Serbs back partition plan

THE BOSNIAN Serbs are "definitely" ready to withdraw to less than half the territory of Bosnia and want a ceasefire as soon as possible, their Vice President Nikola Koljevic said yesterday.

He also confirmed that secret talks are going on to divide Sarajevo and predicted that there could be a full scale international peace conference within two weeks.

Puffing a cigarette as he lounged in the foyer of a luxury hotel in Geneva, Professor Koljevic - who fancies himself as an English literature scholar - invoked Henry James to express his regret that peace talks had come "late. . . so late in the day."

Professor Koljevic said the Bosnian Serb military commander, General Ratko Mladic, would "definitely" withdraw from areas conquered by his men after a negotiated settlement. "There's no question about that. Mladic is not a warlord. He doesn't want war for the sake of war. . . he's not that kind of man."

He said General Mladic wanted "explicit guarantees and a ceasefire" before he would agree to open routes into Sarajevo and open its airport. He wanted to meet the British UN commander, General Rupert Smith, to "decide about the dynamics and the calibre of weapons for withdrawal".

Professor Koljevic, deputy to the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, confirmed that the Serbs now accepted in principle the division of Bosnia with 49 per cent for their own republic and 51 per cent for a Muslim-Croat federation. At present the Serbs control some 70 per cent of Bosnian territory.

"This principle is open to further adjustment by mutual agreement," he said. "I'm quite sure we can do the swaps - exchanging quantity for quality."

The "number one Serb priority" was to widen a corridor around the town of Brcko which links their possessions in north and south Bosnia. He agreed that the Muslims "must have their links between Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenitsa and south towards Mostar". He also revealed that the United States was conducting "under the table" negotiations about the future of Sarajevo.

"They don't want to tell you everything. They are very good at this secret diplomacy. What we know so far is that the most vital matter is that parts of Sarajevo which are going to belong to the Serbs or the Muslims will be 'compact' [ie, geographically linked] with the rest of their territory."

The professor, who represented the Bosnian Serbs at the Geneva talks, said there could be a full-scale peace conference "within 10 or maybe 15 days". The Serbs had come to the negotiating table "at gunpoint or shall I say bomb point" but they had won important concessions. "We now have our Republika Srpska - the first time it has been officially called that. It becomes an international reality."

Two vital unwritten principles had been worked out, he said. The first was that the Serbs would enjoy full "equality of rights" with the Muslims and Croats. The second - which he said was particularly endorsed by the British representative, Pauline Neville-Jones, political director of the Foreign Office - was that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

The scene is now set for a heavyweight bout of negotiations. The Muslim- led Bosnian government is bound to put up bitter resistance to the formal separation of Sarajevo and diplomats believe it will argue strongly to restrict links between Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs. The government also rejects any idea that it will give up the encircled town of Gorazde.

But as Nato planes continued to bombard Bosnian Serb targets yesterday, prompting increased Russian anger, there exists massive international pressure on all sides - including the Muslims - to reach a compromise settlement. None the less, some factions in the Bosnian government still hope that the arms embargo will be lifted and they can then wage a successful military campaign with US support.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat