Letter: Solution to the Bosnian war to be found in balance of power

Click to follow
From Mr Aleksa Gavrilovic

Sir: Andrew Marr writes (20 July) that the Bosnian Serb strategy has been to destroy "multicultural" life and create a "Greater Serbia". This is an unfair allegation. Bosnian Serbs wanted to stay in a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. Considering their tragic experience during the Second World War, it is not surprising that they did not want to be ruled by a Muslim- led central government, or by a coalition of Muslims and Croats.

Ambassador Cutileiro, Lord Carrington's deputy, obtained, on 18 March 1992, the agreement of Bosnian Muslims (44 per cent), Bosnian Serbs (33 per cent) and Bosnian Croats (18 per cent) to the so-called Lisbon Paper as the basis of a constitution for the new state: Bosnia and Herzegovinia would be a federation of three constituent nations, each unit enjoying a reasonable degree of local autonomy.

Since Ottoman times, Muslims have lived mainly in towns, their territorial occupancy in proportion to their numbers has been relatively small. The agreement of 18 March, which was before the bloodshed started, was quite generous to the Muslims. One of their negotiators, Irfan Ajanovic, told newsmen at the time that the agreement foresaw that 82 per cent of Muslims would be in Muslim regions and only 50 per cent of Serbs in Serbian regions. Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, stated that if everyone were to adhere to the agreement, there would be no reason for conflict. Commenting on reports that a decision had already been made to recognise Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Karadzic said that the EC was unlikely to make the error of not allowing the agreement to be finalised beforehand. Despite this warning, the EC and the US recognised Alija Izetbegovic's government on 6 April.

Mr Cutileiro wrote in the International Herald Tribune (16 February 1993):

Last March 18, the three parties agreed on constitutional principles for a highly decentralised state. The Muslim party did so reluctantly, in order to secure quick recognition ... Recognition triggered the war.

Ambassador Cutileiro made it clear that neither the Serbs nor the Croats would accept a "unitary, Muslim-dominated Bosnia" and that "in June, the Muslims reneged on the March agreement".

The EC and the US made a tragic mistake by recognising Bosnia and Herzegovina prematurely: they should have insisted that the recognition be conditional on a binding constitutional agreement. It is Mr Izetbegovic's initial attempt to have a centralised government that Muslims could dominate, and the Western recognition of such a government, that led to the bloodshed.

Yours sincerely,

Aleksa Gavrilovic