference: The Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, especially Executive Director Dan Hamilton, and the America-Bosnia Foundation, especially President Sasha Toperich. CTR and the America-Bosnia Foundation are uniquely equipped to put on such a conference and they have done a superb job of assembling an outstanding group of scholars and practitioners. I would also like to thank the conference sponsors, including the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, led by Ambassador Patrick Moon, who is also here today. Indeed, it is a tribute to the importance and timeliness of this conference that in a difficult economic climate, so many internationally renowned foundations – 15 in all from the United States and Europe – have so generously contributed. Finally, let me thank Mike Haltzel, not just for organizing this conference but for his long and constant dedication to Balkans issues, first in the United States Senate and more recently in his role at SAIS.
I first visited Sarajevo in 1994, at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina was still in the grips of the terrible war that would take the lives of over 100,000 people and displace millions of others. I don’t need to remind this audience of the horrors that took place during those dark years or of all the hard work Bosnians have done since then to rebuild this country. The United States and NATO, particularly, made an enormous investment in peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And with our help, but mostly as a result of your own efforts, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come a long way since.
For the United States, our commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina is an integral part of our long-standing commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, democratic, and at peace. We believe strongly in the idea that all of Europe must join the Euro-Atlantic institutions and realize the benefits of stability and prosperity. The Balkans are a critical part of Europe—historically, geographically and culturally and its future lies within the Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States will always support an open door to the European Union and to NATO and we will always be ready to help countries to walk through that door.
As part of this commitment, we take pride in what we have done with and for the Bosnian people. And our commitment continues in the Obama Administration, as demonstrated by the persistent diplomatic attention that Bosnia and Herzegovina receives. Vice-President Biden came here on one of his very first trips as Vice President, in May 2009; Secretary of State Clinton traveled here this past October, and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg has visited this country six times during his tenure, more than any other country in the world except Japan. Congress also takes a deep interest in developments here, as the frequent Congressional delegations to Sarajevo will attest.
Many officials in this administration have deep a personal connection with Bosnia. Our professional identities, our understanding of international diplomacy, and even our careers were forged in the crucible of the Balkans War of the 1990s. Over the years, the United States has sent tens of thousands of American soldiers and diplomats to establish and keep the peace. We’ve invested roughly 1.5 billion dollars to help rebuild, strengthen public institutions, foster better education and promote economic development. We provide $300 million a year to help Western Balkans countries meet EU and NATO requirements. We are deeply and personally invested in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In short, we have been your friends. And friends sometimes need to speak to each other bluntly. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made great progress since the horrors of the 1990s. But it in the last four or five years, it has not moved in the right direction. There has been a dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric. The institutions of the state and the Dayton settlement have been brazenly challenged. There have been attempts to roll back the reforms that are necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the EU and NATO. In general, Bosnian politicians have been too willing to stoke ethnic fears and to privilege their own personal political interests over the needs of the people they are supposed to represent.
If this does not stop – and again I owe it to my friends here to be blunt – then Bosnia risks being left behind, as the rest of the region moves forward.
We can already see this happening. With the help of the international community, many states in this region are making progress: Slovenia joined the EU in 2004; Albania and Croatia joined NATO in 2009; Croatia’s EU candidacy is steadily advancing, following the favorable recommendation by the European Commission just last week. Macedonia will join NATO as soon as its name dispute is resolved. Kosovo recently celebrated the 3rd year of its independence and continues to progress as a multi-ethnic democracy. Montenegro, only five years since independence, already has EU candidacy status and is a full participant in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. Serbia has applied for EU candidacy and is making progress along that path, including through the recent arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic.
Of course, all of these countries still have a lot of work to do to realize their aspirations: Serbia and Kosovo particularly need to advance in their dialogue and to work creatively to resolve their differences before they can move much further along their path to EU membership. Throughout the Balkans, people are free from violence, but they often do not have jobs. Hatreds have eased but dangerous nationalism and prejudice persists.
So Bosnia is hardly the only country in the region to face major challenges. But whereas other countries in the region are managing to make progress, however halting, in their efforts to join Europe—Bosnia and Herzegovina is not.
To get back on the right path, Bosnia must be able to function as a state that can deliver results for all of its citizens. Reforms are needed for their own sake, but they are also necessary to meet EU requirements and the country’s international obligations. Only greater integration into Europe will provide the stability and opportunity that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina want for their children.
Bosnia’s leaders specifically need to make progress in three areas: government formation, respect for state institutions and the Dayton Framework, and governmental reform.
The first is state-level government formation. It has been eight months since the elections and this country still does not have a state-level government. Without a broad-based coalition government, Bosnia cannot make the decisions necessary to progress on the Euro-Atlantic reform agenda.
Efforts in the parliament to start the process for appointment of Chairman of the Council of Ministers are a step in the right direction. But it is disappointing that we still have not seen a serious initiative from any political party leader to form a governing coalition.
