Croatian President Criticizes Belgrade-Banja Luka Accord

Author: Ron Synovitz
Uploaded: Thursday, 05 April, 2001

Criticizing both the recent accord for 'special relations' between Belgrade and Banja Luka and recent attempts by the HDZ in B-H to consolidate 'Herzeg-Bosna' as a separate statelet,Croatian president Mesic says that Serbia and Croatia should both relate to B-H as a whole, rather than to parts of the country.

Speaking at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 6 March, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said the cooperation treaty signed in Banja Luka the previous day by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic shows that the post-Milosevic Yugoslav leadership has not abandoned the former president's dream of creating a Greater Serbia. Mesic said that cooperation treaty will contribute to the further destabilization of Bosnia.
"Both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have their relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole," Mesic said. "We should not encourage the entities within Bosnia to get the impression that they are states. To be fair, it should be mentioned that Croatia also has an agreement on special relations with the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it's just a framework [accord]. Without any amendments and annexes to this framework, this agreement cannot be implemented. That's why I insist that our relations with Bosnia should be like relations with any other country -- [that is,] relations with the country as a whole, not particular parts of that country. The idea behind [both] these agreements is to connect Croat parts of Bosnia with Croatia and Serb parts of Bosnia with Serbia in order to encourage the continuation of the division of Bosnia."
Mesic also criticized radical Herzegovinian Croats in the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) who have threatened to create their own mini-state out of the parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina where Croats are in the majority. The Croatian president said similar moves by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs would mean the end of the Bosnian state.
"It is our duty to support the role of the individuals among Croats in Bosnia who are not for the division of the country [that is, Bosnia-Herzegovina], to support their political stands and to strengthen them. The Croatian Democratic Community has no legal right to pretend to be the only and exclusive representative of [the] political interests of Bosnian Croats, especially when this policy is disastrous," Mesic said
Mesic said that he has been encouraged by the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia. But he said the people of Serbia must face up to the crimes committed by their former leadership before relations between Zagreb and Belgrade can be completely normalized. "The departure
of Milosevic is not enough. His policies have to go as well, and all those who were supporting his policy, who were creators of this policy, they have to be held responsible for their actions, and ultimately, to face the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Unless this happens, unless Serbia goes through a complete change and faces its history of the last 10 years, we are only going to be able to make small steps to improve our relations."
Mesic said he does not think the Macedonian leadership will need foreign intervention to help contain a conflict with ethnic Albanians guerillas on the Macedonian border with Kosova. But the Croatian president also urged the United Nations to move ahead with elections in Kosova as soon as possible.
"With regard to Kosovo, I think it would be good to hold elections as soon as possible because they will provide official and legitimate partners in negotiations with the government in Belgrade with regard to the future status of Kosovo. Extremists on both sides should be suppressed and the presence of the international community should be reinforced and needed for a few more years," Mesic said.

RFE/RL Balkan Report, Vol. 5, No. 18, 9 March 2001
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