UN Peacekeepers Await Bosnia Cease-Fire
UNITED NATIONS, NY. — THE United Nations Security Council is ready and willing to send peacekeeping troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina to protect the arrival of humanitarian aid at the Sarajevo airport on one large condition: The fighting must stop.
If the June 5 agreement among warring parties to turn the airport over to the UN and hold to a cease-fire is respected, some 60 UN military observers could be sent to Bosnia "within a few days," according to UN spokesman Francois Giuliani.
Their job, which would include supervising the withdrawal of antiaircraft weapons from the airport area, is to create the necessary security conditions to reopen the airport. The decision on when to send in the observers is entirely up to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
The Security Council would decide when another 1,000 or more infantry troops, an expansion of the force of 14,000 peacekeepers now monitoring a cease-fire in neighboring Croatia, would go in to shore up the security of the Sarajevo airport.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali, who is to give the Council a progress report by June 15, is expected to tell the Council when he thinks conditions for sending in the infantry, including an "effective and durable" cease-fire, have been met.
In his report over the weekend to the Council, the secretary-general said much will depend on "the good faith of the parties, and especially the Bosnian Serb party, in scrupulously honoring their commitments." The Serbs have controlled the airport area.
An estimated 300,000 Sarajevo residents, under siege for the last two months, are in desperate need of food, fresh water, and other aid. The shelling of a number of humanitarian convoys in Bosnia and frequent collapses of cease-fires have left many UN Security Council members both perplexed and cautious. The new resolution, while weaker than some members had hoped, reflects those mixed emotions.
"We're indicating that we are prepared to move," says Simbarashe Simbanenduku Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's ambassador to the UN. "However the cease-fire must hold first. We can't send our people in to be killed."
A Western diplomat says he thinks many members are concerned that a cease-fire could collapse, trapping UN troops at the airport. Also, he says, if a second agreement is not negotiated to secure a broader cease-fire zone including Sarajevo itself, supplies could just pile up at the airport.
Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia-Herzegovina's ambassador-designate to the UN, says he is concerned that the resolution lacks teeth. "It has to be very discouraging for the people in Sarajevo because they're seeing very little action here [at the UN] after the worst weekend of fighting in the history of this conflict," he says.
He argues that it is dangerous to give Serbian forces inside Bosnia the impression that the international community is unwilling to risk further military involvement. "I think the international community should realize the Serbian forces are playing a game of chicken," he says.