Leading Article: EU must keep up pressure for peace

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The Independent Online
THE fruitless negotiations to achieve a settlement of the war in Bosnia resume this week with every sign that the task of the international mediators has become even more difficult. These will be the first comprehensive talks of the new year. They demand a grasp of fresh realities in the Balkans and a coherent European approach to the warring parties if the horrors of 1993 are not to be reproduced throughout 1994.

It is not hard to imagine the consequences of perpetual failure: another swathe of burnt-out villages, glum corteges of the dispossessed, profiteers ever more sleek and the inhabitants of Sarajevo condemned to live like rats under the guns of the Serb besiegers.

So it is best to understand the dynamics of this three-way battle before seeking to end it. It is clear that Croatia now openly seeks to unite its Bosnian brethren to the motherland, no longer deferring to the fiction of a Croat entity within a Bosnian state. The same noises emanate from the grim opera-bouffe troupe that constitutes the clique of Radovan Karadzic and those in Belgrade who encourage him. Lord Owen and his team realise they are dealing with a new phase. In the absence of a negotiated peace, Serbia and Croatia intend by force to create their Greater Nations at the expense of the Bosnian state. It is difficult to see how they may be compelled to desist.

Why should this be so? It is at least in part because the Bosnian government, under the vacillating and inconsistent leadership of President Alija Izetbegovic, has failed seriously to engage in negotiating a settlement. The Muslim government has honourable reasons for doing so. It refuses to bend the knee to brute force. But it also harbours dreams of a spring offensive every bit as horrific in its effect on civilians as Serb or Croat crimes. And it clings to the deluded hope of American intervention. By persisting in this course it has generated the decision of Serbia and Croatia to achieve their ends by armed might.

There seems little choice but to exercise continuous pressure on all sides. The European Union should impose sanctions upon Croatia and tell the unsavoury Franjo Tudjman that Zagreb will remain estranged from civilised Europe while he persists in his aggression. Serbia must remain under the severest sanctions; indeed, President Milosevic should be made to face the prospect of utter ruin and Dr Karadzic the real threat of air strikes. But at the same time the Muslim leadership - long separated by protection and comfort from the plight of its people - should begin talking seriously if it desires peace.