Browse through our Interesting Nodes on Greek Foreign Affairs A)? GHT="50">
Compact version
Today's Suggestion
Read The "Macedonian Question" (by Maria Nystazopoulou-Pelekidou)
HomeAbout HR-NetNewsWeb SitesDocumentsOnline HelpUsage InformationContact us
Thursday, 22 October 2020
  Latest News (All)
     From Greece
     From Cyprus
     From Europe
     From Balkans
     From Turkey
     From USA
  World Press
  News Archives
Web Sites
  Interesting Nodes
  Special Topics
  Treaties, Conventions
  U.S. Agencies
  Cyprus Problem
  Personal NewsPaper
  Greek Fonts

OMRI Pursuing Balkan Peace, No. 32, 96-08-13

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <>

Pursuing Balkan Peace
No. 32, 13 August 1996




    Once again the international community has relearned an oft-forgotten lesson from the wars of the Yugoslav succession: firmness backed by force brings compliance, while cajoling, deal-making, and waffling are interpreted as weakness and invite more trouble in the future. In the latest instance, the Bosnian Serbs had continued their long-standing policy of displaying inat, or spiteful defiance, in a constant test of NATO's patience and the limits of the possible. On 10 August they blocked IFOR inspectors from seeing what they wanted to at Gen. Ratko Mladic's mountain stronghold at Han Pijesak in what NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana called "the most serious violation of the Dayton accord" to date. But this time IFOR responded with resolution, the Serbs buckled under, and the inspection went ahead.

    Previously, NATO had been at pains to stress that all parties were basically complying with the military aspects of the Dayton agreement. It appears, however, that this was not the case (see below), but that few of the violations managed to attract media attention or force the Atlantic alliance into high-profile action. The incident on 10 August proved to be a rather different matter and prompted IFOR to show an unusual degree of resolve.

    First, on 11 August NATO opened talks with the Serbs but also took the unprecedented step of pulling its liaison officers out of Pale. Then on 12 August, NATO activated Operation Fear Naught, which placed its own forces in the Republika Srpska (RS) on a higher state of alert, consolidated them in more readily defensible positions, and effectively ordered civilian aid workers to leave. This was a preventive measure against Serb attacks or hostage-taking, but could also be interpreted as setting the stage for NATO military moves against Mladic's forces.

    This point was quickly grasped in Pale, where IFOR was already talking to the Serbs. That same afternoon Solana and NATO's commander in Europe, Gen. George Joulwan, met with RS acting president Biljana Plavsic and other Serb officials, who then said that the inspection at Han Pijesak could go ahead. Plavsic called the whole matter "a small misunderstanding." On 13 August IFOR commander Gen. Sir Michael Walker flew his helicopter from Sarajevo to Pale to collect Plavsic en route to Han Pijesak to ensure that all went smoothly. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, a man not known for bellicose behavior, warned: "IFOR will carry out its responsibilities. It has the determination to do so."

    Whether this latest show of resolve will set a new pattern or prove to be an isolated occurrence remains to be seen. The lesson of firmness had been largely forgotten in major capitals since 1995, when NATO firepower and an allied Croat-Muslim offensive forced the Serbs to stop a hostage-taking spree and other displays of inat and come to the conference table. The result was the Dayton agreement. Now the most serious threat to that treaty is not so much the goings-on at Han Pijesak, but the attempts by nationalists on all three sides to manipulate the 14 September elections. The nationalists in the three ruling parties want to ensure the establishment of three "ethnically pure" states in place of one, multi-ethnic Bosnia-Herzegovina. The question is: might the lesson relearned these past few days be applied to save the civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement, or is Bosnia already condemned to partition? -- Patrick Moore


    And one place where the trend toward a division along ethnic lines can be best observed is Mostar, the largest city in Herzegovina, now divided between Croats and Muslims. The administrative deadlock was officially resolved on 6 August, when the Croats agreed to stop boycotting the city council elected in the 30 June local elections. The deal averted a prolonged political standoff that would have boded ill for the Bosnia-wide elections slated for next month. However, nothing has changed in terms of concrete actions. Moreover, bearing in mind the latest statements by both Croat and Muslim officials, tensions are instead on the rise.

    After several days of EU-mediated marathon talks, the two sides agreed to form a city government based on the election returns, but taking Croat complaints of voting irregularities to the Bosnian Federation constitutional court. Originally it was agreed that the first session of the joint assembly be held on 8 August, but then it was delayed. The EU on 9 August announced that the council will meet on 14 August to elect a new mayor and deputy mayor. Taking into account that the governor of the Neretva Canton will be a Muslim, the mayor will be a Croat. Muslims and Croats also agreed to accept Joint Action, the EU plan on the transfer of responsibilities from the EU administrator to the local mayor and deputy mayor.

    The agreement was signed by Mayor Mijo Brajkovic of Croat-held west Mostar and Mayor Safet Orucevic of Muslim-held east Mostar after several days of negotiations extending well beyond an EU 4 August deadline. The EU had threatened to withdraw from Mostar by that date unless the Croats accepted the election returns. The intensive pressure on Croats to stop boycotting the city council started on 31 July with arrival of the U.S. envoy for Bosnia, John Kornblum. He was also the first to announce the abolition of the Croat para- state of Herceg-Bosna. But although even Croatian President Franjo Tudjman promised his American counterpart Bill Clinton that Herceg-Bosna will be dismantled by 8 August, Kornblum failed to win a commitment by Muslim and Croat allies to launch the federation by that date. (It might be noted that there have been numerous agreements since 1994 calling for the end of Herceg- Bosna and the implementing of the federation.)

    Meanwhile, during his official visit to the U.S. on 2 August, Tudjman assured Clinton that the Croats would cooperate with the Muslims in Mostar and respect the local election results. At the same time, the ruling Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) held its congress in the seaside resort of Neum. Brajkovic said, however, that all the Croats' demands were justified and supported by Tudjman himself.

    In long negotiations that followed, the Croats repeatedly refused to accept the EU proposal on a joint administration. They insisted on the city council being a "provisional body" until their concerns were dealt with. But Sir Martin Garrod, the EU administrator for Mostar, said that was unacceptable. Finally, on 6 August an agreement was reached that was basically the EU original proposal.

    One may suspect that the local Croats realized that their time-tested obstructionist tactics were not going to work and that they had no choice but to accept the EU initiative. They nonetheless failed to get an agreement with the Muslims on 8 August on the dissolution of Herceg-Bosna. Ethnic Muslim Bosnian senior officials, such as Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic and federal Vice President Ejup Ganic, said the Croats had presented new conditions for abolishing Herceg-Bosna instead of simply doing so outright. But federal President Kresimir Zubak -- a Croat from the Doboj region -- accused the Muslims of preventing the functioning of the federation by not transferring authority from the republic to it, as the Croats want as a precondition for consigning Herceg-Bosna to history.

    Kornblum then visited Croatia on 10 August to press Tudjman once again to ensure that the Bosnian Croats will abide by the Dayton peace accords. But in Mostar, the chief Bosnian Croat negotiator and the president of the HDZ in that city, Mile Puljic, complained to Garrod that the council's Muslim president, Hamdija Jahic, has not consulted his side over the date and agenda of the meeting. In addition, Bozo Raic, the head of the Bosnian branch of the HDZ, lashed out at Garrod for saying that new local elections will not be repeated in Mostar in September although they will take place in all other towns and cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    Returning to the subject of the Serbs and their testing the limits of the possible, an OSCE spokesman on 8 August expressed concern about officials' statements asserting that the RS has the sovereignty of an independent state, international agencies reported. Plavsic said repeatedly during her preelection campaign that the September elections would "legalize the sovereignty" of the RS, Reuters reported. The OSCE pointed out that Dayton specifies that "Bosnia-Herzegovina shall consist of the two entities, the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska." Meanwhile, UN special envoy to Bosnia Iqbal Riza discussed security arrangements for the elections with the RS foreign minister and new leader of the governing Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), Aleksa Buha. Buha was concerned over possible incidents if a large number of voters crossed from one entity to the other, AFP reported on 8 August. -- Daria Sito Sucic


    Elsewhere, the OSCE's supervisor of the elections, Robert Frowick, told Buha that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic must remain out of politics. Frowick said that frequent references to Karadzic by SDS speakers at rallies, his appearance in party advertisements, and the display of Karadzic posters at SDS meetings and on private homes is a violation of the spirit of last month's agreement. According to that deal Karadzic left the political scene and the SDS was allowed to take part in the elections. Onasa on 6 August quoted Frowick as telling Buha the previous day that the OSCE will not take any action against the SDS for now but will "press [the party] to get it right." The two men agreed that nothing can be done about posters on private homes but that the SDS can control the other problems. -- Patrick Moore


    But the issue of Karadzic does not stop there. The UN's top body on 8 August approved a non-binding resolution demanding that all sides cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, the BBC reported. The text added that "the council is ready to consider the application of economic enforcement measures to ensure compliance by all parties with the obligations under the peace agreement," Reuters noted. The latest resolution singles out the Bosnian Serbs' failure to hand over Karadzic and Mladic. Earlier sanctions hit Belgrade and Pale hard and helped bring the Serbs to the peace talks in Dayton last year. -- Patrick Moore


    Returning to the subject of IFOR and its dealings with those given to inat, relations between the peacekeepers and the local armies are strained and in decline. The compliance of all the ethnically organized forces with the guidelines is not as complete as those charged with overseeing the military part of the agreement have insisted (see above). In fact, all the parties have been at different times called in and privately dressed down by IFOR. At the moment, the largely Muslim forces of the ABiH and the Croat troops of the HVO are regarded as living up to the letter of the plan. After all, both armies have a vital interest in the continuation of the U.S. sponsored armament program.

    That is not the case, however, with the army of Republika Srpska (VRS), with whom IFOR does have a problem. NATO commanders have long suspected that at least some lower-level VRS commanders were secretly storing weapons and ammunition in circumvention of Dayton agreement provisions calling for delivering such materiel to openly declared depositories. But it was not until the beginning of July that IFOR was moved to deliver an open warning to an increasingly less cooperative VRS High Command, saying that it was not prepared to tolerate violations.

    This change of attitude occurred then after a stand-off between IFOR and Bosnian Serb forces in Han Pijesak, which now seems to have been a sort of prelude to the latest and more high-profile developments. In July VRS army officers threatened to shoot down IFOR helicopters and organized hundreds of angry civilians to stone IFOR soldiers and vehicles. Similar tactics, also making use of civilian protesters, were soon repeated in Banja Luka, Prijedor and Brcko. The hardening of the VRS's stance is viewed as part of a general political strategy of the Pale regime and SDS party leadership. This has overwhelming support from the majority of political parties in the RS, who in the current election campaign back the separation of their territory from "the Muslim-Croat Federation" and unification with Serbia proper, which is a clear violation of the basic premise of Dayton (see above). "Analyze the RS media and you are left with only one conclusion: they are testing the limits," says an analyst in the Office of the High Representative.

    Signaling its intent to keep control, IFOR confiscated and destroyed several smaller caches of undeclared ammunition and land mines in the RS in the last weeks. On 5 August, in the vicinity of Doboj, Polish and Danish IFOR specialists blew up more than 500 kg of ammunition and land mines without incident. Three days later U.S. IFOR detonated undeclared ammunition, but this time the explosion damaged windows and roofs of houses in a nearby village south of Prnjavor and caused a forest fire. Pale TV complained about the "minimum professionalism" shown by U.S. IFOR forces. Pale TV made exhaustive use of this incident to launch a full-fledged propaganda campaign critical of IFOR's overall conduct.

