LETTER:Two 'entities' cannot make one peace

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From Professor Adrian Hastings

Sir: The Bosnian peace agreement is a bad one because it provides international recognition of an "entity" - "Republika Srpska" [the Serb republic in Bosnia] - which can exist only because of the systematic ethnic cleansing of at least half its population over the past four years. Hardly one of its key towns had a Serb majority in its population in 1991. The international community has blessed what has been done when it could just as well have reversed it.

That said, two very different scenarios are now possible. In the first, President Slobodan Milosevic is rewarded with the immediate ending of sanctions but does nothing to ensure the removal of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic from power and nothing is done within "Republika Srpska" to implement the Dayton agreement as a whole. No refugees are able to return to their homes. There is no freedom of movement across the country. Milosevic has already in the past few weeks provided massive military rearmament for the Bosnian Serbs. If Nato allows this to happen, restricting its own operations to policing a frontier between the two "entities" and not to enforcing the agreement as a whole, then this will surely happen. In which case Bosnians will very justifiably turn their guns on Nato soldiers.

The alternative scenario is that Nato enforces the agreement as a whole and not just an internal frontier. Refugees are encouraged to return to Banja Luka and Zvornik and protected when they do so - this could be begun on a town-by-town basis. If this happens, then the division will matter less and less. In particular the Bosnian government should itself at once encourage the Serbs who fled from western Bosnia three months ago to return to their homes as soon as possible. The more Serbs agree that it is preferable to be in their old homes even though outside Republika Srpska, the more absurd the division of the country will soon appear.

Yours faithfully

Adrian Hastings

Department of Theology

and Religious Studies

University of Leeds

Leeds

22 November

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