Peace envoys se hope in Geneva talks

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - The international community's two senior negotiators on what was Yugoslavia, Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, arrived here yesterday promising to end the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina with diplomatic pressure.

After a one-hour meeting with the Bosnian President, Alija Izetbegovic, Mr Vance, the United Nations special envoy, said peace talks in Geneva 'will be a continuous process'. The former US secretary of state said: 'We will push until we get some movement, but the most important thing is that all the parties talk.'

The two envoys said yesterday they had won agreement from leaders of the three warring factions in Bosnia to attend talks in Geneva next week on ending the conflict. Mr Vance said the most important development was agreement by Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic, to lead his delegation to the talks. Mr Izetbegovic had rejected direct talks with the leader of Bosnia's Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, saying it would be lunacy to negotiate with forces attacking his capital.

Lord Owen, the European Community's co-chairman of the Geneva conference, told reporters he found the situation in Sarajevo 'ghastly' and that talks would address the Serbian blockade of the city and apparent Serbian moves to limit water and electricity supplies. The former British foreign secretary said: 'Slowly, persistently, patiently, we will end this. Don't underestimate the will of the international community.'

Mr Vance and Lord Owen, who went to Sarajevo in a convoy of armoured personnel carriers, planned to fly out yesterday evening on a French air force plane. But Egyptian Brigadier General Hussein Aly Abdulrazek, commander of UN peace-keeping forces in Sarajevo, said fighting was intense at the airport just hours before their scheduled departure. It would be the first aircraft into or out of the airport since last Thursday, when an Italian transport jet crashed as it approached Sarajevo. Investigators say it was shot down.

On Tuesday, two French soldiers were killed at the airport and five others wounded when a UN convoy was fired on by what Brig Gen Adbulrazek called 'irresponsible elements' in the Bosnian forces. Lord Owen called for the killers of the French soldiers to be arrested and prosecuted for 'this criminal act'. Mr Izetbegovic said there was no 'hard evidence' to suggest that Bosnian forces killed the French soldiers, but his government was investigating. Earlier, a government official had denied Bosnian culpability.

After meeting Mr Izetbegovic, the two mediators went to the Serbian-held suburb of Lukavica to meet Mr Karadzic, leader of the self-proclaimed Serbian Republic of Bosnia.

Lord Owen earlier pledged that the UN would extend its mandate in Bosnia-Herzegovina, saying, 'There are limits, but we will extend those limits.' Of his lengthy trip through territory held by all three warring parties, he said: 'You see the whole wanton destruction. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.'