Prague, March 19 (RFE/RL) -- Today is the deadline under the
Dayton accords for Bosnian Serbs to hand over areas in and around
Sarajevo to the Moslems and Croatians. Arson and pillaging by
rampaging gangs are evidence that the transfer is going badly.
Western commentators examine the smoke clouds over Bosnia peace
The New York Times editorializes today: "Peace has already
brought many benefits to the peoples of Bosnia, but it has not
brought reconciliation and trust. The most disheartening example is
Sarajevo.... Blame lies chiefly with the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan
Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who remain determined to complete the
division of Bosnia along ethnic lines.... The main victims of this
disaster are the 60,000 Serbs who fled their suburban Sarajevo homes.
Their fear that returning Muslims and Croats would mistreat them were
deliberately encouraged by Karadzic and Mladic.... To avoid further
ethnic division, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic should make
clear to Karadzic and Mladic that their actions must not be repeated.
Sanctions against Serbia that block access to international loans
should remain in place until this and all other provisions of the
Dayton agreement have been fulfilled."
The Suddeutsche Zeitung said today in an editorial signed by Jens
Schneider: "At the moment of truth, houses are burning in
Sarajevo. Last December, when the Dayton peace accord for Bosnia was
signed..., it was hard to imagine that the Serb rulers would withdraw
voluntarily. Now they have left without a bullet being fired but with
them went almost all the Serbs.... The only people here are the
looters and arsonists who come from all over.... What potential could
there have been if the IFOR and the United Nations had given clear,
emphatic signals in the first few months? For example by giving
guarantees to the Sarajevo Serbs or by arresting presumed war
criminals such as Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic, who left their
mark on all sides."
In London, The Daily Telegraph editorialized today: "The
Dayton peace agreement is in trouble. The destructive exodus of Serbs
from the suburbs of Sarajevo, due to be completed today, and the
hostility in Mostar between Muslims and Croats, who are supposed to
be united in a federation, bode ill for the future of
Bosnia-Herzegovina.... Healing the wounds caused by years of ethnic
conflict cannot be made to conform to the American electoral
timetable. NATO should be prepared for a long haul. Otherwise, the
fragile state whose integrity Dayton proclaimed will fall apart."
Laura Silber writes today from Geneva in the British newspaper
Financial Times: "The European Union yesterday laid out plans
to raise up to 4,500 million dollars in Bosnian reconstruction
aid.... (U.S. Secretary of State Warren) Christopher's decision to
hold an urgent review of the reconciliation effort with the leaders
of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia came as a sharp reminder that long-term
peace is far from guranteed.... As the talks began, there was chaos
in Grbavica.... Serb gangs yesterday rampaged through the district."
The plight of Sarajevan suburbs, especially Grbavica, attracts press
attention. The current issue of the U.S. magazine Newsweek
carries this analysis: "In the messy handover of the Serb-held
suburbs of Sarajevo to the Muslim government, most of the dirty work
gets done at night.... After Muslims took control, last week,
burglars loooted deserted houses and shops with impunity, terrifying
all the remaining Serbs. No one expected the handover of the Sarajevo
suburbs from Serbs to Moslems to be easy, but few throught it would
turn this ugly.... On both sides there's clear evidence that the
thuggery was planned, or at least condoned. In each of the five Serb
suburbs..., Serb police simply stopped enforcing the law."
John Pomfret wrote yesterday in The Washington Post: "Smoke spiraled
from the last Serb-held area of Sarajevo Sunday night as gangs of
Serb toughs set buildings ablaze, raped old women and ransacked
apartments in a final spasm of violence before this desolate stretch
of battered high-rises returns to Muslim control (today). While NATO
soldiers, who are supposed to have secured the area, carried out
individual acts of heroism, U.N. officials were vicious in their
criticism of the NATO operation as a whole in Grbavica, the last of
five Serb-held suburbs to be transferred to the mostly
Muslim Bosnian government. The growing chaos in Grbavica follows
claims by NATO spokesmen that they would increase their presence in
the area after similar destruction in the other suburbs. "
Pomfret concluded: "Over the last few weeks, NATO spokesmen have
issued statements telling the Serbs that they 'have the right to burn
their own houses' and that the international force 'is not a police
force and will not undertake police duties.' Such a position has been
interpreted by Serb gangs to mean a green light to terrorize the
local population, U.N. officials say."
In The Daily Telegraph, Robert Fox writes today from Grbevica: "The former warring parties and factions have to be parted
and have forces well behind the ceasefire lines, the main task of the
NATO-led peace force, IFOR.... IFOR's high noon has been greeted by
palls of black smoke, overnight explosions and an intimidated
population of a few thousand inhabitants who have remained simply
because they have nowhere else to go."
John Borger writes today in Britain's The Guardian: "The Serb
authorities have done nothing to hinder the widespread arson that has
marked their departure from the suburbs. Italian and French NATO
patrols were increased substantially in the last few days of Serb
control, but were unable to suppress arson and looting in built-up
areas.... Sixteen local residents who had hoped to stay in their
flats until the arrival of the federation police fled fires and
intimidation to spend the night in a 'safe house' set up by the U.N.
refugee agency. The safe house... is protected by unarmed U.N.
police. NATO... refused to post a permanent guard."