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Some Progress on Bosnia But Problems Remain

  • Sonia Winter

Geneva, March 19 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher says progress has been made in the Bosnia peace process but problems remain and the diplomatic effort must continue to maintain compliance with the Dayton Peace Accords.

In a day of talks in Geneva Monday, Balkan leaders of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process and agreed on new measures to improve compliance with provisions concerning war criminals, freedom of movement and human rights.

The measures were announced in a joint statement after eight hours of meetings among the Balkan leaders, individually and collectively with Christopher at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Christopher said at a press conference Monday night that "significant advances were made...but not all the problems were solved."

But he said life will be better today for Sarajevo residents in Grbavica, the last Sarajevo suburb to be transferred to Muslim authority, and that the Monday agreements "will make a tangible difference in people's lives."

He says the agreements include a provision to strengthen NATO and civilian police patrols to prevent looting and arson in areas of unrest and allow refugees to return home.

Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic, Croatia's Franjo Tudjman and Bosnia's acting President Ejup Ganic agreed to stronger enforcement of human rights to create conditions for the country's first free elections scheduled to be held on Sept. 1.

The three leaders also promised to do more to bring war criminals to justice. Milosevic has agreed to hand over to the Hague War Crime Tribunal two soldiers suspected of involvement in atrocities in the fall of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. And Croatia promised to hand over a top Bosnian Croat army commander suspected of crimes against Muslims in central Bosnia.

More than 200 prisoners held by all factions are to be released by the end of the week.

However, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck told our correspondent that at least 60 of the prisoners have been charged by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague and will first be investigated by the Tribunal.

Other measures announced Monday night include steps to restore air, rail and shipping links between Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to improve freedom of movement. Christopher said that for the first time in four years, flights will resume between the Serb capital Belgrade and Sarajevo.

Some of the declarations issued after the Monday meetings are not new and have been promised before. Analysts say there is no particular reason to believe Monday's pledges will be any more credible than previous promises to implement the Dayton Accords.

But U.S. officials say there is value in getting the Balkan leaders to meet and negotiate among themselves and that each diplomatic encounter strengthens the frame for implementing the accords.

Christopher said the Monday negotiations have set the stage for an international confererence of Balkan foreign ministers and the five-nation contact group -- France, Britain, Germany, the U.S. and Russia -- in Moscow on Saturday. It will be the first time Russia will host a contact group meeting.

Christopher says yesterday's proceedings have improved prospects for a successful gathering in Moscow but that much remains to be done.