THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Briefing Room
3:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I have just spoken with Secretary Christopher and the rest of our negotiating team in New York, and I am pleased to announce another positive step on the path to peace in Bosnia. The Foreign Ministers of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia have endorsed a set of further agreed basic principles for an overall settlement to the war, building on the agreement they reached in Geneva on September 8th.
These principles spell out in greater detail the constitutional structures of the state of Bosnia, including the establishment of a national presidency, a parliament, and a constitutional court. They commit the parties to hold free and democratic elections under international supervision. And they further provide that a central government will be responsible for conducting Bosnia's foreign policy, as well as other key functions that are still being discussed.
The American people must realize that there are many difficult obstacles still to overcome along the path to peace. There is no guarantee of success. But today's step -- today's agreement -- moves us closer to the ultimate goal of a genuine peace and it makes clear that Bosnia will remain a single internationally recognized state. America will strongly oppose the partition of Bosnia, and America will continue working for peace.
We hope the progress we are making finally reflects the will of the parties to end this terrible war. We know it's a result of the international community's resolve, and a determined diplomacy on the part of our negotiating team and our European and Russian partners.
I have instructed our team to return to the Balkans on Thursday to press forward in the search for peace. If and when the parties reach a settlement, America should help to secure it. The path to a lasting peace in Bosnia remains long and difficult, but we are making progress, and we are determined to succeed.
As you know now, our team in New York will have a press conference and they will be able to answer your more detailed questions about the specifics of the agreement. Thank you.
Q What about your response to Senator Dole, Mr. President?
Q What else has to be decided?
Q What about that letter that Senator Dole sent you yesterday?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I intend to write him a response and to make it available. But remember, I have said since February of 1993 -- since February of 1993 -- constantly, for more than two and a half years now, that the United States should participate in implementing a peace agreement. We should not have ground troops on the ground, under the present U.N. mandate. We should not have ground troops on the ground in combat.
But the United States is the leader of NATO. No peace agreement could be fairly implemented without the involvement of NATO, and we cannot walk away from our responsibility to try to end this terrible conflict, not only for the people of Bosnia, but for what it means for ultimate peace throughout the Balkans, and the ultimate security of the United States and the ultimate avoiding of war and involvement by the United States. And that has been my position for two and a half years.
We have had several congressional consultations about it and, of course, as developments proceed here, if there is a peace and we have a good implementation agreement that I believe the United States should be a part of, I will, of course, extensively further consult with Congress.
But this has been my public position, well-known, and members of the press corps have asked me about it now for more than two and a half years. And it will continue to be my position, and I will continue to consult with Congress. Thank you.
END 3:54 P.M. EDT