A: In my opinion, the problem is above all in their different conceptions for the solution of the Bosnian crisis. These differences are the strongest regarding the necessity for the pressure on the muslim side. That is obvious: even a report has been sent to Boutros Ghali --which we know of -- which states that the muslim side is responsible for the non-implementation of the ceasefire. And you know very well that so far no pressure has been put on the muslim side. It is interesting that just recently and for a first time, Lord Owen found himself in a position to state that muslim offensives were being launched from the so-called safe areas, which are actually military bases, and it is known that according to the Security Council resolutions they were supposed to be demilitarized. . . .
The second reason lies in the significant differences in the positions of the U.S., on one side, and Europe, except of course for Germany, on the other. This conflict is more than 3,000 miles from the American soil; compare their reaction to the conflict in Grenada, which they stopped after 10 days, and the conflict in Bosnia, which they are trying to prolong; that is the difference between the European, especially French and British, interests and the American interests.
This is happening in the European backyard, not in the American. In my opinion, these are the basic reasons for the lack of direction and inefficiency in the work of the Contact Group. The proof of their confusion is their secrecy and the lack of public statements about their work. That is why I think the EU is working on a different approach, on a different diplomatic initiatives, on different levels, which would simply replace the Contact Group.
Q: It has been alleged that Russia has its own concept for the solution of the Bosnian conflict. The content of that peace parcel from Moscow still hasn't been revealed. Do you know anything about that Russian initiative, and can it be of any use to the Srpska Republic (SR), having in mind the former Russian behavior?
The Russian initiative cannot be of any use to the SR, since it assumes, above all, the recognition of former Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia by the Yugoslav Federal Republic (FRY). That would be clearly catastrophic for us. Similarly, it is clear that the rift, which, in a way, now exists between the Republic Srpska Krajina (RSK) and the Srpska Republic (SR) and the FRY, would become worse, since we wouldn't accept such a recognition; consequently, these parts of the Serb people would be put in an even more difficult position. Besides, what is objectively bad in that plan affects not only us but also a sort of alliance, or at least friendship between the FRY and Russia. It is obvious how important the ending of sanctions is for the FRY form the importance it [lifting of sanctions] has been given in the media and by the FRY diplomacy. The Russians are virtually blackmailing the FRY with such conditions, knowing that it is the most important issue for that country. That could - of course I hope it won't - worsen the relations between the FRY and the Russian Federation. If that happens, it will be a great trial for the Serbian people, which is almost alone in the Universe. We now, apart from the Greeks and Russians, have no friends in the world.
That is why I think it is really sad and ugly that the Russian proposal is the way it is.
Q: Lately, remarks and even accusations have been coming more often from the eastern bank of the river Drina [FRY]; the Pale authorities are accused, they say, of not wanting peace; it is said that the Contact Group plan is supposedly acceptable to the Serbs, " because it offers a good basis for the just solution of the Serb national problem." Mr. Koljevic, why isn't the Contact Group plan acceptable to the Serbs?
A: First, I would like to emphasize that we are not war mangers and there are even proofs for that. We have fully cooperated with the peace process for more than three years, to the extent that our people had enough of that; the people were wondering why we were all the time in Geneva and many of them saw in that the Western tactics to keep the leadership of the Srpska Republic away from its people. . . Those who know anything about the psychology must know that one can not get used to death and suffering. . . Third: it is enough to consider the latest UNPROFOR reports about who initiated offensives since the beginning of the agreement about the cessation of the hostilities; clearly, we were forced to defend ourselves and we never attacked; we even had to use an ultimatum in order to protect the people in Serbian Sarajevo (although the anti-sniper agreement had been made); we threatened to close the UN supply routes for a month for every Serb killed by a sniper. So that the muslim side should consider what is in their interest. Therefore instead of replying with the sniper fire, let alone artillery, which wouldn't have been hard for us, we took a peaceful route and tried to stop an escalation, at least in Sarajevo. Finally, it is obvious that in total isolation, now even from the FRY, we cannot nonchalantly sit and wait for a defeat. Time, militarily, isn't working for us; especially when resources are taken into account. If the muslims, as they are and as can be seen, and as the International Community admits, are now starting the war, then the war should be also finished, because that is in Serbian national interest.