There is no time to lose. Unless a government is formed soon, the economic consequences will be felt far and wide. Moody’s has already downgraded the country’s credit rating from “stable” to “negative” due to the stalemate. Deficit spending will result in budget shortfalls in both entities later this year, but the IMF and other international financial institutions have made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be able to access additional lending until a new state government is in place. Pensioners, veterans and other vulnerable groups whose benefits have already taken a hit will see deeper reductions.
Every day that passes without a government Bosnia and Herzegovina falls further behind its neighbors and increases the risk that Bosnia and Herzegovina will fall off the European path. In this context, it is irresponsible for any party to block formation of a government based on maximalist demands, be it a claim on a certain number of positions in the Council of Ministers or for a specific ministerial appointment. All must be prepared to compromise. Those who refuse to consider any compromise are playing into the hands of those who seek to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capacity to function as a state. I will be meeting this afternoon with some of the major party leaders and will be looking forward to hearing from the constructive ideas about how to form a state-level government in the very near future.
The responsibility to form a government that can advance the well being of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina should supersede any personal or political concern.
Respect for State Institutions and the Dayton Framework
Second, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians need to demonstrate their commitment to the Dayton Framework and their willingness to abide by the decisions of state institutions.
Like other members of the international community, the United States has repeatedly reaffirmed our support for the Dayton framework – one state, two vibrant entities, three constituent peoples – to reassure all the peoples of the country that their future is secure within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the goal is a more functional — not a more centralized — country, capable of meeting European integration requirements.
Similar efforts at reassurance have been made by some politicians in Sarajevo, including by President Bakir Izetbegovic, who has made conciliatory statements and offered greater flexibility on key reforms required by NATO and the EU. In return, others have intensified separatist rhetoric and sought to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state institutions and OHR.
One of the most recent challenges to the state was the April 13 decision by the RS assembly to call a referendum on High Representative decisions and on the legitimacy of the BiH Court and Prosecutor’s Office.
The RS decision to step back from a referendum has headed off an immediate crisis. I hope that the leadership in Banja Luka uses this opportunity to reevaluate its approach—the challenges made by the RS assembly to the Dayton Framework are not acceptable. They are incompatible with the goal of European integration. The leaders and the people of the RS need to decide whether they want to have a relationship with the United States and with Europe or not.
Those who think they can outwait us and our Allies on the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board are wrong. As I have already made clear, the United States has a significant personal and political investment here. We will not give up on Bosnia and Herzegovina or its people.
We will continue to defend and strengthen existing state institutions, like the BiH State Court and Prosecutors Office, which are doing critical work to combat terrorism, organized crime and to bring war criminals to justice; and the Indirect Tax Administration, which had ensured a dedicated revenue stream for the BiH government.
We will continue to promote further reforms, including of the constitution, as are necessary for a functional state and for Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet EU accession requirements. And we will stand behind the High Representative and his decisions. We will not permit the closure of the Office of the High Representative until the agreed reform agenda is completed.
We also welcome the EU’s determination to play a leading role in supporting positive change and protecting against threats to stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. EU High Representative Ashton has named Peter Sorensen, a senior diplomat with 15 years of experience in the Balkans, to lead this EU effort. As Secretary Clinton wrote last week in an article co-authored with UK Foreign Secretary Hague, the United States “will be strongly supportive of Ambassador Sorensen, using all of the levers available to achieve progress, while working in close partnership with the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative.”
And we will be prepared to take measures against any individuals and organizations that threaten to undermine the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All levels of government in Bosnia must accept and respect Dayton.
Finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina must move forward with the governmental reforms necessary for NATO and EU integration.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future lies in its integration into Europe, specifically membership in NATO and the EU. Once the state level government is formed, we expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward quickly to resolve the defense property issue so that it can participate in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. The EU has made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina must take three steps in order to be considered for candidate status: establish a serious process to change the constitution to accommodate the Sejdic-Finci decision, act on state aid provisions, and conduct a census. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a well-functioning government at the state level that will have the power to engage effectively with Brussels and to participate effectively in the EU accession process.
We are convinced this is possible while protecting and preserving the decentralized government structures established in the Dayton constitution.
But it will require reform, including of the constitution. The most immediate change necessary to comply with basic EU human rights standards following the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. And there will need to be additional changes over the longer term to ensure the state has sufficient functionality and decision-making capacity to comply with EU and NATO standards. Although the EU accession process will be difficult, it is the only viable alternative for this country. Threats to abandon the process or not participate are incompatible with the needs of the people.
Reform is also imperative in the entities. The Federation has far more government than it can afford. Years of mismanagement, corruption and political infighting by the previous government have exacerbated the problem. Last year the government had to adopt emergency austerity measures just to avoid bankruptcy and the new Federation government still faces serious funding issues. The most recent EU progress report singled out the Federation in particular as being incompatible with EU accession criteria.
The new Federation government has gotten off to a good start. It has a fresh opportunity to make progress on privatizations, which have languished for years due to corruption and political infighting, as well as on education and economic reforms.
We regret that the HDZ parties declined to accept a compromise that would have included them in the coalition. No political party can claim the exclusive right to represent an entire ethnic group.
