THE search continues for a way to break the current stalemate in the Bosnia-Herzegovina peace talks. The next chapter may well be written in the UN Security Council.
Within the next several days, the Council is expected to begin discussing a resolution that supports recent cease-fires reached in Bosnia, reiterates the Council's stand against allowing any land conquered by ethnic cleansing to remain in aggressors' hands, reaffirms the Council's determination to protect Muslim ``safe havens'' in Bosnia, and warns against any further attempts to block humanitarian convoys as winter approaches.
Sponsored by the Council's nonaligned members, led by Pakistan, the resolution also is likely to include a bid to resume peace talks under the broad umbrella format of the London Conference on the Former Yugoslavia.
The aim of the new Council effort is a thorough airing of the issues. Supporters of the Muslim-led Bosnian government want an open public debate. If the Council should restrict talks to its own 15 members, the 184-member General Assembly stands ready to discuss a similar resolution. The Assembly may act on its own anyway. The strategy is still being ``fine tuned,'' says Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnia's ambassador to the UN.
One likely result of any open debate will be embarrassment for the Council, which has branded as illegitimate any taking of land by force or ethnic expulsion. Lord David Owen, acting for the European Community, and Thorvald Stoltenberg, acting on behalf of the UN, have been brokering the peace talks. Bosnia's Muslim-led government contends that the current peace plan violates Council principles and the UN Charter and that the Council must face the inconsistencies.
Ambassador Sacirbey, who wants the Council to reject the plan, says members will no longer be able to ``hide'' behind the statement that whatever the parties agree to is acceptable to the UN.
Late last month, Bosnia's Muslim-led parliament rejected the latest peace plan that would divide Bosnia into three ethnic ministates. The plan had been accepted by Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats. UN spokesman Joe Sills says the mediators have no current plans to resume peace talks.
Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic told the General Assembly here Oct. 7 that any new Muslim republic must be a viable entity, that the ``aggressors'' in Bosnia must give up control of lands conquered by ethnic cleansing, and that the international community must offer firm guarantees to implement the plan. The Clinton administration, which had pledged to supply half of the estimated 50,000 NATO troops needed for the job, faces new opposition to the promise from Congress. Mr. Izetbegovic says the US as the ``sole superpower'' has a direct obligation to help. The Bosnian government also wants NATO to play an active role in the mediation process.
Bosnian officials want a fresh start for the talks under the London format. Yet they do not categorically reject ethnic partition. Sacirbey says Bosnian Serbs will not be ``forced'' to remain a part of Bosnia if they do not wish to, but that the door to future reconciliation must be left open. He says Bosnian Muslims would also consider a federation of some kind with Bosnian Croats.
In a similar effort to appear conciliatory, Bosnian Muslims, who want 4 to 7 percent more land than the peace plan now gives them, say some of the added land now held by the Serbs could be controlled by international rather than Muslim forces. The main aim, they say, is to allow refugees to return home.
HE intensity of the fighting in some parts of Bosnia has lessened in recent weeks. Yet aid convoys still are blocked, and supplies are said to be low. A new UN appeal for $697 million to help Bosnia was announced in Geneva Oct. 7.
There is fresh concern in some quarters that the war could expand. In Croatia, tensions between Serbs and Croats have increased against a backdrop of new deadlines. Greece's new government is expected to take a tougher line against the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia and step up efforts to forge a new alliance with Belgrade's Serbs.
Bosnian government supporters say the Council and Assembly discussions could shift the status of both the war and the talks.
``The time has come for the Council to debate the peace plan and judge whether or not it is consistent with Council resolutions,'' insists Redzuan Kushairi, deputy permanent representative of the UN Mission of Malaysia, a nation that has 1,500 peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and is helping Sarajevo launch new Bosnian information centers in the US and Europe. ``The Council must take the lead - it can't leave this to the mediators.''
``I think the Muslim side is trying to show [by bringing the question of the peace talks to the Council] that it's basically open to new ideas and wants to keep this issue on the front burner,'' says Janusz Bugajski, an Eastern Europe expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.