Although the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina was "not without problems", it was proceeding "fairly well", High Representative Carl Bildt told the press at Headquarters on 1 May. Major challenges ahead included the local elections scheduled for September, the final stage of the Arbitration Tribunal for Brcko area, and long-term issues concerning international presence during 1998.
There was "no alternative to the Dayton Peace Agreement", and the international community would stand by it, Mr. Bildt stated. The Agreement would "not be amended, altered or tampered with", or would it be subject to partial interpretation. It would be fully implemented.
In years to come, the world community would have to act to "block three anti-Dayton options - the military, secessionist, and domination options", the High Representative said. Economic reforms, democratization, rebuilding institutions within the regional framework, regional economic relations and respect for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were "all very important", he added.
There had been only 17 months of peace and it was "naive to expect" that all the wounds created in some 42 months of war would have been healed in that time, Mr. Bildt observed. Nevertheless, if the country's political leaders and the international community were determined to follow the Dayton path, he was "fairly confident" the peace agreement could be made to work. "It will take a generation, but the process was on track", the High Representative declared.
On 28 April, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata told correspondents at Headquarters that only 25 per cent of 2.2 million refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina had been repatriated. Ethnic relocation was not a solution for a peaceful and multi-ethnic Bosnia unless relocation was voluntary, she stated.
UNTAES region: Formation of government bodies urged
The Security Council on 8 May, in welcoming the successful holding of the elections in the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium in Croatia, urged the "early formation of the newly elected bodies of local government", as well as prompt and full implementation of the November 1995 Basic Agreement.
Through a statement by its President, Park Soo Gil of the Republic of Korea, the Council also urged the implementation of the 13 January 1997 letter from the Government of Croatia, "including the establishment of the Joint Council of Municipalities and the appointment of local Serbs to the guaranteed positions in the parliamentary and administrative structures of Croatia". It underlined the Transitional Administrator's finding that "no intimidation, violence or electoral improprieties were observed or reported before, during or after the elections", held under the direction of the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES).
Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 29 April informed the Council that the local elections for 25 municipal and 3 city councils had been conducted simultaneously with elections throughout Croatia on 13 April. Regional elections were also held for two county assemblies, as were national elections for the Upper House. of the Croatian Parliament. Owing to technical difficulties, particularly the late delivery of electoral materials, voting inside the region was extended to 14 April, and to 15 April in one polling location.
Over 126,000 people voted, UNTAES Transitional Administrator Jacques Paul Klein reported on 22 April. Of those, over 70,000 voted inside the region at 193 polling stations and more than 56,000 persons displaced from the region cast absentee ballots in 75 polling locations elsewhere in Croatia. …