This Week: Increasing chance of extended U.S. involvement; arms control agreement; Izetbegovic’s SDA harasses Muslim opposition.
9 June 96, Sun
Serb civilians thwarted two more U.N.-sponsored Muslim attempts to visit pre-war homes. In one case the visit was cancelled by the local Serb police chief. In the other, Muslims, UNHCR reps and IPTF observers were prevented by civilians from entering Koraj. The Serbs then chased the U.N. vehicles in cars. Only 10% of U.N.-sponsored visits have been sucessful.
10 June 96, Mon
The U.S. is continuing to pressure Bosnia’s Croats and Muslims to settle the differences that are impeding the distribution of $360 million in military aid to the Federation. The U.S. has pledged $220 million, Islamic states $140 million. The scheme to give the Moslem-Croat federation military parity with Bosnian Serbs has been delayed by the Bosnian parliament’s failure to pass a defense law. Two armies with independent chains of command and different political agendas would be a blueprint for disaster. Moslems and Croats still distrust each other since being forced to make nice by the U.S. after Croatia turned on its once and future ally, fighting a bittter 10-month war with Bosnia in 1994.
Slovenia became the tenth official ‘partner’ of the European Union. Following the signing ceremony, Slovenian Premier Janez Drnovsek submitted an application for full EU membership. Fifteen countries are currently members. Britain had threatened a veto in a dispute with the EU over its ban on British ‘mad cow’ beef. Italy had blocked Slovenia’s acceptance in a dispute over property rights of Italians who fled Slovenia after World War II. Slovenia had the strongest economy in Yugoslavia, and it has continued to perform well since it’s independence in 1991. Growth exceeded 4% in 1995, inflation is in single digits, unemployment is 14% and privitization is increasing.
Note: The U.S. occupied the Italian-Yugoslav border (what is now western Slovenia) for ten years after World War II. The two countries’ dispute over ownership of Trieste was considered the “tinderbox of Europe”. It was the second U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia: the first was in the coastal province of Dalmatia for several years after World War I.
11 June 96, Tue
Bosnian opposition parties accused President Alija Izetbegovic’s ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA) of forcing Muslim refugees to move from Tuzla to Sarajevo in an attempt to sway elections. City council president Ivo Divkovic, said the SDA is trying to “create a suitable mass of people to vote for them. The SDA is doing all this in total silence. It looks spontaneous, but it is well organized.”
Today’s scheduled signing ceremony in Oslo of the arms control agreement for ex-Yugoslavia was delayed until further notice. Western officials organized the ceremony despite the pending issue of how the agreement will refer to the Bosnian Serbs. The Bosnian government wants the agreement to refer to them as one of two entities within Bosnia, not as a party to the accord. The Serbs like the wording the way it is, believing it will support future Serb claims for independence.
The Bosnian Supreme Court approved the extradition to The Hague of indicted war criminals Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo. The only details available on the pairs’ crimes is that they are wanted for crimes committed in a concentration camp in southern Bosnia. Six suspects are currently in ICTY custody.
13 June 96, Thu
NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels reaffirmed their intention to keep their full force in Bosnia until the end of the year. Serious discussion of continuing NATO’s participation in IFOR or its successor will not begin until September. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said that talk of a continued U.S. presence is not only premature, but speculative.
A recent newscast by the Republika Srpska’s state-controlled television claimed that NATO had used low-intensity nuclear weapons in air strikes against Serb positions around Sarajevo, Gorazde and Majevica last year. A constant theme is the need for Bosnian Serbs to support President Radovan Karadzic. Government-controlled Muslim and Croat stations are marginally better. The OSCE is trying to raise funds for an independent Bosnian television network to provide unbiased news and an outlet for opposition parties. Freedom of the press is essential to ensure fair elections in September.
Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo, two Muslims accused of beating and torturing Serbs at the Celebici concentration camp in Bosnia, arrived at the ICTY in The Hague, after being extradited by Bosnian authorities. Delic was the camp commander, Landzo a guard. Eight suspects are in custody, including all four men accused of war crimes at Celebici. (Croat Zdravko Mucic and Muslim Zejnil Delalic are already in custody). The prosecutor wants to jointly try the four, but the defense for Delalic and Mucic have moved for separate trials.
14 June 96, Fri
The Peace Implementation Council (PIC) held a six-month review of the Dayton Accords in Florence, Italy. The PIC insisted there is an “accelerating rate” of improvement in life in Bosnia, despite human rights violations, increasing ethnic separation and dimming prospects for free elections. A Bosnian request for the re-imposition of sanctions against the Republika Srpska by July 1 if Karadzic wasn’t turned in was defeated. The PIC said re-imposition of sanctions would be used only as a last resort.
Two independent journalists accused of defaming Croatian President Franjo Tudjman went on trial today. The case of Viktor Ivancic and Marinko Culic, editor and lead writer of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, and harassment of other independent media, has soured Croatia’s relationship with Western Europe. The journalists face up to three years in jail if convicted.
Claiming that the conditions are in place to hold elections, OSCE representative Robert Frowick recommended that elections will be held as scheduled on September 14. Frowick specifically cited substantial progress in freedom of movement, the right to vote in secret, the right to form political parties and guarantees of universal suffrage. EU representative Carl Bildt endorsed Frowick’s reccomendation.
Sixty political parties registered for Bosnia’s first post-war elections in September. The main contenders are the same nationalist parties which prevailed in the 1990 elections which lead to war — the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Opposition parties in Bosnia and the Republika Srpska are forming coalitions, but the nationalists hold commanding leads in their areas.
Ex-Yugoslavia’s Muslims, Croats and Serbs finally signed an arms control agreement at the Florence meeting after its preamble was changed by switching its order. Its ratification had been delayed by a dispute over wording in the preamble which Bosnia’s Muslim-led government feared would identify Bosnian Serb territory as a separate state. After four month’s of inspections there will be a 12-month period in which excess weaponry will have to be destroyed. Yugoslavia and the Republika Srpska will have to make substantial cuts. The Muslim Croat Federation are allowed to increase their forces. With $220 million in U.S. aid, they will be able to.
15 June 96, Sat
Former Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic was hit over the head with a crow bar after being surrounded by a mob at a campaign rally in Cazin. The mob chanted Muslim prayers and carried banners supporting President Alija Izetbegovic’s SDA party. Silajdzic, a Muslim and former SDA member, is the leader of the Party of Bosnia-Hercegovina, an opposition party. Silajdzic was treated and released at a Croat hospital. The SDA comdemned the attack, claiming it “has never used violence in its political practice”.
Rebel leader Fikret Abdic registered his newly-formed Democratic National Party (DNS) for the September elections. Abdic, a Muslim who fought on the Serb side, is wanted by the Bosnian government for treason. He is running for the Mostar state presidency. The party was registered in Croat-controlled west Mostar. Abdic has been living in Croatia since his siege of Bihac was broken last September.
Bosnian Croats named a new government for “Herzeg-Bosnia”. Pero Markovic was appointed ‘prime minister’; ministers of finance, justice, welfare, commerce and defense were also appointed. Croats, a majority in Hercegovina, have been collecting taxes, running schools and using Croat currency since beginning their attempt to create a Greater Croatia in 1993. The appointments are an attempt to create a Croat equivalent of the Republika Srpska. The Muslim-led Bosnian government in Sarajevo said the reshuffling makes a mockery of the Muslim-Croat federation. A spokesman for President Franjo Tudjman’s Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said it was “a necessary step to protect Croat interests until the elections”.
The IPTF reported that the factions in Bosnia are arresting people for the sole purpose of provide fodder to exchange for prisoners held by the other factions.
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