Washington, Feb. 15 (RFE/RL) - In a show of determination to make peace work in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States has hastily convened a high-level meeting to take place in Rome at the end of this week.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in a statement Wednesday that Russia has agreed to co-chair the meeting with the United States and the European Union.
Other western participants include representatives of Britain, Germany and France - members of the so-called five-nation contact group that helped forge the fragile peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They will meet with presidents Aliya Izetbegovic of Bosnia, Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia in Rome on Friday and Saturday to review all aspects of the Dayton peace accords and discuss ways of effectively implementing its provisions.
Christopher said in the statement, which was read to reporters by State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, that he and President Bill Clinton think the international community will have to meet regularly if they are to succeed in bringing permanent peace to Bosnia.
Burns said Christopher began thinking about holding regular international reviews on his way back to Washington from talks with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in Helsinki last weekend.
He made the decision to go ahead with the Rome meeting Monday and spent most of the last two days on the telephone with the participants persuading them to attend.
In the statement, Christopher said he talked to Primakov on Wednesday but gave no further details.
Russia's chief delegate to the Rome conference will be Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasyevsky. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke will lead the U.S. team. Burns said the U.S. has concluded that, as he put it: "It's going to be necessary for many months to have regular, intensive contacts with the parties" involved in keeping the peace in Bosnia.
He acknowledged there are many difficulties in implementing the Dayton accords.
Burns said the problems include the continued presence of some foreign Islamic fundamentalist fighters in Bosnia and the Bosnian government's refusal to release four imprisoned Bosnian Serbs, as well as a weakness in Croatia and Serbia's stated commitment to implement Dayton provisions on war crimes.
Burns said emphatically that no exceptions to the Dayton accords would be permitted. He said: "They were negotiated as a package and the parties will not be allowed by the United States, the European Union and the Russian Federation to choose which part of this accord they like and which they don't,. They are going to implement all of it and we are going to ensure compliance."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights John Shattuck says war crimes investigations and prosecutions under international standards by the International War Crimes Tribunal are a vital component of the peace process and essential to get national reconciliation and reconstruction under way.
He returned yesterday from his third visit to the Balkans in three weeks, telling reporters the main purpose of his latest trip was to underscore the importance of bringing war criminals to justice.
Shattuck says he went to the Omarska mines, the site of a concentration camp where, in his words "horrendous killings and torture took place.
Shattuck says he saw the torture chambers described by refugees and was able to confirm earlier reports that "Omarska was a human rights horror." He also went to Sarajevo three days ago to visit two detained Bosnian Serb war crime suspects who are now in the custody of the Tribunal at the Hague.
Controversy over their initial detention by the Bosnian government threatened to derail the Dayton peace process last week and is still causing resentment in Belgrade.
Shattuck says he discussed the case of Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic and Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic with Milosevic in Belgrade and told him the tribunal's arrest of the two men was "non-negotiable" and only the tribunal has the authority to detain or release war crime suspects. Shattuck said that Milosevic was not pleased but had accepted the fact.
Vesting all power over the detention of war crime suspects is one of the so-called "Rules of the Road" that went into effect earlier this week as a clarification of the Dayton accords.
Bosnia has accepted the rules but has not yet released four Bosnian Serb prisoners it is detaining without the tribunal's approval.
Shattuck says Croatia also has indicated it will comply with the rules and wants the tribunal to investigate cases in eastern Slavonia and the Banja Luka area.
Milosevic has said he will permit the tribunal to open offices in Belgrade but has not said when, according to Shattuck.