British Ambassador: Discussions on Bosnia and Ireland

THE British ambassador to the United States, Sir Robin Renwick, met with Monitor editors in Boston after attending D-Day ceremonies in France this week. He commented on talks between President Clinton and British Prime Minister John Major, as well as on Northern Ireland peace prospects. Excerpts follow.

On Bosnia-Herzegovina:

What we've failed in doing in Bosnia is obvious - we haven't succeeded in stopping the war. But we tend to underestimate what we have managed to achieve: We saved Sarajevo and the enclaves; brokered a Croat-Muslim agreement that stopped one large part of the war; succeeded in limiting the conflict that threatened to spread into Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia; and, above all, saved a great number of lives.

On US congressional calls to end the arms embargo:

If there were a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo by the United States, that would have extremely dangerous consequences. It would result in a rapid intensification of the fighting as the Serb forces try to preempt the Muslim forces getting more arms. United Nations forces would very likely have to withdraw. You cannot defend Sarajevo and the enclaves from the air, so we would imperil everything we have achieved.

Lessons for the West:

What we have learned is that we can't accomplish much unless we are united. Also, that we can't end all conflicts. We have to choose what we do and then sustain it.

This has been the difficulty in Somalia and Bosnia because vivid television coverage portrays terrible situations in various parts of the world with the message: ``You, the West, must do something about it.'' But when you send people, as you did to Somalia, and the mess goes on, the effect can be the opposite: ``What on earth are we doing in the middle of this mess?'' Television helped to push the US into Somalia and then helped to push you out. By the way, I think you achieved a great deal in Somalia.

On prospects for a Northern Ireland peace plan:

We've tried to offer those who have been engaged in violence an honorable way out. If they agree to end the violence, the situation would demilitarize itself.

We are hoping for a positive answer from Sinn Fein [the political arm of the Irish Republican Army], but there has been disappointment with the response so far, especially in Northern Ireland. These are revolutionaries who are not gaining ground. They can stage, in the words of [Sinn Fein leader Gerry] Adams, ``spectacular events,'' but they can't win.

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