Saving Sarajevo / Interview: 'A complete failure of political will': Jack Cunningham MP tells Tony Barber why the EC is most to blame

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The Independent Online
THE European Community's failure to pursue a consistent policy on Bosnia-Herzegovina had encouraged other countries and ethnic groups in Eastern Europe to believe aggression pays, Jack Cunningham, Labour shadow Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. In an interview with the Independent he said the EC bore more responsibility than the United States for the West's betrayal of Bosnia.

'I think this has been a European, not an American failure. The EC's decisions on the former Yugoslavia have been undermined by members of the EC themselves. For example, sanctions were introduced but members of the EC - Greece, among others - have been turning a blind eye to violations of those sanctions.'

Echoing the views of other senior British politicians, he said he doubted the de facto partition of Bosnia into Serbian, Croatian and Muslim zones could be avoided. But the Bosnian Serbs should be prevented from overrunning Sarajevo, and up to 8,000 extra United Nations troops should be deployed for humanitarian aid operations and to protect Muslim 'safe areas'.

'The reality is that the annexation of parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina has gone ahead. It's quite deplorable. I don't think that what the Bosnian government and Muslims will be left with is going to be a viable entity. It will be a small bit of landlocked territory,' he said. An enlarged UN presence in government-controlled areas was necessary, because 'otherwise the Serbs and Croats might just take the lot. Are we going to give any guarantees to the Muslims that what they're left with will be viable? Will we help them economically? Will we help them with their enormous refugee problem? If there are no international guarantees, what will they be left with?'

Mr Cunningham said he had never believed the West should have enforced a military solution to the three-way Bosnian conflict. But he added: 'There was a complete failure of political will to confront what was obviously Serbian aggression. The signal has gone out to people in Central and Eastern Europe that aggression will pay.'

Apart from trouble-spots such as the Serbian province of Kosovo and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, there was a danger that factions in countries such as Cambodia and Angola would interpret the Bosnian debacle as a UN failure. 'It's a defeat for the authority of the United Nations,' he said.

Mr Cunningham said a turning- point had been the Washington meeting in May when the US, Russian, British, French and Spanish foreign ministers announced the 'safe areas' initiative. 'That was an invitation to Serbs and Croats to take what they wanted by force. That was the real betrayal of Bosnia. Not only did the West abandon Bosnia as an independent state and drop the Vance-Owen plan, but it put no other political objective in place. That vacuum is now being filled by the demands of Serbs and Croats.'