Q: Muslims have used the safe area of Tuzla for the attacks on the Serb lines of defense, as in Gorazde, on the Mount Igman and around Bihac. The International Community doesn't seem to be bothered by that, so that the high UNPROFOR officer, in charge of Bosnia-Hercegovina renewed demands for strikes on Serb positions. What logic, if any, can explain that?
A: Well, it is interesting that for a first time since the beginning of this war the muslims were threatened with air strikes. The threat came from the International Community, and the muslims were indirectly accused of turning the so-called safe areas into military bases. I think that this was very significant for us and a small consolation. . . .
Q: What are your impressions of Gen. Rose's replacement, Gen. Smith?
A: Little is known about Smith. My impression after several meetings is that he is a man who won't allow himself to be manipulated [by others]. He spoke about the pressure from New York in that direction [to take sides in the conflict?], but I think that he has integrity. . . . he is a man with an exceptional intelligence, very well educated, and one could say - wise. He clearly saw that his predecessors, from MacKenzie to Rose were manipulated by others.
For example, MacKenzie, who is an honorable man, when the agreement about the airport was made, promised personally to me a communication route along or over the runway between Ilidza and Lukavica. I remember very well Gen. MacKanzie who is always a welcome guest in SR; he has recently visited SR to make a TV programme; anyway, I remember him and I am certain that he would have kept his promise. However, he was replaced. I think that Rupert Smith knows all that very well and that he won't allow something similar to happen.
Q: Mr. Koljevic, do you after all, feel that the International Community is not interested in ending the war on the territory of the former Bosnia-Hercegovine and former Yugoslavia? Actually, do you think that the International Community is simply trying to fool the Serbian people living west from the rivers Drina and Danube, with sending the so-called peace mediators and missionaries, while at the same time trying to prolong the war and destroy (the Serbian people) biologically and economically?
A: I will have to surprise you somewhat with my answer. I know that the majority of Serbs think that is true. Serbs have a problem, actually a lot of them, but this one is typical.
Serbs are gullible. That is why rumors spread easily among us; for example when an average Croat reads a text he thinks about the intent of its writer and the reliability of the sources, while an average Serb accepts the text as if it were taken from the Bible!
Q: He doesn't know how to read and understand all the meanings in the text?
A: Exactly. Because of that gullibility, the Serbs often go to another extreme, I won't use the word paranoia, but they feel cheated, even when they aren't. However, it seems to me that since six months ago the International Community has been working for peace, not war. The most influential factors, above all France and England, because everything is taking place in their backyard, and because there is a possibility of an escalation of the war, . . . want peace and that is the reason for their military involvement in the UN mission.
Why is it that the French and the English and other European countries are present in Bosnia but the Americans are not? That gives the French and the English a chance, taking into account that they are not great world powers like the U.S., to have a greater political influence when the decisions are made about whether there should be peace or war in Bosnia.
I do not think that the European part of the International Community, except for Germany, is for the prolongation of the war. On the contrary, I even have a small proof for that. Toward the end of the last Geneva conference, while Charles Redman and Vitali Churkin were sitting, while we were negotiating, and when everyone thought, including president Milosevic, that we had found a solution, since the constitutional part of the agreement had been finished and the map was almost done - the two present individuals, and that is how they behaved - left the room and I was left alone with the two co-presidents. Since the muslim side returned soon after that demanding another 14 towns, seven from the Serbs and seven from the Croats - it is obvious who had given them the advice. At that moment, the co-presidents decided not to allow to be tricked by the muslims any more and their idea was to pull the Americans and Russians in ( Russians play a secondary role, probably not due to their intentions, but due to their powerlessness), thinking that would put stop to the muslim intransigence. That is why I think they are actually, confused, disoriented and do not know what to do.
Q: Still, under what conditions would the Contact Group peace plan become acceptable to the SR?
