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Source: Wed, 30 August, 1995 BosNet

Protect Gorazde, Don't Abandon It

The renewed peace initiative now under way to find a solution to the war in Bosnia cannot be successful while the international community sends contradictory signals to the Bosnian Serbs. The best--and probably the only--hope of finding a peaceful solution to the war in Bosnia is by exerting maximum pressure on the Bosnian Serbs.

The withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Gorazde invites the Bosnian Serbs to attack the enclave, testing UN and NATO resolve to muster the airpower to punish them. The UN has withdrawn 90 Ukrainians and up to 120 British peacekeepers, leaving only a token force in Gorazde. The UN plan is to withdraw the remaining peacekeepers, replacing them with 15-20 unarmed "observers." UN officials maintain that the withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces will facilitate the use of airpower and that NATO airpower will be sufficient to defend the Gorazde "safe area" from attack by the Bosnian Serbs.

We are skeptical. Based on previous experiences, we doubt that the U.S., NATO, and the UN have the resolve to defend Gorazde--or any other city in Bosnia--from the Bosnian Serbs.

A month ago, with great fanfare at the London conference, the U.S.,UN, and NATO declared that Gorazde was to be protected from the fate of Srebrenica and Zepa. Today, it appears that Gorazde is being abandoned by the international community. Tomorrow, if the UN is wrong in pulling out peacekeepers, the 65,000 people of Gorazde may suffer a fate similar to that of the people of Srebrenica and Zepa. Likewise, the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Gorazde may reduce the pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to cooperate with international efforts for peace. This is the time to demonstrate increased--not decreased--international resolve to protect the Bosnian people.

Recommendation: NATO should reiterate immediately that no violations of the Gorazde "safe area" will be tolerated, list targets which will be struck if Gorazde is shelled or attacked, and follow up with air strikes as necessary. If the U.S. and NATO are serious about protecting Gorazde with airpower, then we must convey that seriousness. The international community should strengthen--not weaken--its presence in the city to protect civilians.

If the UN and NATO are unwilling to defend Gorazde, the people ofthe city have the right to expect of the international community a protected evacuation to a safer place. The murder, rape, and torture ofthe people of Srebrenica and Zepa must not be allowed to be repeated in Gorazde.