bosnia report
No. 5 April - 1994
 
What After Washington?
by From the Editors

The signatures of Izetbegovic and Tudjman on the Washington agreement mark an end to the war between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a first step towards an alliance between the two countries that have been the chief target of Serbia's expansionism. The agreement also buries the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan and suspends the earlier Zagreb-Belgrade rapprochement whose purpose was a two-way partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. For the people of Bosnia, the worst is over - even though two-thirds of their country remains occupied and over half the population displaced. All those, beginning with the British Foreign Office, who were writing the country off as a historical stillborn should now be revising their policy.

The NATO ultimatum has produced results in Sarajevo and Tuzla. But it would be wrong to believe that the peace on Bosnia's western front is due solely to NATO's new will or a sudden change of heart in Washington. What ultimately made the differenc was the Bosnians' own determination to resist - not only the aggressors at home, but also the map-makers in Geneva. If Bosnia has a future, this is because it has won it for itself and largely by itself. Despite its persistant military inferiority, assured by the UN-imposed arms embargo, its people have fought on. This augurs well for its future. All current political initatives must be measured against the reality of a 200,000 strong Bosnian army, the only multinational formation fighting on Bosnia's soil, convinced of the justice of its cause.

Built into the foundation of the Bosnian-Croatian accord are the collapse of HVO as a fighting force and the loyalty of the great majority of Bosnian Croats to Sarajevo, expressed recently at a 6 February meeting in Sarajevo of the Bosnian Croat National Assembly, which rejected "all solutions to the B-H crisis that sanction ethnic persecution, allow the continuation of ethnic cleansing (including the so-called humane transfer of peoples), appease the conquerer and aggressor, and disown the UN and EU position that territorial aggrandisement achieved by force and conquest will not be recognised". Built too into the Washington agreement is the lack of support for Tudjman's former policy of ethnic partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina among the population of Croatia, in the Catholic Church, in the opposition and even within the ruling party.

At a similar National Assembly held in Sarajevo on 27 March, Bosnian Serbs too insisted that "a great part of the Bosnia-Herzegovina population of Serb ethnicity never accepted or followed the policy of the SDS' [Karadzic's party]. The assembly gave full support to a "common existence, based on the equality of all, in a sovereign and integral Bosnia-Herzegovina.' AÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌàlthough there is little evidence of an organized opposition to Karadzic in the areas under Serbian occupation, there are plenty of signs of dissatisfaction - regularly reported in the Belgrade press - among both civilians and soldiers in the self-styled "Republika Srpska". If the peace between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina holds up (which will demand continued vigilance vis-a-vis Zagreb), and if the pressure on Belgrade and Pale is maintained and strengthened, one can expect a relatively rapid internal disintegration of this monstrous structure. Some of the steps that should be taken now are spelled out in this issue.

All this, however, does require the West to uphold its proclaimed principle that international as well as ethnic borders cannot be changed by force. The Washington accord is unclear on this point, which is its chief though not its only weakness. Any return to a Geneva-style "peace process" at which Serbian conquests in one form or another would be legitimized - for example, by allowing Belgrade to carve out of Bosnia an ethnically-cleansed Bosnian Serb state with a special relationship to Serbia - will bring about no genuine peace. Only a full restoration of Bosnian sovereignty and territorial integrity will make peace possible. This involves diplomatic but also military measures, one of which must be the lifting of the arms embargo against Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the Bosnian army's success in the west which brokered peace between Zagreb and Sarajevo. If peace is to come to the Bosnian east and north, then Karadzic's army too must be humbled. There will be no lasting peace in Bosnia and no workable political settlement in the area of former Yugoslavia until and unless the Bosnian government is allowed to win this war.

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