Deadline passes for handover of pilots
Balkan peace process: France warns Dayton deal may be thrown into jeopardy if Serbs play cat-and-mouse
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. She is now the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and regularly appears on radio and television. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Monday 11 December 1995
The French Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, said in London on Friday that if the men were not handed back by midnight yesterday, the entire Bosnian peace process could be in danger. France gave no indication of what it might do in retaliation.
Last week, President Jacques Chirac threatened the Bosnian Serbs with unspecified consequences if the pilots were not produced, and at last week's Peace Implementation Conference in London, France made clear that prospects for peace in former Yugoslavia could hinge on the pilots' fate.
Paris is keen to ensure that there is clarity about the men before it hosts the ceremonial signing of the Dayton accords in Paris on Thursday. Pressure built yesterday for postponement of the ceremony.
"It's out of the question to sign the Bosnia peace treaty when our husbands have not been returned," Isabelle Souvignet, wife of the missing navigator Jose Souvignet, told the newspaper Journal de Dimanche. The paper said it would be impossible for Mr Chirac to appear alongside President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, who negotatiated on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs.
The magazine Paris Match published photographs in September that purported to show the two pilots, Frederic Chiffot and Mr Souvignet, still alive after their Mirage jet was shot down over the Bosnian Serb "capital", Pale, on 30 August. Early last week, the French Defence Minister, Charles Millon, said he had information that the two were being held by a Bosnian Serb group.
But Mr Chirac said later he had no reliable information even that the pilots were alive. A French parliamentary delegation went to Belgrade last week to find out more, but left with no further information.
The most bizarre contribution was a statement two months ago by Mr Milosevic that the two pilots had been removed from a hospital in Pale and their whereabouts was no longer known.
The statement was interpreted variously as strange enough to be true, or a fabrication to cover up the fact that Mr Milosevic had been unable to produce them.
Last week, one French report said the two had been seriously injured while in captivity - it was speculated that one had lost a leg - and that this was the reason both why they had been in hospital and why they had not yet been handed back.
At the same time, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, said that Mr Chirac could speed up freedom for the pilots if he obtained assurances for Bosnian Serbs over their future in Sarajevo.
Officially, France expressed disgust that the safety of the pilots could be treated as a bargaining chip. Since the accords were agreed in Dayton, however, France has argued for improved guarantees for Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo.
It was impossible to say whether Mr Karadzic's veiled threat meant the pilots were still alive or whether it was a last, cynical attempt to benefit from the continued uncertainty.
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
People are criticising Fifa World Cup sponsors with corrupt corporate logos
Natalie Portman tells Harvard graduates: 'Accept your lack of knowledge'
British tourists complain impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Fifa corruption live: Sebb Blatter warns 'more bad news may follow' as he clings to power
Skull found in Spain could be the world's first-ever murder victim
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...