But we also recognize the concerns of those citizens who feel that the new government does not include representatives that they elected or who are committed to representing their interests.
It is incumbent upon the new government to demonstrate that it is acting in the interests of all of the entity’s citizens. It is understandable that Bosnian Croats, as the least numerous of the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are concerned about their status within the Federation. But redrawing new internal boundaries to add a new entity or other layers of complexity to an already overly complicated government is unrealistic. We welcome recent steps by HDZ parties to participate actively in the Federation parliament.
The Republika Srpska faces its own serious economic challenges. The entity has exhausted all of its reserves from the RS telecom and oil refinery privatizations and now faces a $500 million deficit. Last year the RS economy grew at an anemic 1 percent. The forecast for this year is not much better. Provocative political rhetoric and attacks on the independence of the state judiciary is driving away foreign investment, which is a tenth of what it was just three years ago. The Republika Srspka would be much better off if its leaders focused more improving the economy and thus on serving the needs of the citizens rather than on promoting greater division within the country. A positive step would be to discuss with the Federation ways to harmonize their regulations and to promote inter-entity economic cooperation.
The Path to Europe
These steps together constitute a path toward Europe. If Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians make the necessary choices and compromises, we will be there to help with resources and political support. As Secretary Clinton said here in October, “The bonds between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States have been forged through harsh trials and historic triumphs and today we remain committed.”
But you should understand that our commitment will mean little if Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot summon the will to help itself. We stand ready to advise, assist and support, but we cannot do it alone. We need partners who share this vision and who are prepared to compromise for the greater good.
The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better; they deserve a Euro-Atlantic future. The young people of this country, particularly, want and deserve to join the European mainstream, to travel and work abroad, and to take advantage of all that the modern world has to offer. There are courageous actors in this country, many of whom are represented at this conference, who understand what needs to be done. Each of you has responsibility to work in interests of all Bosnians and Herzegovinians, to work across ethnic lines, and to avoid feeding ethnic fears. We are confident that, in so doing, you can overcome your divisions and build a European state, just like so many other Europeans before you.
No one can do this for you. But I can tell you that if you try, the United States will be with you every step of the way.
Thank you very much.
The arrest on May 26 of Ratko Mladic, the fugitive former Bosnian-Serb Army Commander, brings at last the prospect of justice for the victims of the genocide at Srebrenica 16 years ago. It offers the chance of closure to the families of the victims. And it offers a vital opportunity to draw a line under the past, and to move the entire Western Balkan region decisively towards a better future.
Already there has been considerable progress. The situation in Serbia and Croatia is dramatically different to that of two decades ago. Those countries are now moving steadily forward to membership of the European Union. Croatia is already a member of NATO and seeking conclusion of its accession negotiations with the EU. Serbia is working in pursuit of EU Candidate status. But while its neighbors are looking to the future, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina itself gives rise to mounting concern.
For half a decade now, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been sliding backwards. That slide has accelerated in recent months, and now demands a firm response from the international community, above all from the European Union. The country’s institutions are gridlocked. In the Republika Srpska entity, harsh nationalist rhetoric and actions challenging the Dayton framework risk dragging BiH back towards the past – just at the moment its neighbors start moving towards a European future.
The real victims of this paralysis are not Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians, but its citizens – the very people these political leaders were elected to serve. Instead of living in a free, fair and prosperous society, many still live under the shadow of division and fear, suffering from poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity.
It need not be like this. Bosnia and Herzegovina has every prospect of a bright and hopeful future. It is a beautiful European country, with talented and resourceful people. It has a rich heritage and an abundance of natural resources. It has always been, and remains, a bridge between East and West. The Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina have a long tradition of moderation, and are a continuing rebuke to the notion that Islam has no place in Europe. We want to see BiH thriving as a peaceful member of the European Union and NATO, with the conflict and suffering of the 1990s left behind never to return. We know that the citizens of this unique country want this too, from Prijedor to Travnik, from Foca to Livno and from Mostar to Brcko.
So how can we make this a reality?
First, the international community needs to stay focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Western Balkans as a whole. Yes, there are plenty of other challenges – from Afghanistan to Libya, from the Arab Spring to the Middle East Peace Process. But we know all too well that what happens in one Balkan country has inevitable knock-on effects across the region. Nowhere is that more true than Bosnia and Herzegovina. What happens there will affect what happens to its neighbors, and vice versa.
Second, there must be no doubt about the resolve of the international community to stand by the settlement agreed at Dayton which ended the conflict. Our message is crystal clear: we are committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state, with two vibrant entities and three constituent people. We will not tolerate any challenges to the country’s unity and sovereignty. Our support for the Office of the High Representative in upholding the Dayton Agreement will be firm and unwavering. We will hold personally accountable politicians and those around them who seek to undermine this framework.
Third, we look to the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to work with each other and with their counterparts in the region to move beyond the stale arguments of the last two decades which have served the peoples of BiH so poorly. It is time to build on the successes of the last 16 years – the restoration of freedom of movement, the repair of BiH’s physical infrastructure, the reform of its defence sector – and to equip Bosnia to move forward alongside its neighbors to membership of the European Union.
