What's In Blue

Posted Mon 23 Nov 2020

Arria-formula Meeting Commemorating the Dayton Peace Agreement

Tomorrow (24 November), Council members will participate in a virtual Arria-formula meeting, organised by Russia, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The meeting is expected to begin at 2 pm EST and is likely to be broadcast on UN WebTV.

The GFAP, also known as the Dayton Peace Agreement, ended the war in BiH in 1995. It preserved the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina and divided the country into two entities—Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The agreement also created a High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina who reports to the Security Council on a semi-annual basis on implementation of the agreement.

Russia has circulated a concept note in advance of the meeting that proposes a series of questions to help guide the discussion. These include:

  • What factors affect normalisation of relations between the three constituent peoples of BiH?
  • What political and practical measures could be taken in order to help reduce mistrust among the constituent peoples and states in the region?
  • What can the international community, including the Security Council, do to support the full implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement?
  • What can be done to facilitate the transfer of responsibilities for the development of the country to the three constituent peoples of BiH?

Council members largely share concerns over BiH’s divisive ethnic politics, although there are divergent views on the situation on the ground. Most members are critical of the RS leaders’ rhetoric, which they view as challenging BiH’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia, however, tends to be more supportive of the positions of the RS leadership and is critical of the High Representative, contending that his reporting is not objective. During the 5 November Council meeting, Russia reiterated its view that the situation in BiH does not pose a threat to international peace and security and said that it was time to consider closing the Office of the High Representative. Divisions over BiH’s “Euro-Atlantic” integration, and those related to a possible future accession to NATO in particular, between the US and the Council’s European members on one side and Russia on the other, have also been a factor in Council dynamics in recent years.

Difficult dynamics on BiH have spilled over into discussions of the briefers and participants for tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting. Russia originally proposed three briefers: Republika Srpska politician Milorad Dodik, head of the Alliance for Independent Social Democrats and one of three members of the rotating tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Dragan Čović, a former member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the head of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Bosniak politician Bakir Izetbegović, also a former member of the tripartite presidency and the head of the Party of Democratic Action. The Council’s European members and the US would have preferred as briefers all three current members of the rotating tripartite presidency of BiH. They also wanted High Representative Valentin Inzko to participate in the meeting.

At the time of writing, it appears that an agreement was reached on the briefers. Dodik, Čović and High Representative Inzko are expected to brief. Inzko has been particularly critical of Dodik. In his latest report, the High Representative accused Dodik of continuing “to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, disregarding State-level competences and undermining key State-level institutions”.

During the 5 November meeting, the Council adopted unanimously resolution 2549 renewing the authorisation of the EU-led multinational stabilisation force (EUFOR ALTHEA). The annual decision to re-authorise EUFOR ALTHEA has not itself been controversial. However, difficulties have arisen on other aspects of the resolution in the past, with Russia objecting to the inclusion of certain language in relation to the High Representative and reference to “Euro-Atlantic” integration.