    That the illicit caches are highly incendiary in more ways than one was demonstrated by what happened on 4 August in the village of Markovici northeast of Sarajevo. After several tips from IFOR intelligence sources, Italian IFOR units went to the village and found a building containing ammunition boxes that proved to be "1,200 cubic meters of ammunition and land mines." This would require 200 ten-ton trucks to be removed, an IFOR spokesman said. The Italians started to load four trucks with the material when an angry mob appeared -- reportedly led by local policemen -- and accused IFOR of theft from a legal VRS depot. The Italians then unloaded the trucks and withdrew "to prevent a conflict with civilians." In the evening, Pale TV claimed that only popular will prevented "further provocations by IFOR." The mayor of nearby Sokolac thanked "all patriots" for their support and threatened to cut all contacts with IFOR if its command did not submit a written apology to the people of Sokolac. The TV showed a 12 year-old boy declaring: "the army and the nation are one. It is a matter of life and death not to give in."

    Then on 6 August, IFOR spokesman Brett Boudreau said that the VRS had informed IFOR about 17 additional ammunition and training sites in the RS, some of which might have been previously declared by VRS but may have been overlooked because of a variety of technical and administrative changes since they were first reported. But after hedging and providing some face-saving versions for the VRS, in the end he agreed that it all could have been due to "deception by low-level VRS officers." On 9 August, Boudreau declared the case closed. IFOR inspectors had counted rockets, TNT explosives and 5,000 boxes of mines and small ammunition. It had become clear that the VRS had not previously acknowledged the stockpile as required. The weapons were confiscated and ordered to be destroyed.

    In addition to the threat posed by secret arms caches, IFOR is also facing a visible erosion of respect and authority in the RS. If it does not manage to regain it well before September 14, it may bring a period of escalating testing. The use of civilian crowds to protect illicit arms caches could grow into even more provocative tactics such as blocking members of certain communities from approaching voting areas. So far IFOR has insisted that it will not take up "police functions" in the election process. But "everything will depend on the security situation," said a representative of displaced persons in Ilidza. "If IFOR continues to back off or let itself be fooled, very few people will risk crossing into RS territory to vote where they plan to." -- Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo


    An old Mexican joke has it that when Washington sneezes, Mexico catches cold. Many in Bosnia would update the barb to read: when Zagreb and Belgrade sneeze, Bosnia catches pneumonia. With this in mind, there was obvious interest in Bosnia last week when the presidents of Croatia and Serbia, Franjo Tudjman and Slobodan Milosevic, met near Athens on 7 August and in principle agreed to establish diplomatic relations. While the meeting and the resulting joint statement may signal some breakthrough on the diplomatic front, questions remain as to whether outstanding bilateral and regional problems can be resolved soon. The basic question is whether Zagreb and Belgrade are willing and able to reach a win-win compromise. Not everyone is convinced that this can be the case. The Serbian opposition has already accused Milosevic of sacrificing the Croatian Serbs on the negotiating table. Meanwhile, the international media seem to be more concerned about whether Bosnia will have to pay the price of the rapprochement between Belgrade and Zagreb. The Munich Sueddeutsche Zeitung on 8 August ran an editorial titled "From Karadjordjevo to Vouliagmeni," making a direct connection between a secret meeting in Tito's Karadjordjevo hunting lodge in 1991, in which the two leaders reportedly agreed to carve up Bosnia, and the Greek sea resort where the latest meeting was held.

    Tudjman's and Milosevic's first official meeting without international mediation since Croatia declared its independence in 1991 had been arranged by Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis at the request of both sides. After four hours of closed-door talks, the two presidents agreed on a joint statement to the effect that both sides are "ready to proceed to a full normalization." The statement also addresses territorial disputes, humanitarian issues, and possible economic cooperation.

