Letters: Conference hastened invasion of Krajina

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The Independent Online
From Professor Adrian Hastings

Sir: Some 200,000 additional refugees - Serbs from Krajina, Croats and Muslims from Northern Bosnia - have been added in the past fortnight to the million or more ex-Yugoslavia refugees already sheltering somewhere. We wring our hands and blame Balkan barbarians but no one seems to ask why this happened when it did and whether the international community is not directly to blame for this latest devastating development coming, as it does, immediately after a much-trumpeted conference that Malcolm Rifkind, its chairman, declared a "great success".

The London conference was held in response to the fall and ethnic cleansing of Srebrenica, a town to whose "safety" the UN was committed and to the imminent fall of Zepa to whose fate the Conference quite brazenly closed its eyes.

General Mladic had already threatened to wipe out all the "safe areas" and Bihac was clearly the most vulnerable, already overrun in large part by troops from Krajina. President Tudjman had already declared that Croatia could not allow the fall of Bihac. Nevertheless, the London conference chose to confine its threats to Gorazde, apparently leaving Bihac to its fate as Zepa had been left.

If, instead, the conference had emphatically declared that Nato would no longer tolerate any troops crossing the internationally recognised border from Krajina into Bihac, and that the thousands of UN soldiers already in Krajina, but doing nothing, would enforce one safe route for convoys into Bihac across the narrow strip of 12 miles of Krajina to its west, then there would most probably have been no Croatian offensive against Krajina at this time. Instead, the very day after the London Conference, Croatia and Bosnia signed a treaty of co-operation including a Croatian contribution to Bosnia's defence "especially in the Bihac area".

It was the murder of Srebrenica, the assault on Bihac and the failure of the London conference to respond effectively to either that made Tudjman's offensive inevitable and, indeed, right. Mr Rifkind's "great success" seems to lie in having produced 200,000 additional refugees and a huge boost to ethnic cleansing everywhere.

Yours faithfully,

Adrian Hastings

Department of Theology

and Religious Studies

University of Leeds

Leeds

16 August

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