Letter smooths the way on Bosnia talks: Lord Carrington has dismissed his feud with the UN chief as a 'dead duck'. Annika Savill spoke to him before the international peace conference in London

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The Independent Online
LORD Carrington revealed yesterday that he had received a 'handsome' letter of apology from Boutros Boutros-Ghali over some scathing remarks attributed to the UN Secretary-General in a newspaper interview 10 days ago. The letter from the UN chief, which praises Lord Carrington's courage, paves the way for both statesmen to attend the international conference on the former Yugoslavia later this month - an occasion which, it emerged yesterday, would otherwise have come under severe strain.

It also allows the EC negotiator, who has sat through 12 months of ill-fated talks and broken ceasefires, to approach his mission with renewed cheerfulness if not optimism. Today, he is to hold talks in Brussels with the presidents of all six republics which used to make up Yugoslavia. Lord Carrington, a former Guards officer, may be able to accept defeat, but he does not take kindly to charges of cowardice. Lord Carrington said the Secretary-General had written to say he was deeply disturbed by the remarks about the EC negotiator attributed to him in the New York Times on 3 August - the same interview in which Mr Boutros-Ghali wondered if the British did not like him because he was a 'wog'. The article said there had been 'more than a hint of scorn in Mr Boutros-Ghali's voice over Lord Carrington's refusal to go to Sarajevo' and said the UN chief had 'contrasted the talks held at a safe distance in London with the willingness of Cyrus Vance to conduct negotiations where the fighting was taking place'.

Lord Carrington said Mr Boutros-Ghali had expressed full understanding that he should have been upset by the reported remarks. He said the UN chief had assured him that 'no such thought either crossed my mind or was uttered by me'. He had expressed respect for Lord Carrington's courage as a military officer and in his political career.

Lord Carrington, who in fact went to the Bosnian capital in early July, said yesterday: 'I got a little bit cross since I happened to have been to Sarajevo.' Laughing, he added: 'It seemed a little unnecessary . . . However, having had a handsome apology, let us let bygones be bygones.'

He said the UN chief had also explained he had not criticised Lord Carrington for the London agreement reached by the warring Bosnians on 17 July. Mr Boutros- Ghali said he had considered the fact that they were able to reach an agreement at all as an important step; and that he had only objected to the fact that the members of the Security Council had decided, without consulting him, to agree to place the task of monitoring heavy weapons under UN control.

An unembittered Lord Carrington yesterday dismissed the debate as a 'dead duck', adding: 'The whole thing is redundant because the ceasefire didn't hold. It never started.'

This, in turn, prompted the former foreign secretary to take stock. Realistically, a ceasefire had never really been intended by the parties: 'The whole object of the exercise was that if you could get the heavy weapons under UN control, there was a chance of making the ceasefire stick . . . Of course, it didn't. I think the Serbs were the only ones who even bothered to give a list of their artillery, and that was probably inaccurate.

'But none of them really meant any of this to work. That's the truth of the matter. None of them. You can't go on negotiating ceasefires which nobody has any intention of keeping. I mean, they'll all agree to anything and sign it, but they don't mean it.'

Lord Carrington conceded that although the Serbs were the main culprits on the issue of detention camps, 'I think there's ethnic cleansing going on everywhere.' He added that 'there have been occasions where the Muslims have provoked things . . . There's evidence of that. Equally the Croats have kept very quiet because the heat's on the Serbs, and to some extent the Muslims, but they themselves have carved out a large piece of Bosnia.'

On the debate about military intervention, he insisted: 'Well, it's not my business.' He added that 'the Muslims have never made any secret of the fact that they want a military intervention. And indeed from their point of view that makes absolute sense, because they can see that unless something very unexpected happens, you're going to get a de facto partition of Bosnia.' Looking back on his triumph in 1979 - the Rhodesian independence talks at Lancaster House - he said the difference was that 'they all wanted a settlement'. 'In this case, none of that is true. They don't broadly speaking want to reach a settlement unless they get their own way . . . ' The conference in London on 26-28 August, to be co-chaired by Mr Boutros-Ghali and John Major, will be charged with 'widening and intensifying' Lord Carrington's mission to bring in the UN. He says he welcomes this 'if it has the effect of putting more pressure on the people concerned', but admitted: 'I've always been known to be rather pessimistic about all this . . . Without wishing to be too critical, I don't honestly think a lot of people understand about the problem. You could perfectly well argue that my conference had gone as far as it could because it hadn't succeeded in getting a settlement . . . My comment would be that I don't think anybody's going to at the moment. I don't have any personal feelings about it, I just want to see a settlement. One of the good things I think will happen in London, if I'm allowed the opportunity of saying so, is that one can actually explain to the people who are there just what the problems are.'

(Photograph omitted)