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World: Dayton Accords Echo In Other Peacemaking Efforts Worldwide

  • Charles Recknagel --> The Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian presidents sign the Dayton Agreement on 14 December 1995 (AFP) Ten years ago on 21 November, the then presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia agreed on a U.S.-sponsored plan to end the war in Bosnia. But the Dayton Agreement, which was signed in Paris three weeks later, on 14 December, not only laid the foundation for peace in Bosnia; it also established a strategy for peacemaking that since has been echoed in many other conflicts -- from Kosovo to Afghanistan. How well have the so-called Dayton accords worked in Bosnia, and what do they offer as a way for other countries to resolve conflicts? (Click here --> /featuresarticle/2005/11/937e2782-b138-4549-aa4d-fee5b5d60765.html for more on the Dayton Agreement.)

Prague, 18 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Dayton Agreement -- sometimes called the Dayton accords -- ended a war in Bosnia that had raged for more than three years.

In that war, Bosnian Serb forces, backed by Belgrade, took control of some 70 percent of the country, driving hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims from their homes. The fighting killed 200,000 people and created some 2 million refugees, many of whom fled to other parts of Europe.

Julian Lindley-French of the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland says that Dayton offered a two-phased approach to resolving the Bosnia conflict.

"It recognizes that conflicts of this variety have a short-term and a longer-term component," Lindley-French says. "The short-term is simply to end the hostilities and to end the threat with the threat of credible external coercion. But in the longer term, what it said was, 'Look, we are here, we are here to stay, and we are going to invest in you, and we are going to invest in you to help you reach a regional political settlement in which all parties who have influence or interest in this conflict feel that there is something to invest in.' That was the very strong message of Dayton 10 years ago."

Useful Blueprint

Analysts say two of the hallmarks of the Dayton approach were using a powerful military coalition to secure the peace and appointing of an international representative to guide the state-building process.

Carne Ross, head of Independent Diplomat, a London-based consulting group, says the Dayton principle of using a multinational force to stabilize Bosnia has since proved useful elsewhere. "This is something we have seen in Kosovo, to some extent in Afghanistan, and also in a different way in Iraq," he says.

Ross says the strategy of appointing an international representative to guide state-building also has been repeated.

"Another element of the Dayton settlement which to an extent has been replicated elsewhere is this idea of a senior international figure as almost the international proconsul, the ultimate force of sovereignty and authority of the international community in a post-conflict situation," Ross says.

In Kosovo, the UN-appointed representative has sovereign powers as the UN leads efforts to negotiate the province's final status. In Afghanistan, however, the UN gave its representative only an advisory role to the government. That was in recognition of Afghanistan's long existence as an independent state.

...But Not Universally

But some other elements of the Dayton model have not proved widely transferable.

One is its separation of Bosnia into ethnic-based entities with largely autonomous powers. Post Dayton-Bosnia is composed of a federation of Bosnian Muslims and Croats that controls 51 percent of the territory, and a Serbian Republic (Republika Srpska), which controls the remainder.

Ross says this strategy of peace building through "territorial separation" has proved controversial. While it stabilized the country, it also formalized divisions.

"The territorial separation that underpins the Dayton Agreement is not something that many people, in Bosnia or elsewhere, have seen as the most successful element of Dayton," Ross says. "And in fact the international community and the high representative [to Bosnia] to an extent have been trying to overcome the difficulties that territorial separation has created."

Could the Dayton model hold promise for other conflicts that still remain to be resolved -- such as those in Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia?

Many Western analysts say not. They argue that the world is unlikely to see another Dayton-style intervention anywhere so long as events in Iraq absorb so many of the resources of the United States and Britain -- the two states that have most championed the Dayton approach.

Western powers now would have difficulty deploying the large numbers of troops and police needed to stabilize a conflict area. The United States and Britain already have sent a big percentage of their total deployable forces to Iraq, and many European states have troops in the Balkans or Afghanistan.

Moscow Matters

But Lindley-French says there are other reasons, too, why the Dayton approach is not likely to be attempted in post-Soviet states. One is Russia.

"Moscow still tends to regard countries like Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia as its 'near abroad' and consequently the Western powers are sensitive to the presence of their troops, their administrators in conflicts without first seeking a partnership with Russia," Lindley-French says.

Lindley-French notes that Moscow cooperated with the West over Bosnia. But he says the Kremlin still regards the Caucasus as part of its sphere of influence. And that would make NATO very cautious about forcefully intervening there.

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