EC 'must be ready to go it alone': Owen questions US commitment to peace process

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The Independent Online
LORD OWEN, the European Community mediator to former Yugoslavia, yesterday called into question Washington's commitment to the Vance-Owen peace plan, and urged the EC to face up to the prospect of policing the region without US help.

On the eve of a visit to the EC by the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, Lord Owen suggested that lack of US involvement, though highly undesirable, 'would not be the end of the world'. Nato planners must, however, start asking if they could fill that gap. 'Do we have the financial and politicial will to do so?' he said. 'If we do not, let us be honest about it.'

But Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said that although the US had declined to provide ground troops to protect 'safe areas', it was assumed they would commit forces to help enforce a lasting peace. 'All Nato planning has been on this basis,' he added. 'We have agreed to work closely with America and Russia.'

The EC is anxious to bury recent differences with Washington and, in a joint declaration yesterday ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Washington Agreement as 'preparing the ground of the implementation of the Vance-Owen peace plan', which remains 'the centrepiece of EC strategy for peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina'.

'Sadly, the perception of the Washington summit was that we were accepting the Serbian gains in Bosnian territory,' Lord Owen said. '(It) encouraged the Croats in Mostar to begin taking territory and the reactions of the Muslims against the Croats . . . ceasefires mean nothing . . . it is no good the UN passing resolutions it can't back up by force.' The EC pledged to monitor the situation and threatened to impose sanctions on Croatia if the situation worsened.

Leading article, page 23

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