That means looking at the Dayton Agreement as a foundation to be built on, not a chain to be broken. BiH needs more effective and efficient government at all levels – a state government that can meet the requirements of Euro-Atlantic integration; entities and lower levels of government that are economically sustainable and can deliver basic services. And above all it needs political leaders who are ready to take courageous decisions towards these ends rather than in their own narrow personal or ethnic interests.
To those who say this is impossible, we say that the rest of the region is proving every day what progress is possible. It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to deliver for their people too.
In March, European Union nations agreed a reinvigorated strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the creation of an enhanced presence in Sarajevo with a strong mandate and resources. This strategy should allow the EU to play a leading role in supporting positive change and protecting against threats to stability. EU High Representative Ashton has named Peter Sorensen, a senior diplomat with 15 years of experience in the Balkans, to lead this EU effort. The U.S. and UK will be strongly supportive of Ambassador Sorensen, using all of the levers available to achieve progress, while working in close partnership with the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative.
As Mladic faces justice at last, the world has a duty to commit itself once more to standing by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The vision of a stable, prosperous and sovereign BiH as a member of the EU and NATO is not an impossible dream, it is our firm objective. That is what the people of Bosnia want, and what we want too. As President Obama said in London on 25 May, “We have always believed that the future of our children and grandchildren will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren are more prosperous and free – from the beaches of Normandy to the Balkans to Benghazi. That is our interests and our ideals.” In Bosnia and Herzegovina, let us hold true to that principle.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: (In progress.) — this time in foreign affairs. No one works more tirelessly for global security than Hillary Clinton, and she is a great colleague, as I have discovered over the last year, and a source of inspiration for many people around the world, including often for her fellow foreign ministers. So I thank her very much for that.
Our two countries have an extraordinarily close working partnership in foreign policy and a relationship in defense and intelligence that is without any parallel anywhere in the world. And for many years, we’ve confronted the menace from al-Qaida and other terrorist groups together. We will redouble these efforts following the death of Usama bin Ladin alongside our support for lasting political settlement in Afghanistan and for stability in Pakistan. And the Pakistani people have suffered another appalling terrorist attack in Karachi, which I condemn in the strongest terms.
I see every single day in my work as foreign secretary that our relationship with the United States is unique, that it is indispensible to both our countries, and this is on top of our ties in investment, trade, science, research, and education which support about a million jobs on each side of the Atlantic. So there is no doubt that the U.S-UK relationship is still special, it’s still fundamental to both our countries, it’s still thriving, it’s still a cornerstone of stability in our world.
The President’s visit coincides, as we know, with a period of immense change in the Middle East and North Africa. That has brought renewed hope of a better life to millions of people, but it’s also marked by violence and uncertainty, and the British Government is determined to work closely with the United States and our other allies to support democracy and human rights in that region, and to challenge those who take the path of violence and repression.
In Syria, the regime has chosen violence and the mass detention of protestors rather than reform. We believe that democratic nations can’t stand silent in the face of such acts, and that’s why the meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels, which I attended earlier, Europe joined the United States in adopting additional sanctions on those responsible for the continuing violence, including President Asad himself. Syria must change course, and until it does, Britain is committed to working with the United States to increase pressure on the regime, including at the United Nations.
In Libya, our two countries and our allies acted swiftly to prevent the massacre of civilians in Benghazi. Today, Secretary Clinton and I discussed our continuing commitment to implement the UN Security Council resolutions. Our action is protecting civilian life. It’s necessary, it’s legal, it’s right, and Britain is committed to intensifying military, diplomatic, and economic action against the Qadhafi regime in the coming weeks.
Secretary Clinton and I discussed President Obama’s very important speech on the Middle East, to which the British Government strongly welcomes and supports. Like the United States, we are ready to offer our assistance to governments that commit themselves to democratic reform. And we support the legitimate aspirations of the people of the region. Later this week, we will work together at the G-8 summit to support democratic transition in Egypt and Tunisia. And we’ve begun this work ourselves on a smaller scale here in the UK through our Arab Partnership Initiative, and the European Union this week will set out its vision for a revised neighborhood policy.
We believe that progress in the Middle East peace process is more urgent than ever. As a strong friend to Israelis and Palestinians, we say time is running out for a two-state solution, and the initiative must be seized now. And I particularly welcome President Obama’s clear message that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with agreed land swaps. We have called for such a commitment as part of the process and reestablishing negotiations on the basis of clear parameters, and this is, to us, a significant and valuable act of American leadership.
Iran’s nuclear program – just a couple of final subjects – and its refusal to enter constructively into negotiations remains a deep concern for both our countries. We have discussed that in our talks this afternoon. Iran should not doubt our resolve. And today, the European Union, with strong British urging, has imposed sanctions on more than 100 Iranian banks, individuals, and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear program. We’ve also discussed the situation in Yemen and Sudan.
