British: Status Quo Keeps War in Check

In an interview, Bosnia's prime minister argues that lifting the arms embargo on his country is the only solution now; a British diplomat explains why his government opposes it

JEREMY GREENSTOCK serves as minister, the No. 2 position, at the British Embassy in Washington. On a visit to Boston Feb. 9 he talked with a group of Monitor editors about Britain's policy in the Balkans.

What are the options for the West in the Balkans?

Doing what we're doing, which consists of three things: keeping the humanitarian operation going; that is, dealing with the symptoms of the war; keeping open the political process so there is the prospect of a negotiated solution; and thirdly, to put pressure on the parties to stop fighting.

There is another option, which is to intervene, so that you force the parties to stop fighting. That has been proposed by no government, least of all the United States government. In the view of the Western European governments involved in this, it is impracticable for democracies to undertake; that is, the resource cost would be so great, and the political cost would be so great, the likelihood of success would be so low that it is not a sensible political option .

The [current] containment policy has not ended the war but, heavens, it's diminished the fighting; that is, we have smothered the fighting in the areas where UNPROFOR [United Nations Protection Force] is deployed. Where we were feeding last winter and the winter before 2.6 million people, we're now feeding 1.4 million people because commercial food is getting to all the others because the routes have been opened up. It's an immense improvement.

What happens if, in a worst-case scenario, the US unilaterally lifts the arms embargo on Bosnia?

Then there is no good policy reason for keeping UNPROFOR there. The one good reason for staying is, of course, to feed people. But we'd try to do that from the air. UNPROFOR is out.

The implication of that is that the conflict will resume extremely quickly because the Bosnian Serbs have every incentive to hit the Bosnians before they get a large number of new arms. And they are prepared to do that.

[The Bosnian government army] would get a hell of a battering, to the extent that there would be an obligation on the Western community, and particularly the US to defend them.

What are the chances of progress on negotiations before spring, when the current cease-fire ends?

I don't think we've got many more chances at devising plans for a compromise solution than the ones we're on at the moment, which are divided into two ideas: One, the ''contact group'' map and constitutional plan, which the Bosnian Serbs won't accept. And the other is this idea of mutual recognition, which is getting further study at the moment. It was talked about last year as David Owen's wider ''Big Bang'' solution in which you bring in Croatia and Bosnia and Serbia and try to get them to do a much more comprehensive deal involving territorial swaps.

We will just go on trying [these ideas] until the parties walk away from the table.

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