On May 13, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Thomas Masiello and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Minister of Defense Selmo Cikotic, signed a Joint Statement in which both countries pledge to destroy 67 thousand excess small arms and 20 thousand tons of surplus conventional ammunition and explosive ordnance. The process is expected to take several years.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has made some progress on reforms in the past year, particularly in its commitment to destroy its surplus and outdated military stockpiles, in an effort to become eligible for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
In April, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed to grant Bosnia and Herzegovina participation in a NATO Membership Action Plan, or MAP, but made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to make additional progress in order to advance in MAP.
MAP is a multi-stage process of political dialogue and reform across political, economic, judicial, and defense sectors aimed at bringing a candidate country in line with NATO standards, which helps it advance its aspirations of membership in the Alliance.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, the proliferation of illicit conventional weapons in regions of the world suffering from political instability and violent conflict is a major obstacle to peace, economic development, and efforts to rebuild war-torn societies. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed and tens of thousands more displaced by ethnic and civil conflicts facilitated in large part by easy access to illicit conventional weapons.
In other words, where there are plentiful, easy-to obtain weapons, strife will reign.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's excessive stockpiles date back to conflicts waged in the Balkans during the early and mid 1990s. And while it would have been prudent to get rid of this mountain of arms soon after the wars ended in 1995, the destruction of weaponry is a difficult and sensitive proposition -- which is why the U.S. responded to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s request for assistance.
The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction. Since 1993, the United States has promoted peace and security through more than 1.5 billion dollars in 47 countries spent for removal of landmines and other explosive remnants of war, as well as the safe disposal of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition. Now, we commit ourselves to supporting the effort and commitment enacted by the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The United States congratulates Bosnia and Herzegovina on its commitment to safely dispose of excess weaponry as a step toward enhanced regional security.