And finally, Secretary Clinton and I discussed the worrying developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and our determination to support peace and stability in the Western Balkans. The referendum proposals passed by the Entity of Republika Srpska National Assembly are a very real threat to the rule of law, to the Dayton Agreement, and to Bosnia’s European future. And there’s no alternative to a swift and full repeal of the referendum.
Hillary, I’m delighted you’re here today and I know that we both look forward to President Obama’s state visit this week, and to further reinforcing the relationship between Britain and the United States, and over to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, William, thank you very much, and I would love to be able to get away with just saying, “Ditto,” and leaving it at that, but I guess I’m compelled to add my voice to yours, and reiterating the indispensible, unique, and special relationship that exists between our two nations, our governments, and our peoples. And we are certainly looking forward to President Obama and Mrs. Obama’s state visit starting tomorrow. And thank you for welcoming us so warmly and thank you for the great working relationship that we have and the many areas where we consult closely and frequently on matters of mutual concern. And I was grateful again for the conversation we had which, as you have just summarized, covered quite a bit of ground. I will just highlight a few of the issues.
First, on Libya, we reiterated our shared commitment to enforce the UN Security Council resolution and to protect Libyan civilians. I think both of us believe that we are making progress, but we know that our resolve must be firm and that we have to make it clear that time is running out for Colonel Qadhafi and those around him.
In Syria, the Asad government continues to respond to peaceful protests with brutal violence. By our best estimate, nearly 1,000 people have now been killed. And that is against the backdrop of President Asad talking about reform while his security forces fire bullets into crowds of marchers and mourners at funerals. This cruelty must end, and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people must be honored.
The U.S., the EU, and others have already imposed sanctions against senior Syrian officials, including new measures announced today targeting President Asad. Foreign Secretary Hague and I are both absolutely consistent with our message to the Asad government: Stop the killings, the beatings, the arrests; release all political prisoners and detainees; begin to respond to the demands that are upon you for a process of credible and inclusive democratic change.
President Asad faces a choice: He can lead the transition to democracy that the Syrian people have demanded; or he can, as President Obama said on Thursday, get out of the way. But there is no doubt that if he does not begin to lead that process, his regime will face continuing and increasing pressure and isolation.
I appreciated the foreign secretary’s positive words about President Obama’s speech concerning a comprehensive Middle East peace. The United States has outlined principles that we believe provide a foundation for negotiations to resolve core issues, end the conflict and all claims. Everyone knows what the results should be: two states for two people with secure and recognized borders, based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps and security arrangements that ensure Israel can effectively defend itself by itself.
As the President now has said twice in the last three days, this is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. Certainly, it is the formula that was used by two prior presidents – one Democratic, one Republican. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the demographic realities and the needs of both sides.
As the President also said, and I would underscore this, no country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. Any Palestinian government must accept the principles outlined by the Quartet, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements.
The foreign secretary and I also reviewed the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, British and American troops continue to work side by side to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and its terrorist allies. Our military and civilian men and women have made great progress breaking the Taliban’s momentum, and we are determined to continue to press al-Qaida and its affiliates on all fronts, even after killing its leader, Usama bin Ladin.
We are going to be discussing and planning to start bringing troops home as part of a responsible transition to an Afghan lead for security, even as we maintain a long-term commitment to the Afghan people. And we are actively supporting an Afghan-led political process to broker reconciliation with members of the Taliban who renounce violence, cut ties to al-Qaida, and support the Afghan constitution.
With respect to Pakistan, Pakistan has hard choices to make. We know the facts. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state, home to nearly 180 million people, making it the world’s sixth largest nation. It needs international support to deal with political and economic problems and the threats it faces from internal violence. This latest attack on a Pakistani naval installation in Karachi is another reminder of the terrible price the Pakistani people have borne in their own struggle against violent extremism.
We have killed more terrorists on Pakistani soil than anywhere else in the world, and that could not have been done without the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan. But there is more work to be done and the work is urgent. Over the long haul, both the United Kingdom and the United States seek to support the Pakistani people as they chart their own destiny, away from political violence, toward greater stability, economic prosperity, and justice.
In Yemen, we are dismayed that President Saleh continues his refusal to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative which would help resolve the political challenges facing Yemen today. The international community, led by the GCC, has worked hard to build support for this initiative. President Saleh has agreed on multiple occasions to sign it. Once again, he is failing to live up to those promises. We urge President Saleh to immediately follow through on his repeated commitments to peacefully transfer power. This is critical for the peace and security that the Yemeni people are seeking.
Finally, we discussed events in Sudan, in particular in Abyei. The United States calls on the Sudanese armed forces to immediately cease all offensive operations in Abyei and withdraw. Both sides must follow through on implementing the agreements of January of 13th and 17th and chart a way forward that restores calm, upholds the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and advances a negotiated political settlement on the future status of the Abyei area.
There were other matters as well, but I think those were the highlights. But as always with the foreign secretary, we have much to discuss when we meet, because we have a similar perspective and shared values and a long history of facing foreign policy challenges together as partners and friends.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you. And now it’s time for a few questions, which Carl will call.
