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Yugoslavia: Bosnia To Establish Diplomatic Ties Soon

Sarajevo, 23 November 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The foreign ministers of Bosnia and Yugoslavia met in Sarajevo yesterday and recognized the territorial integrity of each other's country. They pledged to work for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two neighbors within 15 days.

The landmark meeting came one day after the fifth anniversary of the conclusion of the Dayton peace talks that ended four-and-a-half years of fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yugoslavia's new President Vojislav Kostunica made a brief, unofficial visit to Bosnia last month.

Eight years ago, it was Bosnian-Serb and Yugoslav opposition to the establishment of an independent Bosnian state encompassing all of the territory of the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina that touched off four years of fighting. Eventually, the war killed nearly 200,000 and displaced some two million people.

Yugoslavia's recently appointed Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic told reporters that he and his Bosnian counterpart, Jadranko Prlic, had discussed the need for a bilateral treaty on the return of refugees. He says they also talked about the possible reopening of rail connections between Yugoslavia and Bosnia, and cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Svilanovic -- who is a Kosovo Serb by origin -- said the people of Yugoslavia, like the people of Bosnia, have been through very difficult years of war.

"I can express personal regret for the suffering that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- members of the Bosnian, Croat, and Serb peoples -- were exposed to. [The suffering] certainly left serious marks in the lives of the majority of inhabitants who went through this period and who experienced great loss. They lost their nearest and dearest, their enthusiasm and their hometowns, and had to leave."

The Yugoslav foreign minister added: "Some mistakes can never be corrected, some losses can never be made up for."

Bosnian Foreign Minister Prlic said the talks were friendly and open, and dealt within all issues affecting bilateral relations.

"I very rarely take the opportunity to say that something is of historic significance -- since this tends to be hard to swallow -- but I consider today's visit definitely opens a new phase in relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

Prlic, an ethnic Croat, said Bosnia's relations with Yugoslavia should be modeled on the what he called the "symmetry" of Bosnia's current ties with Croatia. That should include, he said, a trade agreement and a treaty allowing dual citizenship. He added that Croatia should be a party to an agreement between Bosnia and Yugoslavia on the return of refugees.

Prlic said relations between Bosnia and Yugoslavia will take into account what he described as the "special relationship" between the Bosnian Serb entity (Republica Srpska) and Yugoslavia. He said no limitations will be made on those ties.