LETTER : When partition may be the only solution

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The Independent Online
From Mr Alasdair MacDonald

Sir: I was heartened today to read Tony Barber giving an airing to the possibility of the partition of the former Yugoslavia ("Peace with a terrible price", 8 August). He says that when our leaders talk in public about such a settlement, the catchphrase to emerge will be, "It is the best peace attainable." I would venture that such a solution will bring the only peace possible.

The nationalist aspirations and deep-seated hatreds that were only camouflaged in Tito's Yugoslavia have emerged in their pre-war (1939-45) intensity. The experience of the Second World War, despite the intervening years, remains fresh in the memory of the people of the region. It is doubtful that Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims can ever live in peace again in a multi-ethnic state.

Nor, unfortunately, is it useful to pretend that the opposing factions will be content with any settlement that enables irredentist claims to be made by nationalist politicians. For four years, the western media and western governments have been intent on identifying some "good guys" amid the carnage. There are no good guys in the former Yugoslavia. There are, however, an indeterminate number of "innocent" civilians for whom the best should be attempted.

Partition is, I think, the best and only practicable solution, although as Mr Barber points out, it will not be without considerable cost in human pain and misery. It will, however save lives, and that may be its only virtue. I am not sure how peace and partition can be imposed - it may occur only after many years of intermittent warfare that will leave all sides exhausted. The world community should try to do something before we reach that point.

Yours faithfully,

Alasdair MacDonald

Crudwell, Wiltshire

8 August