[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book II)]
[October 31, 1995]
[Pages 1700-1703]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Balkan Peace Process and an Exchange With Reporters
October 31, 1995

    The President. Good morning. I have just met with Secretary 
Christopher and our Bosnia negotiating team, led by Ambassador 
Holbrooke. As you know, they are preparing to leave for Day-

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ton, Ohio, in just a few moments. There, the Presidents of Bosnia, 
Croatia, and Serbia will start direct negotiations which we hope will 
lead to a peaceful, lasting settlement in Bosnia.
    I want to repeat today what I told President Tudjman and President 
Izetbegovic when we met in New York last week. We have come to a 
defining moment in Bosnia. This is the best chance we've had for peace 
since the war began. It may be the last chance we have for a very long 
time. Only the parties to this terrible conflict can end it. The world 
now looks to them to turn the horror of war to the promise of peace. The 
United States and our partners, Russia, Germany, France, and the United 
Kingdom, must do everything in our power to support them. That is what I 
have just instructed Secretary Christopher and our team to do in the 
days ahead in Dayton. We will succeed only if America continues to lead.
    Already our military strength through NATO and our diplomatic 
determination have advanced the possibility of peace in Bosnia. We can't 
stop now. The responsibilities of leadership are real, but the benefits 
are greater. We see them all around the world, a reduced nuclear threat, 
democracy in Haiti, peace breaking out in the Middle East and in 
Northern Ireland. In Bosnia, as elsewhere, when the United States leads 
we can make progress. And if we don't, progress will be much more 
    Making peace in Bosnia is important to America. Making peace will 
end the terrible toll of this war, the innocent lives lost, the futures 
destroyed. For 4 years, the people of Bosnia have suffered the worst 
atrocities in Europe since World War II: mass executions, ethnic 
cleansing, concentration camps, rape and terror, starvation and disease. 
We continue to learn more and more even in the present days about the 
slaughters in Srebrenica.
    The only way to stop these horrors is to make peace. Making peace 
will prevent the war from spreading. So far, we have been able to 
contain this conflict to the former Yugoslavia. But the Balkans lie at 
the heart of Europe, next door to several of our key NATO allies and to 
some of the new, fragile European democracies. If the war there 
reignites, it could spread and spark a much larger conflict, the kind of 
conflict that has drawn Americans into two European wars in this 
century. We have to end the war in Bosnia and do it now.
    Making peace will advance our goal of a peaceful, democratic, and 
undivided Europe, a Europe at peace with extraordinary benefits to our 
long-term security and prosperity, a Europe at peace with partners to 
meet the challenges of the new century, challenges that affect us here 
at home like terrorism and drug trafficking, organized crime, and the 
spread of weapons of mass destruction. A peaceful, democratic, undivided 
Europe will be that kind of partner.
    In Dayton, our diplomats face a tremendous challenge. There is no 
guarantee they will succeed. America can help the parties negotiate a 
settlement, but we cannot impose a peace. In recent weeks, thanks to our 
mediation efforts, the parties to the war have made real progress. The 
parties have put into effect a Bosnia-wide cease-fire. They have agreed 
to the basic principles of a settlement. Bosnia will remain a single 
state comprised of two entities but, I repeat, a single state. There 
must be free elections and democratic institutions of government at the 
national and regional levels.
    Now, beyond this, many difficult issues remain to be resolved. These 
include the internal boundary between the Bosnia-Croat Federation and 
the Serb Republic, the status of Sarajevo, the practical steps that need 
to be taken to separate hostile forces, and the procedures for free 
elections. That's just a few of the difficult issues this team will have 
to confront beginning today.
    I urge the parties to negotiate seriously for the good of their own 
people. So much is riding on the success in Dayton, and the whole world 
is watching. If the parties do reach a settlement, NATO must help to 
secure it, and the United States, as NATO's leader, must participate in 
such an effort.
    Again I say, there is no substitute for American leadership. After 
so many years of violence and bloodshed, a credible international 
military presence in Bosnia is needed to give the parties confidence to 
live up to their own agreements and to give them time to begin the long, 
hard work of rebuilding and living together again. NATO is the one 
organization with the track record and the strength to implement a 
    And as I've said many times, the United States, the source of NATO's 
military strength, must participate. If we don't participate in the 
Implementation Force, our NATO partners, understandably, would 
reconsider their own com-