QUESTION: Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News. Secretary of State, the U.S. pulled back very shortly after the beginning the campaign in Libya, and it is taking a very long time. Is there any chance that the Americans will now become more active, sending out you’re A-10s and so on again?
And Foreign Secretary, are you concerned that Britain is running out of time, you need the Americans to do more on Libya, because basically Britain is going to run of money and run out of bombs?
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Hillary, do you want to go first on that one?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Certainly. Well, let me begin by saying that together with our NATO allies and coalition partners, the United States and Britain have been united from the very beginning in responding to the crisis in Libya, and we are united today in our understanding and commitment about what needs to happen in order to end it. We do believe that time is working against Qadhafi, that he cannot reestablish control over the country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible interim council that is committed to democratic principles. Their military forces are improving. And when Qadhafi inevitably leaves, a new Libya stands ready to move forward.
Now, with respect to the military operation, even today the United States continues to fly 25 percent of all sorties. We continue to provide the majority of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets. We continue to support all of our allies in their efforts. I think that what we have done is what we said we would do and we continue to do what we have said we would do. We have great confidence in our allies. We have enormous respect for the capacities of our British friends, and certainly their performance in Libya, as we have seen in prior areas of joint effort such as Afghanistan, has been exemplary. So have a lot of confidence in what our joint efforts are producing.
We would like to see some other of our NATO friends and allies join in with us in order to make sure that the pressure is maintained consistently. But I think if you look at the last two weeks, you will see an up tempo of military action; you will see a very concerted and effective campaign against targets both on land and now increasingly at sea. So I know that we all would like to see this draw to a close as soon as possible, but I would reiterate what I have on many occasions prior to this: We’re making progress. We have to be patient and persistent, and I have no doubt that we will.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to expound of that and answer the part of the question addressed to me, you should not underestimate in any way the huge contribution the United States has made to working with its allies on this. We could not have done what we did at the beginning of the military action in Libya to disable the static air defenses of the Qadhafi regime without the unique assets and involvement of the United States of America. As you just heard, about a quarter of all the sorties now that are flown in the NATO and allied operation are by United States aircraft, giving logistical and many other forms of support. So it’s not our business this week to criticize the role of the United States, which has clearly been crucial.
The military tempo has been increased in recent weeks, and indeed, in recent days. You’ve heard about the airstrikes against regime warships that have been engaged in laying mines of Misrata, about the airstrikes on the intelligence building of the regime in Tripoli. That increase tempo will continue. And it is important that nations across NATO, as well as our Arab allies, play their full part in doing that.
And on the question about time, I think it’s important to be clear that time is not on the side of Qadhafi. In so many conflicts, we’re told time is not on our side. Well, actually in this case, time is not on their side because the economic and military and diplomatic pressure on the regime will continue to be intensified in the days and weeks ahead.
Let’s have the next question.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, there was a lot, to use your (inaudible) policy. Is there areas where there’s less alignment with the UK and Europe in general where you’d like to see a lot more alignment? And do you agree with the foreign secretary when he says time is running out on the Middle East peace process?
And Foreign Secretary, did – in terms of is there areas where you’d like to see a bit more alignment when it comes to U.S. foreign policy and British foreign policy? Thanks.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would begin by saying I think if there were any closer alignment, we would worry about each other because we have worked so closely together during my time as Secretary of State and certainly during the last year plus with William, and the President and prime minister, I think, feel the same way. They consult frequently and in depth about a full range of issues. And I think on many important matters, we find ourselves very much in alignment, and then we work to bring other communities together to support our particular perspective. And to that end, we are always very pleased to work with the UK as a partner in the United Nations, to work to support their views in the European Union on issues like the recent sanctioning of Syrian officials, including Asad. So we are very closely connected and working well together.
With respect to the Middle East process, I think, as the President made clear in his speech last week, we do not think that the status quo is sustainable, and therefore, we want to see a return to negotiations and a seriousness of effort on both sides so that both parties recognize that negotiating an end to the conflict and the resulting outcome of two states is in each of their interests. And the United States will continue to urge that and make our own views very clear, as the President has done.
We recognize that the United States cannot, the UK cannot, the international community cannot impose a solution, a lasting solution, on the parties. Ultimately, they have to negotiate a sustainable peace agreement that responds to their particular needs. And I hope that we will see a return to the negotiating table. We’ve also made it clear that we do not support unilateral action or the Palestinians going to the United Nations in the fall. We think that is a very bad idea, since it will not result in a state with the kind of future that the Palestinian people deserve.
So we’re going to continue to speak out. And I think it’s critical that others, and certainly the UK has done that with its strong statement in support of what the President said, send a clear, unmistakable message to both the Palestinians and the Israelis: Now is the time. In this period of great upheaval, there is an opportunity to come to a successful outcome. There are, yes, many obstacles in the way – I mentioned a few of them – Hamas being one of them that we are particularly focused on. But it is now clear that there is no path forward other than through negotiations. So let’s get about the business of hammering out that two-state solution that prior presidents, prior Israeli prime ministers have worked on but never finally gotten to the finish line with successive leaders of the Palestinians. So I can’t stress strongly enough how importantly the United States sees this as a priority.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to add a little to that, I suppose it shows something when the differences between us are not so apparent that the question has to be asking us to identify them – (laughter) – for the benefit of the press. But it is true that at the moment the foreign policies of the United Kingdom and the United States are very closely aligned. We shouldn’t be afraid of differences when they arise, and I’m sure we won’t be.
