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Western Press Review: Bosnia. . . . Again

  • Don Hill

Prague, 7 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke is back in Bosnia seeking to revitalize the Dayton peace accord he engineered. This latest mission refocuses Western press commentary on Bosnia.

NEW YORK TIMES: U.S. involvement and. united Bosnian society will be be tested this year

Holbrooke's article yesterday states U.S. vital interests are at stake in the international effort to prevent fragmentation of Bosnia. The article appeared in full in the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Here are excerpts from the Holbrooke article:

"This year, 1997, will be the decisive year in determining whether U.S. policy toward Bosnia succeeds and whether Bosnia survives as a united multiethnic country. The U.S. policy goal, simply defined, should remain to prevent partition and implement the Dayton peace accords. During the Dayton negotiations, the warring parties agreed to accept a single state. (At the time), I did not favor partition of Bosnia. Nor am I now reconciled to it."

He wrote: "I believe most people in Bosnia would like to see the country function as a single economic and social unit, within a framework that provides for local self-government. Bosnia and its neighbor, Serbia, cannot survive economically unless they revitalize the long-established, integrated commercial and infrastructure systems that existed until the outbreak of war."

Holbrooke said: "To those who argue that preventing partition is either hopeless or unimportant to the United States, or both, I would respectfully disagree. The long-term costs are higher if we take the path of least resistance in the short term. (It) would be a significant setback to our overall position in Europe and within NATO if, after all that we have accomplished in Bosnia, our successes thus far were undone by a failure to finish the job. Partition, whether followed by dismemberment of Bosnia or not, could reopen other fragile international boundary issues in southeastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, unraveling the current peace in the region."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Washington's involvement riles other international groups

Tracy Williams writes today from Split, Croatia, in an analysis in the about a small initial victory in the Holbrooke mission. She says: "In the latest American attempt to salvage the Bosnian peace accords, troubleshooter (Holbrooke yesterday) secured new promises from two Balkan presidents to live up to their end of the bargain." Williams says: "President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and President Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina agreed to a timetable of deadlines on some refugee returns, border posts, civil aviation and other hurdles that have dogged Muslim-Croat relations for months."

She writes: "Pulling Holbrooke out of diplomatic retirement to resuscitate the accords that he brokered in the fall of 1995 reflected mounting alarm in Washington over slow progress in Bosnia." And says: "Holbrooke's mission has riled other international officials working on peace in Bosnia, especially after a senior Clinton administration official took the unusual step of issuing a pointed criticism of Carlos Westendorp. Westendorp, a Spanish diplomat, recently replaced Carl Bildt as the international community's chief peace coordinator."

DIE WELT: The world media is ignoring upcoming elections

Boris Kalnoky in Belgrade comments today concern over hostility has diverted attention from democratic elections. He says: "Just one year ago the eyes of the world were fixed on Bosnia, where parliamentary, presidential and local elections were supposed to knock open the door to peace." He says: "Elections are now scheduled to take place in just over five weeks' time, on 14 September. But this time round very little is heard about the preparations, even though there has been no lack of attempts at manipulation on all sides."

"However, all this is cast into the shade by the emergence of a complex crisis in the Dayton peace process which gives rise to new headlines each day. The fact that the media can find hardly any room for elections only demonstrates the extent of the crisis in Bosnia this summer."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Plavsic faces difficulties bringing war criminals to justice

Commentator Bernhard Kuppers writes from Banja Luka, Bosnia, under a headline, "Bosnian Serbs Remain Ambivalent over War Crimes, Corruption." Kuppers writes: "Since the end of June, President of the Serb Republic Biljana Plavsic -- based in Banja Luka -- has found herself in an open power struggle with the Pale-based clique surrounding the former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic. Her revelations about the corruption in the ranks of the people surrounding Kovacevic has whipped up support for her from an impoverished people."

He says:: "A leading article in a newspaper published by (the Serb representative in the Bosnian presidential triumvirate, Moncilo) Krajisnik makes it clear that if Plavsic tried to extradite Karadzic and other 'heroes,' she would be murdered as a traitor."

WASHINGTON POST: Milosevic is the key to imposing peace

Writing today from Split, Edward Cody says that frustration in Washington is driving the new Holbrooke mission. Cody writes: "The frustration that peacemaking has fallen way behind the schedule set in the November 1995 Dayton peace agreement has been mounting for months. Reacting to the frustration -- and faced with a deadline a year from now for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force -- Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has vowed to restore momentum to the effort before it turns into an irretrievable failure for the Clinton administration. (Holbrooke), who brokered the peace agreement in weeks of tough negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, returned to the Balkans (yesterday) in a demonstration of Albright's determination, vowing to 're-energize the peace process.' "

Cody says: "Milosevic, who as president of Serbia helped engineer the 1992-95 war that left Bosnia divided into three ethnic regions, has long been regarded as the key to imposing the conditions of peace on Bosnia's rebellious Serbs. Within the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, Bosnian Serb leaders under Milosevic's influence have resisted at every turn efforts by the United States and its international allies to foster re-creation of at least the trappings of the unitary Bosnian state outlined in the Dayton agreement."