    After the meeting, Milosevic said it represented " a huge step for the interests of [rump] Yugoslavia and Croatia ... [and] also for the entire region." Returning to Zagreb, Tudjman said the statement means that both sides "agreed on the normalization of relations in all fields, such as restoring (sic) diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers will meet on 23 August and sign final agreements." At present, only low-level liaison offices exist in Belgrade and Zagreb. The date of the foreign ministers' meeting was confirmed by Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who said he hopes that this will open the way for Croatia's integration into European organizations, namely the Council of Europe.

    In an obvious reference to Bosnia, Granic's deputy, Ivan Simonovic, was quick in pointing to the fact that the rapprochement between Zagreb and Belgrade "is not about changing the balance between Croatia and its neighbors." But in Belgrade on 9 August, the chairman of the nationalist Radical Party "Nikola Pasic," Jovan Glamocanin, praised Milosevic's efforts and alluded to the possibility of a deal at the Bosnian Muslim's expense. He dubbed the presidents' summit "a highly significant step forward for the implementation of the Dayton peace," and said Milosevic had defended Serbian national interests. Glamocanin also hinted that Milosevic and Tudjman might have discussed a territorial swap including Bosnian territory to resolve outstanding bilateral issues.

    Other opposition reactions in Belgrade ranged from guarded optimism for the prospects of regional peace to harsh condemnation of Milosevic. On 9 August, Nasa Borba, under the headline "Normalization--Yes, Ethnic Cleansing--No," reported that Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) welcomed news of a possible normalization of bilateral relations but also expressed concern that such a development may not bode well for ethnic Serbs' rights in Croatia. The SPO queried: "Why didn't Tudjman and Milosevic agree on normalization three or four years ago? Why didn't agreement... come when nearly a million Serbs lived in Croatia?... [But] waited until Croatia was cleaned out of Serbs..." And Vojislav Seselj, accused war criminal and ultranationalist leader of the Serbian Radical Party, said Milosevic once again "sold out" Serbian national interests, especially by abandoning the Serbs in eastern Slavonia -- the last part of Croatia still in rebel Serb hands -- by hinting he would recognize Croatia's internationally valid borders. Seselj said that every time Milosevic sits down with Tudjman, the Serbian people are victimized, usually by having a part of what he considers rightfully Serb territory handed to Croatia. Meanwhile in Podgorica, the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro said the meeting served only to underscore that republic's "humiliation" and second-class status within the federation. The party said that while Milosevic "makes decisions relating to regional peace and war... Montenegrin authorities have sovereignty in the decision-making of where to organize festivals and beach-football contests."

    Although both Milosevic and Tudjman hailed the talks and agreement as landmarks and breakthroughs, outstanding questions -- both bilateral and relating to the fate of Bosnia -- may put a brake on normalization of relations.

    Referring to bilateral developments, an unnamed Croatian government official said that Belgrade has to recognize Croatia in its internationally accepted borders before relations can be normalized. He specifically pointed to eastern Slavonia as the last piece of Croatian territory not controlled by the central government. He said that "Serbia's recognition is important for Croatia as a signal to the Serb population in eastern Slavonia that they are a part of Croatia." Another possible friction point is the strategically important Prevlaka peninsula, which is under Croatian jurisdiction but claimed by rump Yugoslavia. In the past, Tudjman has signaled that he may be willing to reach a negotiated settlement over Prevlaka, but his own public's opinion has balked at any hint that territory may be bargained away. Now, both sides "reaffirmed their readiness to resolve [the issue] through negotiations."

    Another dark cloud hanging over the summit is the broader regional question of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The meeting between the two presidents has raised speculation that the current rapprochement between Belgrade and Zagreb may be detrimental to Bosnia. Such speculation is not without foundation, as rumors surrounding the 1991 Karadjordjevo meeting show. Although that secret meeting has been denied by both sides, rumors and allegations of its taking place were never completely quelled. Apart from Karadjordjevo, there have been reports of other meetings and partition deals -- including one session held in Graz, Austria -- and others in conjunction with international meetings in London and elsewhere.