But the President’s visit occurs at a time of strong agreement about these central challenges, about these immense events in the Middle East, the most important event of the 21st century so far in our view, and of the President’s speech last week, and what we’ve said in this country, what the prime minister and I have said, shows how similarly we view these things. And that is because in our daily work what we are doing is not coordinating the tactics of foreign policy; we are representing nations that have such strong shared values and that so often lead to the same overall strategy. And I think that will be very clear this week. So we haven’t gotten a list of all these differences to please you with.
A couple more questions.
QUESTION: James Robbins from the BBC. Madam Secretary, given this very close alignment between you, what is there left for the President and prime minister to talk about in London this week? (Laughter.) What, if you could will it, would be the most important, most useful decision they could make together?
And finally, on a point of detail perhaps, if the French are deploying attack helicopters to Libya, do you welcome that and how would it be useful? Would it be useful in getting closer to Colonel Qadhafi forces?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your first question, I’m not going to preempt the President and the prime minister. I will let them speak for themselves. But I think, as William just said, this visit comes at a particularly positive moment in our relations because of the close coordination and cooperation we have. It’s not only, as William said, because of our shared values and our historical relationship, but it’s also because we’re problem solvers. I mean, we like to see decisions made in the international community that will promote democracy, that will protect human rights, that will protect people from the scourge of terrorism, that will open up economic opportunities and markets. I mean, we have views based on what we see happening around the world as to what is more successful and what is not. And we will put forth those views. And they remarkably coincide because of our own experiences.
And with respect to any French offers to increase their contributions to the efforts in Libya to protect civilians, I’m sure that will be taken up through the NATO chain of command. But obviously, the French have been a very strong partner and a leader in these efforts, and we would welcome further commitments that they might make.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And while not commenting on – at the moment on any particular deployment, remember that the tactics of the Qadhafi regime in Libya have changed as the – over the weeks of this action. And so sometimes what we do in response, the assets we use in response, our own tactics in response, do also have to change.
While – on the broader question, while there are no fundamental differences, as you can gather, in foreign affairs and – that will be there for the talks between the President and the prime minister, there is a great deal to discuss, of course, in how we accomplish many of our shared objectives in the world, of how we promote reconciliation in Afghanistan, how we conduct relations with Pakistan – which Hillary was just addressing – how we make sure that the countries of the Middle East and North Africa can share with others the economic opportunities of the future, influencing their own behavior in a positive direction. So there is an enormous amount to discuss notwithstanding the strong level of agreement with which we begin this state visit.
And I think there’s just time for one more question. Carl.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Anna (inaudible) and I’m from the Croatia Daily. So my question is regarding Bosnia. I’m wondering how come it’s being discussed now, (inaudible), and whether now – this is being again, after the war. Do you have the impression that the international community has failed in setting a solution for Bosnia? Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, I don’t think the international community has failed, but it’s very important that the international community does not assume that everything was settled and can be left alone in the Western Balkans. This was just the problem of the 1990s. It’s something that we have to continue to work on. What was brought about in the 1990s in terms of the – of a settlement can slide back, and we have seen disturbing signs in Bosnia that it is sliding back.
It’s very, very important for the future stability and integrity of that country, for its aspirations, to join the European Union. And indeed, we want all of the Western Balkan states, including Croatia, to be able to – and Croatia is first in line – to be able to join the European Union. It’s very important for all of those things that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina are able to work together in a functioning state, with a functioning constitution, with politicians who work alongside each other. And so it’s – given the difficulties there, it is important we give renewed attention to the problems of that region. Those problems have been discussed in the European Foreign Affairs Council today, and we’ve discussed them today and on many other occasions. And I think it’s fair to say that in the coming weeks and months, the United Kingdom and the United States will be giving further increased attention to this region.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we believe that it’s imperative that we continue to work with the nations and the peoples of the Western Balkans. We don’t have a vote in the European Union. We’re strongly in support of Croatia’s membership. And we agree that we would like, eventually, to see other nations as well be admitted because it’s unfinished business in Europe. And we do not want to ignore any signs that could lead to division and potential conflict, so we’re going to stay very focused.
And we want to work with those leaders, not just in government but in other areas of life, who are looking at a different future, who are not mired in the past but can break loose and imagine a Bosnia-Herzegovina that is part of Europe, part of the transatlantic community. That’s what we would hope for the people and we’re going to continue to focus on what it will take to see that vision realized.
FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much indeed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. Thank you and good morning, and I apologize to all of you who are here with us in the State Department in the Ben Franklin Room and everyone who has joined us from the embassies that are represented on the screen. There’s a lot going in Washington right now, and I was unavoidably delayed.
