West ready to give Gorazde to the Serbs

TURMOIL IN THE BALKANS: COMMENTARY; Redrawing the map: Trouble looms for minorities throughout former Yugoslavia as new peace ideas come to terms with ethnic cleansing

Western governments, which have publicly deplored the forcible redistribution of nationalities in former Yugoslavia, are quietly reshaping their peace proposals to take account of the realities created by "ethnic cleansing". The latest example concerns Gorazde, an enclave on the Drina river that is the only place in eastern Bosnia still under the control of the Muslim- led Bosnian government.

After the neighbouring Muslim enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa fell last month to Bosnian Serb forces, Western leaders swore that Gorazde must not go the same way. Nato hastily put together a plan calling for big air strikes on the Bosnian Serbs if they dared attack Gorazde.

However, Croatia's capture of the rebel Krajina Serb region, and the subsequent flight of practically the entire Krajina population into Serbia and Serb-held Bosnian land, have changed the outlook for Gorazde. It is seen now as a vulnerable Muslim island in a Serb sea that might be better allocated to the Bosnian Serbs as a way of "cleaning up the map" and achieving a workable peace, say US and British sources.

In return, the Muslim-led government would be offered more land in the Sarajevo area, thus increasing the security of what may turn out to be a rump Bosnian Muslim state. Overall, the Bosnian Serbs would still receive up to 49 per cent of Bosnia, but the lion's share of important towns and economic facilities would go to the Muslims and their Bosnian Croat allies.

The sacrifice of Gorazde is, at this stage, more of an understanding among Western governments than an agreed initiative. After all, Western public opinion might find it odd that the enclave was being given up only a few weeks after Nato was prepared to go to war over it.

Yet "cleaning up the map" is believed to be the idea at the heart of various proposals floated in London yesterday by President Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake. He held talks with officials from Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence and was later visiting Paris and Bonn.

It is unlikely that Britain will raise serious objections to the sacrifice of Gorazde. Government ministers and their advisers have held out little long-term hope for Gorazde ever since Serb forces overran most of the Drina valley in 1992, and many were not convinced in their hearts that Nato needed recently to put its reputation on the line over the enclave.

It is obvious that if Gorazde is allocated to the Bosnian Serbs, its Muslim population will not wait for constitutional guarantees of minority rights from their Serb tormentors. They will leave and one more nail will be driven into the coffin of a united, multi-national Bosnian state.

Perhaps, after four years of war in former Yugoslavia and the displacement of more than 2.5 million people, there is no other way to go. But the "cleaning up" of the national maps of Croatia and Bosnia is a process that will place enormous and, in the end, probably intolerable pressure on other parts of former Yugoslavia.

These include the Sandzak, a region straddling Serbia and Montenegro, the province of Kosovo in southern Serbia, and Macedonia. All have substantial minorities whose future does not look promising in the light of the war- induced population movements to their north.

Almost half the Sandzak's 400,000 people are Muslim Slavs, similar in some ways to the Bosnian Muslims but with their own identity. Since the rise of President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia in the late 1980s, they have experienced considerable harassment at the hands of the Serbian authorities.

In Kosovo, where until recently up to 90 per cent of the 2 million people were ethnic Albanians, there has been periodic unrest since 1945, but especially in the past seven years. Mr Milosevic's abolition of Kosovo's autonomy and his creation of a virtual police state in the province have caused more than 250,000 Albanians to leave since 1990, mainly for Germany and the United States.

At the same time, the state-controlled media in Belgrade have suggested Serbia's authorities may try to resettle thousands of Krajina Serb refugees in Kosovo. This would reinforce the Serb presence in a region which is central to the Serb national identity but in which the Serb-Albanian population balance has shifted markedly this century in favour of the Albanians.

In Macedonia, there have been sporadic clashes in recent years between the Slav majority and ethnic Albanians, who make up more than 20 per cent of the 2 million people. Most of the Slavs consider themselves Macedonians by nationality but, to add to the state's troubles, neighbouring Greece and Bulgaria say there is no such thing as a Macedonian nation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot