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M. Ivanić: Address to Peace Summit 2023, Session VI-A: Europe and the Middle East

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it really is a privilege to be here and speak. I am very thankful to the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and the Podgorica Club for this opportunity. Former presidents have a lot of disadvantages because they are not as significant as they were when they were president, but they have one big advantage: they can finally speak honestly without thinking if they will be re-elected or not.

On the subject of this session, we now have what is going on in Europe, southeastern Europe. Nobody can find an answer without mentioning the war in Ukraine and where we are now. If you use the word peace when speaking about Ukraine, a lot of people will say that person is pro-Russian. So, peace is almost a forbidden word in the current situation. To be very clear, what Russia did is completely unacceptable. It is against any logic of the international order, but that does not mean that we cannot speak about peace, even now in Ukraine.

This is a big, big challenge. Why? It reminds me of the situation we had in Bosnia Herzegovina before the war. Before the war, if someone spoke about the peace compromise, he was viewed as a traitor of his own people. Everybody believed we could win, achieve our main goals and be the winners. So, whoever was for the compromise was against my people, my group. I was among a very rare group of people who said we need peace. At that time, however, it did not work. Four years later, after at least 100,000 people were killed, a few hundred were wounded and half of the entire population was displaced, we finally sat down and reached an agreement which was more or less the same as the one that was on the table at the beginning of the war.

In these wars there are no winners. I cannot remember any big war where there was a winner. I hope that we will not face that kind of war in this time. If that approach is applied in Ukraine, it could mean that they will sit at the table after 5 million people have been killed. If I compare the population of Bosnia with the number of victims, and if I compare the population in Ukraine and the potential number of victims, they will only sit down after 5 million people have been killed.

This does not mean we will accept reality and aggression, but it is simply to prevent people dying every day. Even as long as we speak, at least hundreds, if not thousands of fathers, brothers and sons will be killed there. I think these messages are very significant. It is easy to talk about principles while in a nice place without thinking about what is really going on in the field there. I hope that you will not misunderstand me. As I said, there are other tools that you can send to the part which is responsible for everything, and I think Russia especially is, but that does not mean that you cannot speak about peace along the way. Let us start to do that. We will never accept what they did, but let us start to do that.

Another very significant lesson that was learned in the Western Balkans, especially among the big powers, was to stick to the principles, applying them in every case and not finding an excuse not to do so because a different approach could be misused in the future by one or more sides. I will stop here in order to give the other members a chance to speak.

Thank you very much.

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