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mitments. We would undermine American leadership of the alliance. We 
would weaken the alliance itself. And the hard-won peace in Bosnia could 
be lost.
    American troops would not be deployed--I say this again--would not 
be deployed unless and until the parties reach a peace agreement. We 
must first have a peace agreement. And that is what I would urge the 
American people and the Members of Congress to focus on over the next 
few days. They would, if going into Bosnia, operate under NATO command, 
with clear rules of engagement and a clearly defined mission. They would 
not be asked to keep a peace that cannot be kept. But they would make 
sure we do our part in helping peace to hold.
    As the peace process moves forward I will continue to consult 
closely with Congress. If a peace agreement is reached I will request an 
expression of support in Congress for committing United States troops to 
a NATO implementation force. Our foreign policy works best when we work 
together. I want the widest possible support for peace.
    But now it would be premature to request an expression of support 
because we can't decide many of the details of implementation until an 
agreement is clearly shaped and defined. Let me stress again, we aren't 
there yet; there are still difficult obstacles ahead. The focus on 
Dayton must be on securing the peace. Without peace there will be 
nothing for us to secure.
    Earlier this month in New Jersey, I had the privilege of spending 
time with His Holiness Pope Paul--Pope John Paul II. At the end of our 
meeting, the Pope said something to me I would like to repeat. He said, 
``You know, I am not a young man. I have lived through most of this 
century. This century began with a war in Sarajevo. Mr. President, you 
must not let it end with a war in Sarajevo.''
    All of us must do our part to hear the Pope's plea. Our conscience 
as a nation devoted to freedom and tolerance demands it. Our conscience 
as a nation that wants to end this mindless slaughter demands it. Our 
enduring interest in the security and stability of Europe demand it. 
This is our challenge. And I'm determined to do everything I can to see 
that America meets that challenge.
    Thank you.
    Q. Mr. President, what is the effect of the House resolution on 
these talks? And do you feel hemmed in by them?
    The President. No. No, I wouldn't expect it to have any effect on 
the talks. I think we have to get the peace agreement first. I expect to 
consult intensively with the leaders of Congress, beginning--I believe 
tomorrow the congressional leadership is coming in, and I expect to talk 
to them about Bosnia in detail and then to keep working with the 
congressional leadership and with Members of Congress who are interested 
in this right along, all the way through the process. And I expect them 
to say that they want to ask questions and to have them answered before 
they would agree to the policy that I will embark on.
    Q. Mr. President, looking back at the advice that General Colin 
Powell gave you on Bosnia when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, was that bad advice, his reluctance to use air power to force the 
parties into negotiations?
    The President. Let me tell you, today we're starting a peace 
process. And we have done things that have brought us to this point. I 
believe we have done the right things. But I think the American people 
should be focused on peace and on the process and the work before us.

Debt Limit Legislation

    Q. Mr. President, are you going to make peace with the Republicans 
tomorrow and strike some sort of debt extension agreement?
    The President. Well, I look forward to having the opportunity to 
discuss that with them. I know Senator Dole and Leon Panetta have had a 
brief conversation about it. I know that a lot of others are contacting 
the Congress about it. So we'll have a chance to talk about that 
tomorrow as well.
    Q. Are you willing to accept a short-term, through November 29th, as 
has been suggested, extension?
    The President. I think any responsible extension is a move forward. 
I think the main thing is we want to send a message to the world and to 
our own financial markets and to our own people that America honors its 
commitments, that we are not going to see the first example in the 
history of the Republic where we don't pay our bills.
    Thank you very much.
    Q. Mr. President, have you been briefed on the Aldrich Ames damage 

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Canadian Referendum

    Q. Are you happy about Canada?
    The President. Yes.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the 
White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Franjo Tudjman of 
Croatia and President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.