Yugoslav Talks Convene Amid Harsh Words
European Community officials talk of hidden agenda for `cantonization'
LONDON — START behaving in a civilized way, or face isolation and punishment by the world.
That was the international community's stark message to leaders of the former Yugoslavia's warring factions as they arrived in London on Aug. 26 for a three-day international conference to quench the civil war and lay the basis for a brokered peace.
"If the leaders do not heed the warnings they will receive - and they may not - they can expect sanctions to be tightened against them," said British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd in a television interview. He said extra sanctions could include diplomatic isolation and measures to reduce communications with the outside world. It is believed he was referring to cuts in air links with other countries.
The European Community's peace envoy to Yugoslavia, Lord Peter Carrington, resigned Aug. 25 from what he called his intensive role in Yugoslav peace talks. "After a year's intensive activity, I feel that I can no longer devote the time required in this effort," Lord Carrington said.
British sources said Dr. David Owen, the former British foreign secretary, was being nominated to take over Carrington's role. The sources also said that Carrington would remain associated with peace efforts that would now be conducted under a joint United Nations-EC umbrella. (United Nations debate, Page 2.)
But even the most optimistic diplomats estimate no better than even chances of making progress at the gathering, attended by leaders of all six ex-Yugoslav republics.
There were suggestions that the conference would have two agendas - one public, the other submerged. The first would consist of highly orchestrated pressure being brought to bear on the factions; the other, conference sources said, might set the scene for a carve-up of Bosnia between Serbs and Croats.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who is co-chairing the conference with British Prime Minister John Major, current president of the European Council of Ministers, gave a cautious assessment of peace prospects.
"I believe we will not solve the problem, but at least find the beginning of the solution," he said as he arrived at London's Heathrow airport Aug. 24. "For the first time we have excellent cooperation between the European Community and the United Nations and there is a political will, not only amongst the different Yugoslav protagonists but amongst the international community, to find a solution to the problem."
An EC diplomatic source forecast that if significant progress were made in the talks from Aug. 26-28, the way would be open for peace negotiations under UN auspices. "What we are looking for in London is a sign that all concerned in this miserable conflict have begun to realize the dangers of what they are doing - not just for the people of their own republics but for all of Europe," the source said.
To drive home the seriousness of the conference, the UN and the EC handed the six leaders copies of a four-point code of behavior as they arrived for the talks. It calls for an immediate halt to the use of force; an end to "ethnic cleansing;" closure of all detention camps; and recognition of previous frontiers.
The code would also specify a deadline for compliance by all the parties, an EC official said.
Conference organizers declined to say so openly but noted privately that the greatest public pressure would come on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and on Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs.
"In one sense the conference will be even-handed, in that everyone must cooperate if there is to be peace. But it is clear that Serbian policy is the main reason for the civil war, so Serb leaders, and to a lesser extent Croat leaders, can expect to come under pressure," sand EC diplomat.
"The hard reality is that there have been huge changes on the ground in Bosnia, and the Muslims have lost most," he said. "The Serbs and Croats may think they are in a position to dictate terms and could be looking for a cantonal solution in Bosnia."
On the eve of the conference, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said he would refuse to support any cease-fire plan that left Serbian forces in control of Bosnian territory obtained by conquest. A London-based Bosnian official said Mr. Izetbegovic planned to submit a peace plan, calling for Mr. Karadzic's Serbs to return the territory they have gained by force.
There were suggestions from EC diplomats that during the conference Mr. Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman might privately discuss a stand-off agreement between Serbs and Croats in Bosnia, and that Mr. Karadzic would come under pressure from them both to support it.
Such an agreement, however, would stand little chance of holding unless it was monitored by UN forces, and that is an option which is finding little, if any, favor among non-Yugoslav delegations in London.