Brigadier General William J. Edwards took over the duty of NATO HQ Sarajevo Commander on Thursday in a ceremony at the Army Hall in Sarajevo. The newly appointed commander said NATO's goal in Bosnia was to resume the partnership towards a safe and stable environment.
The duty was handed over by now outgoing Brigadier General Marti J. Bissell.
Speaking at the ceremony, Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Naples James Foggo said the Alliance was permanently devoted to Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalling that this dates back to the first deployment of 60,000 multi-national troops to Bosnia in December 1995.
The mission has since then been focused on the implementation of military aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement, a treaty which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
“NATO HQ Sarajevo was crucial in providing support to the reform of defence and security sectors,” Foggo was quoted as saying.
“NATO HQ Sarajevo has been helping Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past 15 years to create a better future and will continue doing so in the future – we are devoted to stable, safe Bosnia and Herzegovina, today and tomorrow.”
Edwards will head the NATO HQ for a one-year period. He thanked his predecessor for leadership and tutelage over the past few weeks.
“I would like to thank everyone for the welcome. I look forward to building our mutual relations and hope to establish and have an open dialogue with all of you. And, I promise to show the very same devotion that General Bissell and you in Bosnia and Herzegovina showed,” the new commander was quoted as saying. He added:
“There is a saying: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together'. As Admiral Foggo emphasised, NATO HQ Sarajevo has been providing support to Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past 15 years. It is our goal to continue the partnership in order to secure a more safe and more stable state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I expect your help in that.”
Outgoing NATO HQ commander, Bissell, said this term was an opportunity for her to learn a lot about Bosnia and the region.
In order to move on, Bosnia has to get rid of the past, she said.
“Every country in the world faced conflict and loss of people. NATO was established with one reason, to secure peace, promote cooperation and protect freedom. Not to promote conflict but to prevent it,” she said, adding: “Accession to NATO is a matter of choice and not a request. A country is the one deciding on that, and NATO respects the sovereignty of every country and its right to decide on its future. Now as I'm leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina, I believe more and more that every citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina wants the same – peace, prosperity, freedom of choice, freedom to vote and live in the country where their family will be safe and protected.”