The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at the Bosnia Peace Agreement Signing Ceremony – 14 December 1995

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the Bosnia Peace Agreement Signing Ceremony, held at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday 14th December 1995.


I join others in thanking Jacques Chirac and the French Government for their hospitality.

This is a fitting place for the Signing Ceremony.

French forces, with those of the United Kingdom, have formed the backbone of the United Nations operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the past three years.

Our troops have worked together in the hazardous tasks of peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. And they have suffered losses together.

So it was especially heart-warming for us to see the release of your two brave pilots. Your firm stand was entirely vindicated.

Mr President, much of Central and Eastern Europe has moved successfully from authoritarian rule to democracy.

But of course such a profound change has produced areas of tension, instability and disorder. In the former Yugoslavia, sadly, it led to war.

The international community could not prevent that war from breaking out. But it has worked patiently for peace.

That peace has been won at a terrible price. One in twenty of the former inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been killed. Over a quarter of the population have had to flee from their homes – homes which are mostly now in ruins.

The conflict is over, but the job is only half done.

Ahead lies hope but not yet fulfilment.

Success will depend crucially on respect for the fundamental principles of this Agreement:

– maintaining Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single multi-ethnic state;
– providing for the safe return of refugees and turning away from the abomination of ethnic cleansing;
– ensuring that the human rights of all the people of Bosnia fully and equally respected;
– and bringing to justice those guilty of crimes against humanity.

The Agreement signed today places clear and detailed obligations upon each of the parties. In their own interests, they must respect and implement them scrupulously.

But the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be alone in carrying through this Peace Agreement.

From the time of the first London Conference in August 1992, the international community has made a huge commitment to them.

Successive teams of negotiators – Lord Carrington and Cyrus Vance, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, Carl Bildt, the United Nations and the Contact Group – did not spare themselves in laying the groundwork for the peace finally achieved.

Without a massive relief operation through UNPROFOR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other international and national agencies, the war’s dreadful toll would have been far higher.

We must now make no less massive a commitment to the implementation of peace. 13,000 British troops will join the implementation force of some 60,000 overall – the biggest land operation undertaken in half a century of NATO’s existence.

With the backing of the Peace Implementation Council set up last week, Carl Bildt will coordinate the vital task of re-establishing legitimate political structures and restoring normal civilian life.

And the groundwork is now being laid for economic reconstruction, as a joint effort between Europe, North America, other interested countries, and the people of Bosnia themselves under, the coordination of the World Bank,

It is now up to all of us – to the governments and peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and of Croatia, and to the external powers and international organisations – to turn ceasefire into peace, peace into a lasting settlement, and the countries of the former Yugoslavia into a stable and prosperous part of the European family.

It will not be easy.

But I profoundly believe it is possible.

We must turn that possibility into reality.

And today’s ceremony is an important landmark in that process.