December 20

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 20, 1995:

NATO assumes peacekeeping duties in Bosnia

During a brief military ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, French General Bernard Janvier, head of the United Nations peacekeeping force, formally transfers military authority in Bosnia to U.S. Admiral Leighton Smith, commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Southern Europe.

The solemn ceremony cleared the path for the deployment of 60,000 NATO troops to enforce the Dayton Peace Accords, signed in Paris by the leaders of the former Yugoslavia on December 14. The U.S.-backed peace plan was proposed during talks in Dayton, Ohio, earlier in the year and was reluctantly accepted by the last of the belligerent parties in November, ending four years of bloody conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which cost more than 200,000 lives.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission to Bosnia began in early 1992, shortly after the war erupted over efforts by the Bosnian Serbs to achieve independence from Bosnia-Herzegovina and unite with Serbia. Although the U.N. force was crucial in distributing humanitarian aid to the impoverished population of Bosnia, it was unable to stop the fighting. Approximately 25,000 U.N. peacekeepers served in Bosnia over three and a half years, and during that time 110 of those were killed, 831 wounded, and hundreds taken hostage.

The NATO force, with its strong U.S. support and focused aim of enforcing the Dayton agreement, was more successful in bringing stability to the war-torn region.

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