Letter: Aid represents hope for Bosnia

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The Independent Online
Sir: Now that the Vance-Owen plan to divide Bosnia into cantons is dead beyond all possibility of resurrection, and the subsequent efforts to agree a division of Bosnia into three ethnic mini-states with boundaries acceptable to all three communities are also seen to have failed, it is time for the West and the UN to rethink their approach.

The cantons were always a muddled answer. If they were all made ethnically pure that would have involved further compulsory displacements of population. If they remained ethnically mixed, but with a dominant majority, they would only have fractionalised the problem of the treatment of minority populations. Economically, they would have been a nonsense, creating a patchwork of borders and potential checkpoints in a country where communications are already difficult.

Dividing Bosnia into three ethnic mini-states would have been little better, even if the Serbs had been persuaded to give back enough territory to create fair shares of land and population in relation to the pre-war numbers of Serbs, Croats and Muslims. Even after two years of 'ethnic cleansing', viable mini-states with realistic borders could only be created by further wholesale transfers of population.

The only viable solution is a firm commitment to a unitary state of Bosnia, with its borders guaranteed by the UN, and community rights guaranteed by electing three ethnically based chambers to a central parliament. The main government ministries could then be shared out between the three communities on an agreed formula. Acceptance of a unitary state would remove the main excuse the three communities have for continuing to fight for territory, and lift the Serbian sense of being singled out for blame for the suffering the misguided struggle for territory has caused.

Wishing alone will not make all this happen, but a commitment to a unitary state would create the level playing field that would allow the UN to apply sanctions equally to all three communities to enforce a just solution, and not just to Serbia.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE24