Izetbegovic's views on Holbrooke's peace proposal

    The Bitter Taste of Peace

    By President Alija Izetbegovic

    Turkish Daily News (14 September 1995)
    (This article was published simultaneously by the TDN and Oslobodjenje)

    Last Friday, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian foreign ministers agreed on several basic principles of future peace in Bosnia. Nothing was signed, but something was agreed, this will be the basis for the continuation of negotiations. I will try to give my personal opinion on this. This was a classic compromise and every compromise bears the taste of bitterness.

    What was agreed in Geneva?

    The most important things could be narrowed down to two points:

    1. Bosnia-Herzegovina continues to exist as a united and sovereign state -- a member of the United Nations in its internationally recognized borders.

    2. Bosnia-Herzegovina will comprise the Bosnian Federation and the Republika Srpska, with internal demarcation in the ratio 51:49 in the favor of the federation.

    Thus, the Serbs had to recognize and accept the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina against which they have been fighting, we had to accept their republic created by aggression. Together with this they had to accept the ratio of internal demarcation 51:49, which they have been categorically rejecting from the very beginning, and there is no confederation with Serbia.

    These important circumstances, especially the fact that the Republika Srpska is within Bosnia-Herzegovina and that there is no confederation, are not reported by Karadzic's media, however, with deceit and self-deceit, nothing can be changed. Why have we accepted this compromise?

    The answer is simple: in order to end the war. There has been too much misfortune and suffering of the peoples, every new day of war is claiming new victims and invalids, the people who have taken refuge abroad are losing patience and hope, and the number of refuges is not decreasing, but increasing, just as the number of the destroyed houses and factories is growing. In case the war continued, our future would be uncertain, because the world has made it clear that we have its support for peace but not for war.

    In case we refuse this peace, which the world describes as reasonable, the arms embargo will most certainly not be lifted and pressures against the encirclement are possible in order to make our logistics and the continuation of war more difficult. Since the war in its nature is a process which is difficult to control, its escalation is possible in every moment with Serbia and Russia getting involved in the war.

    In case of such a flow of events everything is a stake and everything could be lost. The behavior of the West is not illogical as usually claimed. It has been determined and will be further determined by interests of some countries, but even more by one fact which is less visible and not very often mentioned: the fear of Russian atomic bombs. Today, this fear is larger than in the time of the Soviet Union.

    The Soviet Union was then under full control, today, various unpleasant surprises are possible there ... This fear stands behind the "incomprehensible" behavior of the West ... The world is as it is, we cannot change it. The thing we can do is to get to know it and not close our eyes before facts.

    What are we getting with this bitter peace? I will try to list:

    1. The Federation will get about additional 15 percent of territory including among other things the towns of Bosanska Krupa, Sanski Most, Donji Vakuf, Jajce, Trnovo, Brcko, Odzak, Derventa, Doboj, Bosanski Brod, Bosanski Samac and others. It will also have a road link with Gorazde, by which the siege of this town will be lifted. I say most likely because this is not certain yet, but it is certain enough, this is our condition which we cannot give up.

    2. On this widened area of the federation, all of our refugees can return and find shelter and begin a normal life.

    3. Instead of humanitarian aid, we will be getting economic aid for the reconstruction of the country.

    By reopening our factories, schools and universities and a perspective for a normal life for our citizens we will be able to reemploy those able to work to return the young to the schools and to give our pensioners their pensions. Also, a systematic care for invalids and the families of killed will finally begin.

    4. Finally, based on these principles, the process of a peaceful reintegration of part of Bosnia currently under Chetnik control could begin. This is a painstaking task for the next two generations, but the two basic conditions have been created for this already: first of all, the very principle of a united Bosnia, accepted by all relevant countries in the world, and formally confirmed in Geneva; and second, the defended part of Bosnia, now organized as the Federation, in which a high degree (and tempo) of political and economic developments should be and can be created.

    The first is a formal, and the second a real basis for future Bosnia's reintegration. Will we use these changes, this largely depends on us, on who we are and on whether we are capable to achieve such a model which will defeat the darkness in the dispersed parts of the so-called Serb republic.

    There is only one alternative to this path: the continuation of the war in order to, in military ways, with a military victory, unite Bosnia. Can we achieve this, and how much does this cost first of all in lives? How many more killed, how many more crippled, and how many more voluntary and forced refugees? We are a small people. ... Ethnic cleansing is the thing that is destroying Bosnia. Just compare how much things have moved backwards in this sense in the past several months after the crimes in Srebrenica, Zepa, Banja Luka. Despite Bosnian Army successes, Bosnia, as a multinational community, is today further away from itself than it was a year ago. Will not the continuation of the war act in the same direction? However, if necessary, we will wage war, but then we must be sure that there was no other choice.