UN Broadens Role in Bosnia Crisis
Troop mandate will extend to opening land corridors for relief convoys throughout Bosnia
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. — DESPITE the urging of many onlookers moved by the human tragedy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United Nations Security Council plans no massive military intervention there. Yet, encouraged by the new structural framework for resolving Yugoslav problems that was set up by the UN and the European Community (EC) in London last month, the Council continues in other ways to press the warring factions to keep their promises and end the fighting.
This week the Security Council is expected once again to expand and strengthen the mandate of the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the former Yugoslavia.
In response to a new report from UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Council may increase the 1,600 UNPROFOR peacekeeping troops currently in Bosnia by another 6,500. Britain, France, Canada, and Turkey have offered to send more than 1,000 troops each.
The mandate of the UN troops, now limited to helping relief efforts in the Sarajevo area, will be broadened to include all of Bosnia and such added duties as opening up new land corridors for relief convoys. In accord with promises made by all sides in London, UN military observers will take on the surveillance of more heavy weapons used by all sides. Tightening sanctions
The UN and the EC also are expected to work together to more rigorously enforce economic and arms sanctions against Serbia. Oil has been getting in along the Danube River. Other supplies have seeped in across Serbia's border from Eastern European neighbors. UN and EC officials have been talking about placing ground monitors between Serbia and Bosnia.
"I've never felt that there was an all-or-nothing, black-and-white choice between standing aside and watching the slaughter ... or sending in massive amounts of ground forces," says Edward Luck, president of the United Nations Association of the USA. "There's no cost- or risk-free way of resolving this thing, but I think there are partial measures that can make a difference."
Yet the risks for the UN are increasing. Last week's crash of an Italian relief plane headed for Sarajevo, possibly hit by a missile, is only the latest example. Two UN soldiers have been killed and 44 wounded in Sarajevo since May, and the UNPROFOR headquarters building there has been shelled by both Muslim and Serb militias.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Marrack Goulding, who recently completed a six-day visit to Yugoslavia, describes the situation for UN personnel in Bosnia as "intolerable" but preferable to a UN pullout. "We have to keep slogging," he says.
Late last week Mr. Boutros-Ghali launched a new appeal for $434 million in humanitarian aid to help the estimated 2.7 million people in the former Yugoslav republics in need of emergency assistance during the harsh winter. Much of the money is needed to supply shelter for the thousands displaced from their homes.
The UN also is intent on opening up more land routes for relief aid and adding more trucks. "It is crucial to have land convoys," says Jan Eliasson, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
Despite its expected expansion, UNPROFOR in Bosnia will remain a traditional peacekeeping operation as the secretary-general requests. Boutros-Ghali clearly sees a danger in Bosnia in any mixing of impartial peacekeeping duties with the more offensive nature of enforcement chores that sometimes compel one side to do what it doesn't want to do. As one source says: "Blue berets would mean different things in different parts of the country."
Still, in Bosnia the UN is unlikely to do as much as many want it to do. UN troops will not intervene to settle human rights violations. Nor is the Security Council likely to lift the broad Yugoslav arms embargo for Bosnia as many critics urge. Yet between UNPROFOR and other Council actions and the new framework for further talks headquartered in Geneva, the UN clearly is committed to the long haul. Still slogging
Cyrus Vance, the UN representative who co-chairs the steering committee of the conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva concedes that the job ahead will be "very difficult." Yet he insists, "We're not going to pack up and go home." Boutros-Ghali says the conference will continue until the Yugoslav problem is finally settled.
"Saying you're going to sit over there [in Geneva] until you get the job done ... is going to force the issue to a head," comments Mr. Luck. "What's been lacking is that kind of long-term commitment."