Letter: Impossibility of delivering aid to Bosnia without the help of the Serbs

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The Independent Online
Sir: While sympathising fully with the pessimistic sentiments about Bosnia expressed by Sir Antony Duff and Lord Gladwyn (Letters, 29 October), I venture to offer a positive thought.

The underlying cause of the war in Bosnia is the insistence of the Serbs that other people must accept minority status wherever Serbs claim territory, while Serbs must never be required to accept minority status in territory under alien rule. This is generally characterised as the drive for a greater Serbia, which, as Lord Gladwyn says, will probably end in a Balkan war. By their pusillanimity, the western governments have failed to check the Serbian drive in Bosnia, and it is now too late to correct that default within the limits of Bosnia.

It may not be too late, however, to correct it in the wider Balkan context. Having failed disgracefully to let the Bosnian government have the arms to defend itself and its people, the Western governments should now be helping Serbia's other neighbours to hold Serbia in check. This means taking positive and publicly proclaimed steps to help Albania stand on its feet as a deterrent to Serb oppression in Kosovo, helping Macedonia to become a functioning state in spite of Greek connivance with Serbia, showing favour to Croatia's assertion of sovereignty within its old borders, and supporting demands for fair treatment of Hungarians in the Voivodina.

Of course, each of these steps entails difficulties and danger. While helping Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, it would be necessary to restrain them and insist on respect for reasonable Serbian interests. The dangers are greater now because of the shameful failure of Western governments to rise to the level of the crisis in Bosnia. But if they fail again, the dangers in the future will be even greater.

There have been hints from Lord Owen and others that a general Balkan conference may be in the making. This is probably the only way in which the Yugoslav/Serbian problem can now be resolved. But no conference will succeed unless the Western powers brace themselves to create physical checks on the Serbs by strengthening, with strict conditions, Serbia's neighbours.

Yours faithfully,

REGINALD HIBBERT

London, WC1

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