Look, we have several initiatives about which I cannot talk because they are secret, but the public should know that we have been proposing new peace initiatives almost daily. We want to enable the Contact Group to formulate the infamous sentence in a way which would be acceptable to the other side, the muslim-croat federation. Finally we have recently had a meeting in Zvornik with the two co-presidents, where we again worked on this problem.
We are not setting any preconditions. We even do not think that the percentages are crucial; actually we think that the current approach [of setting the percentages of the territory in advance] is ill conceived . If the fundamental principle is the viability of a state the percentages will come from certain principles which should be adopted. It seems to us that the best approach would be to start from a few points which are of a strategic importance for a survival of both states, for their existence, and have Serbs, muslims and Croats agree on those principles.
Q: What are these points?
A: Clearly, the principle number one for us is the corridor; it should be at least 10 miles wide, which is the international standard for the air traffic. Otherwise we would have no conditions for the air traffic.
It is easy to conclude what is the first strategic goal for the majority in the m/h federation -- access to the sea. Because they want to have an international border, by which they mean a line not bordering Serbs or Croats!
In spite of everything the muslims have been saying and their war cries, it is obvious that nobody wants war. They are doing that for the propaganda reasons. If we could agree about, for example, five strategic points it would be much easier to agree about the problems between these five points. . . based on the fact that, in spite of everything all sides would rather have peace than war. Although the muslims haven't so far shown a lot of concern for the large number of victims on their side, they will have to think about it in the future, since their losses are mounting day after day.
As far as the further negotiations are concerned, we have only one priority -- not to be cheated if the negotiations fail. Therefore, we cannot accept the word "acceptance".
A: Because there is a real danger, that if the negotiations fail, we shall fall back on the initial Contact Group plan. To the territorial division which is unacceptable to us and every person in the SR. By the way, that is another propagandist lie, that apparently the Pale authorities are the only ones who find that plan unacceptable; we had a referendum, and I don't understand how anyone can say that we are hiding behind the referendum!
Thus, we are only trying to avoid a possible trap of returning to the initial plan and giving the legitimacy to the International Community together with NATO as a regional force to take those territories from us by force and not with "pin prick" air strikes but an air campaign similar to the one in Iraq.
Q: UNPROFOR's presence in former Yugoslavia, has been extended. However, its future mandate, name and composition of the peace-keeping forces are still uncertain; Boutros Ghali has one solution, the Americans another and the Security Council yet another. Who will prevail? Isn't the end of the U.N. near?
A: The U.N. should be ashamed regarding "the role of peace-keeping forces in the war" in Bosnia-Hercegovina; objectively speaking - and we openly said this to the co-presidents - the peacekeepers have only prolonged the war.
For example, if the Serbs hadn't withdrawn from the Mount Igman, after putting their trust in a peaceful settlement, the war would have been finished by now. Militarily, as anyone knowing anything about Sarajevo can confirm, muslims were not surrounded, as Gen. MacKenzie wrote in his book, but were in a horseshoe. With the Mount Igman [in our hands] they would be today surrounded and would have to negotiate.
Unless they wanted to loose that city [Sarajevo] and all the people in it. . . . the U.N. are putting themselves in a more difficult situation with every passing day. Boutros Ghali will have to make an important decision very soon: whether he will stay as an honorable man at the helm of the U.N. or whether he will, having in mind the American dictat, be totally humiliated as a Secretary General of an international organization, not an American one. . . I don't think that his new ideas about three possible forms of UNPROFOR will change anything significantly.
Q: Is it possible that Serbia, i.e. the FRY, will in the near future recognize communist borders of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina and , if that happens, how would it affect wider political situation?
A: I think that that will not happen. But, maybe I am too much of an optimist? What would happen in that case? A real and a deep split between parts of the Serbian people would ensue since we couldn't go along with the recognition.
Q: Russian president Yeltsin invited Alija Izetbegovic [president of Bosnia-Hercegovina] to the commemoration of the 50 years since the victory against fascism, which will take place this May in Moscow. Your comment?
A: That is a sad and ugly consequence of giving in to the American dictate.