The presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, former enemies in the 1990s Balkan wars, have signed a declaration pledging more support in the search for the missing from those conflicts.

The declaration, signed on the eve of the International Day of Disappeared, aims to "define the role of states in accounting for the missing from conflict and human rights abuses," it said.

Some 40,000 people were registered missing due to the inter-ethnic wars in the Balkans that pitted the former Yugoslav republics against each other.

Over 70% of them have been accounted for, according to the International Commission on Missing Persons, which hosted the event.

"The countries of this region have demonstrated the increasingly significant ability of States to assume ownership for the process of accounting for large numbers of missing persons, both through their domestic institutions and through specialised international mechanisms, such as the ICMP," said its chairman Thomas Miller.

The ICMP said it would encourage other countries to sign the declaration, "both in the western Balkans and in other parts of the world."

ICMP was established in 1996 to support the so-called Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war in Bosnia the year before.

Bosnia's inter-ethnic war between 1992 and 1995 claimed some 100,000 lives and it is estimated that around 7,800 people are still considered missing.

A further 2,200 people in Croatia have still been unaccounted for.