But I could not have come in at a better time, as Andrea Mitchell, who has covered the State Department for a number of secretaries of state and through many different crises was pointing out how much the work of the State Department and USAID depends upon the support, the support of the Congress and the American public to do the work that we do in diplomacy and development. And this is an occasion that really highlights that, so thank you for joining us in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees.
I am delighted to be joined here by the Under Secretary Maria Otero, whose responsibilities include the work that Eric Schwartz as our assistant secretary for refugees and many other things carries out on a daily basis. I’ve had the opportunity to work with both Maria and Eric in the past, and I am just delighted that they are at the forefront of our efforts. And also to Alex Aleinikoff, the deputy high commissioner of the Office of the UN Commissioner for Refugees, thank you for being here.
And of course, you’ve already heard about our distinguished honoree Larry Hollingworth. I want to personally congratulate the honorees and their families and particularly to add my voice to the words that have already been said about each of you. Each of the honorees was born in a different time and a different place, yet each also came to understand that if he or she failed to help, others would suffer and even die. And without fanfare, and without ever expecting they would get an honor at the State Department in the year 2011, they stepped up and did what needed to be done.
Like Captain Mbaye Diagne, who lost his life while rescuing strangers from genocide. He was a Senegalese army officer deployed to Rwanda as a U.N. military observer. The peacekeepers, as we well remember, had been ordered not to protect civilians, but when the killing began, he could not stand by. He took people out of harm’s way. He saved 600 lives before he was killed by a stray mortar shell. Captain Diagne’s family joins us from our Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, and I would particularly like to welcome his widow, Yassine Mar Diop, his mother, Fatou Ndour, and his two children. Let us give another round of applause to this very brave man and the family that represents him. (Applause.)
Today also, tragically, marks the date that the genocide began in Rwanda 17 years ago. So on this day of remembrance, we turn to Kigali, Rwanda, where our second honoree, Josephine Dusabimana, joins via video link. And Josephine, we thank you. We thank you for being there with us.
Because when the killing began and terrified people began showing up at your door, you did not just take them in. You hid them in your bedroom. You found canoes for them to escape across a lake to the Congo. You saved five people in this way. Later, you took in a mother and a baby, but when soldiers burst into the house, they killed them right before your eyes. Even so, a few weeks later, Josephine once again rescued a child in harm’s way. Heroes such as Josephine have inspired Rwandans to build a different kind of society today. And Josephine, I salute and thank you for your example of such great courage and reconciliation. (Applause.)
Whenever we have an event like this at the State Department honoring people of such courage, I think it’s fair to say many of us wonder what would we have done. Would we have been there for those who were being hunted down, who were in harm’s way? Would we have reached out to help? Because in times of war and catastrophe, some people lose their moral bearings, but others find inside themselves a compass that steers a true course through fear and chaos. Larry Hollingworth is one of those people. And Larry, I understand you traveled from England to be with us today, and we thank you for being here so we can honor you in person.
In 1994, Larry headed the Sarajevo office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. His job was to negotiate humanitarian access to besieged towns. He led convoys of food trucks through combat lines and evacuated hundreds of women and children to safety, and he warned the world about the dangers of Srebrenica months before those massacres happened. Those who serve in war zones discover the hard realities of trying to deliver aid, extricate refugees, negotiate ceasefires, and protect civilians. Larry Hollingworth brought courage, political acumen, and moral clarity to a seemingly impossible situation. And we need more public servants like you, Larry. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Finally, I will turn to our Embassy in Sarajevo where I see our ambassador and where we are joined by Mina Jahic. Mina is Bosnian, and one day in 1994, she began to hear gunshots in the distance of people being executed. A bloody man stumbled out of the woods. He had been horribly beaten but had managed to escape. Mina’s neighbor turned the man away in fear, but Mina took him in and nursed him back to health. Over time, the neighbors were so inspired by Mina’s courage that they, too, helped him. Mina’s own son was executed, but the man she rescued, Ferid Spahic, lived, and he is there with Mina in Sarajevo today. Mina, we thank you, and we express great appreciation for the life you saved and for the lives of all those who were saved by people who had the courage that you showed. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Now, all of these courageous people have one thing in common: They did not view people in trouble as strangers, as the other; they viewed them as fellow human beings, and they were unable to stand by and let brutality and violence and atrocities unfold. Today, we reaffirm America’s commitment to the protection of refugees around the world. Our mission is unchanging. We intend to save lives and restore human dignity. But we could not do it just through the programs we run and through the excellent leadership we provide and even in cooperation with the UN and many other international organizations. It takes individuals who, day after day, stand up and speak out and, more importantly, act on behalf of those who are in jeopardy.
So we salute the courage and the dedication of all those whose moral compasses did not fail them, but instead compelled them, compelled them to help in this vital endeavor of standing up for the very best values that unite all of us regardless of geography or race, tribe or religion. There is a fundamental base of universal human rights, and we are each called to recognize and protect those, and some of us are asked to do so much more. So thank you. Thank you for joining us on this 60th anniversary. Take care. God bless you. (Applause.)