The Dayton Peace Accords

Dayton Peace Accords

There were over 30 ceasefires and agreements in Bosnia prior to the Dayton Peace Accords. All of which collapsed. The war had become the worst in Europe since 1945 by the time the delegations arrived in Dayton in 1995. On 30th August, Operation Deliberate Force, the largest NATO combat action ever conducted and the first combat operation in NATO history, set the stage for the eventual death of Yugoslavia.

Pressure from the bombings brought the Bosnian Serbs to the negotiating table. NATO airstrikes made diplomacy easier, just as earlier reluctance to use force had made diplomatic success impossible. The alliance was now united, President Clinton was committed and the obstacles to using force overcome.

Shuttle diplomacy is the action of an outside party serving as an intermediary in between or among principles in a dispute without direct principle to the principle contact. The process involves excessive traveling or ‘shuffling’ by the intermediary from the working location from one principle of that of another.

President Clinton assembled a US negotiations team headed by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. The team began negotiations in The Balkans. 9 delegations arrived in Dayton, U.S on 31st October 1995;

USA: Warren Christopher & Richard Holbrooke

European Union: Carl Bildt

Russian Federation: Igor Ivanov

Germany: Wolfgang Ischinger

France: Jacques Blot

United Kingdom: Pauline Neville Jones

Serbia: Bosnian Serbs: Slobodan Milosevic

Izetbegovic had already agreed to share half his country with the Croats and therefore the rest would go to the Serbs. Yet by day 16 of the negotiations, they had failed to move forward. The Bosnians wanted security for Gorazde, the only remaining Muslim enclave in eastern Bosnia, by linking it to the rest of the Bosnian territory. It was agreed that NATO would build a road linking Gorazde to Sarajevo. Leaving Milosevic to negotiate with the American’s as to how much land he would give up to build the road. They had to find a corridor through the mountains to find a suitable road. However, this took the Bosnians to over their 51% share of territory, leaving more negotiations necessary for the Serbs to accept the deal.

The Bosnians wouldn’t be satisfied until they had control over all of Sarajevo. The Bosnian Serbs wanted to have control of the local councils in the Serb areas as well as control over the police. Milosevic agreed to give Sarajevo to the Bosnians in return for Brcko, a town where the Serb Republic could be severed in two and a place where new Serb aggression could be prevented in the future. The Bosnians refused unless international arbitration could be offered. Eventually the Bosnians agreed to give up territory that Croat forces had taken from Serbs during the fighting. The Croats would not agree unless the Bosnians also gave up some of their claimed land. With only hours to go before the end of the agreed 17 days, Milosevic and Tudjman threatened to sign a peace deal without Izetbegovic. In the last hour, Milosevic agreed for the town of Brcko to be put under international arbitration and to be concluded in a year.

The Americans had succeeded in political negotiations for peace where all else had failed. On the 21st November 1995 they addressed their nations to announce their peace deal.

The General Framework Agreement was formally signed in Paris on 14th December 1995, signed by the parties and witnessed by President Clinton, President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister John Major, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. The agreement called for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to respect the sovereign equality of one another and to commit to settle disagreements by peaceful means. This also included to respect human rights and the rights of refugees and displaced persons.

The Dayton Peace Accords divide the country along ethnic lines: Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The conditions for this type of diplomacy must be right for success. Everyone was ‘locked-up’ until agreement can be reached, creating an all or nothing environment that came without a safety net or back up plan. Goals needed to be clearly defined. Yet dramatic results can be achieved if the conditions are right. In the end, the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia agreed to end a war. Bosnia would be preserved and unified as an independent state, NATO would enforce the peace and an international civilian administration would assist in rebuilding the government and the economy. The Dayton Accords had set ambitious goals for holding elections, returning refugees and uniting the country.

The NATO led peace implementation force, IFOR, arrived in Bosnia on 20th December 1995. Under the code name Operation Joint Endeavor, 60 000 troops were entrusted to implement the military aspects of the peace agreement. The Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina, subdivided into 10 cantons, Repulbika Srpska and the Brcko district, a multi-ethnic self-governing district, formerly part of both entities. Whilst the peace accords successfully achieved their purpose of putting an end to the fighting, they also froze the ethnic divisions in place and bequeathed a complex system of governance, making governance difficult.

To date, peace has remained since the signing of the Accords. It endures that the agreement stands as the constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina and is the basis for the political divisions and the structure of the government. Significantly, the agreement has also been influential in laying the groundwork for NATO military action in Kosovo in 1999, which eventually led to its independence.

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