    Although Bosnia was not officially on the agenda of the Vouliagmeni meeting, the Serbian opposition's reactions as well as remarks by the international media suggest that Bosnia will be affected by the meeting. Not only the Sueddeutsche Zeitung alluded to a possible deal between Tudjman and Milosevic at Bosnia's expense. Reuters also noted that a possible accord "squeezes Bosnia" between its two powerful neighbors. Indeed, if Zagreb and Belgrade move towards normalization, the consequences will certainly be felt in Bosnia-Herzegovina. While there is no proof that Tudjman and Milosevic struck any deal concerning the neighboring republic, the real intent behind the meeting could be revealed should the Bosnian Serbs and Croats now increasingly turn to Belgrade and Zagreb for support. In such a scenario, the Bosnian Muslims and the central government in Sarajevo would find themselves increasingly marginalized. The most likely end result would be the partitioning of Bosnia between its two neighbors. -- Stefan Krause and Stan Markotich


    Moving into Serbia, Kosovo may have been spared the outright warfare that Bosnia has witnessed, but fear of a conflict there is usually just beneath the surface. On 4 August the ultranationalist leader of the Party of Serbian Unity, Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan," held a parade of his private army -- the Tigers -- in the mainly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. The indicted felon and accused war criminal's unexpected visit to the province came as a reaction to three bomb attacks on police stations in Podujevo and Pristina on 2 August and obviously was intended to intimidate the local Albanian population.

    The visit, however, seems also to have served another purpose. Arkan has for years played the role of Milosevic's stalking horse. Since Arkan, unlike some other nationalists, never challenged Milosevic's hold on power, he has been trusted and used in many ways. He has tested the waters as to how far Milosevic himself could go with nationalist rhetoric. He has also served as a counterbalance to Milosevic's ultranationalist challengers, such as Vojislav Seselj, an accused war criminal and leader of the Serbian Radical Party.

    While Seselj attempted to endanger Milosevic's hold on power, Arkan remained loyal and at the same time did Milosevic's dirty work. He, throughout the time, kept a relatively low profile in parliamentary politics. In exchange, Arkan got protection from the regime and a free hand to act and build his power base as long as he did not get out of control. Thus he also served the function of the "bad guy," as an example to the outside world on how reasonable Milosevic was compared to Arkan and his followers.

    This in particular seems to be Arkan's current function in Kosovo. Milosevic is attempting to promote his image as a man of peace, striving for stability in the region, but at the same time has no intention of addressing the most burning human rights issues at home. It is Milosevic's turn to start a serious dialogue with the ethnic Albanian Kosovar shadow state government, but he has shown no sign of interest in easing the situation there. Instead, he continues to let Kosovo simmer on low boil.

    The bombs that prompted Arkan's show were only the last in a series of minor terrorist attacks that took place since February. The newly emerged "Army for the Liberation of Kosovo" claimed responsibility for most. The shadow state has sharply denied the existence of that group and blamed the attacks on agents provocateurs. Whatever the case may be, these incidents and the reaction of ultranationalists like Arkan are in Milosevic's interest, since they may further delay the beginning of a dialogue and give Milosevic an argument to rule out concessions to the Albanians. Milosevic has repeatedly talked about giving "autonomy" to Kosovo, but this seems to be more for propaganda than for serious purposes. He has not undertaken even the most basic steps towards reducing police violence in the region. This was underscored by the presence of a large police force surrounding and protecting Arkan's parade. -- Fabian Schmidt

    Compiled by Patrick Moore

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to

    Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
    Back to Top
    Copyright © 1995-2016 HR-Net (Hellenic Resources Network). An HRI Project.
    All Rights Reserved.

    HTML by the HR-Net Group / Hellenic Resources Institute, Inc.
    pbp2html v1.01 run on Tuesday, 13 August 1996 - 12:14:00