Statement by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the 20th Anniversary of the Signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, November 21, 2015
Twenty years ago today, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and his remarkable team of negotiators secured agreement on an accord to end the Bosnian war, which had lasted nearly four years, claimed well over 100,000 lives, displaced millions, and fueled atrocities that horrified the world. I had been a correspondent in the Balkans and had seen the carnage that resulted from acute political polarization, violent nationalism, and reckless leadership that put personal gain over the welfare of what had been a peaceful, multiethnic country. Before the Dayton talks commenced, few would have predicted a diplomatic breakthrough, but two decades after the agreement was forged, the Dayton Accords stand as a testament to the truth that no conflict is too intractable and no violence too gruesome for peace to triumph over war. We would do well to remember how quickly war fever can be tamed and fortunes can turn when we are tempted to despair over today’s conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic, or South Sudan. Political will, backed by a unified international effort, can make the impossible suddenly seem possible.
Yet, even as we applaud the 20 years of calm since Dayton, we know the work of building a modern Bosnia and Herzegovina whole and at peace is not yet finished. In recent months, escalating and divisive rhetoric has made plain the need for continued vigilance. Russia’s veto in July this year of a UN Security Council resolution condemning the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide testifies to the disturbing denial that exists even regarding facts that have long been established by independent courts of law. More recently, the Republika Srpska National Assembly’s passage of a referendum law directly challenging the Office of the High Representative and state-level institutions is deeply troubling, and it threatens to undermine the hard earned peace.
Two decades ago, many – including me – doubted that peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina could last. Among the doubters were those who signed the Accords themselves. Fortunately, the will for peace among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be repressed. Though significant challenges still remain in creating conditions for enduring reconciliation, the United States will continue to support the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in their struggle to build a strong, democratic, and European country. We call on all leaders in the region to match us in this goal and build on the foundation of Dayton to give their people a chance for a prosperous and stable future.
Source: U.S Department of State
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