By Max Lane
On August 19, so-called "international negotiators" Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg were able to announce agreement over the status of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Disagreement on this issue was acting as an obstacle to the conclusion of a settlement between the Serbian and Croatian chauvinist militias and the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Serbian chauvinists had been pushing for the division of the city of Sarajevo into separate sections, under the control of the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian forces respectively. The Bosnian government had opposed this, insisting that Sarajevo remain both united and under Bosnian control.
The agreement on Sarajevo's status was achieved as a result of the tacit support given by the UN and NATO forces to the Serbian militia. While threatening air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs at press conferences in Washington and other international capitals, the NATO forces set very easy conditions for the Serbs to avoid the air strikes. They simply had to remove themselves from the mountain top areas surrounding the city, reduce the shelling of the city a little for a few days and at least let through a trickle of food supplies. These minor concessions were enough to satisfy the NATO and UN forces.
With no real sign of a change in policy by NATO away from providing tacit support to the Serb chauvinist forces, the Bosnian government eventually accepted a compromise proposal in which Sarajevo will beunder UN administration for two years. Sarajevo will now formally join Mogadishu and Phnom Penh as UN city colonies.
The current agreement provides that a future "Union of BosniaHerzegovina" will be partitioned into three autonomous ethnic republics, with a weak central government handling only foreign policy and trade. This plan ignores the fact that Bosnian society has long been a multi-ethnic society with a very high degree of mixed marriages, and of communities where all ethnic groups have lived together.
Formal agreement to this treaty however only disguises the continuing battle for territory. This battle continues on the ground as Serbian and Croatian militia and the Bosnian government army continue to clash as they attempt to assert control over specific areas. The most recently reported clashes have between supporters of the Bosnian government and Croatian chauvinist militia in central Bosnia. In the negotiations it is reflected in the discussion over the drawing up of a map defining the regions. The Serb and Croat chauvinist leaders have put forward a map which denies the Bosnian government access to any port access to the sea and limits territory significantly. The Bosnians are insisting on at least 44% of the territory of Bosnia- Herzegovina while the UN negotiators are proposing 30%.
In this battle for a sufficient section of territory to allow the -ethnic society of Bosnia, its supporters continue to face extremely unequal odds. The NATO countries continue to enforce an arms embargo on the Bosnian government, while the Serb and Croat chauvinist militias are able to keep themselves fully armed from Serbia and Croatia, respectively.
Now the key urban centre of Bosnia itself, Sarajevo, will be under UN control with between 3,000 and 9,000 UN troops permanently stationed there. The new plan allows for Serbian advisers to operate in the city as well. This policy would seem to represent a further weakening of the hold of the Bosnian government and forces making it still harder fro them to wage a resistance to the Serbs and Croatia free of the constraints flowing from being occupied by European NATO forces under the guise of an UN operation.
Once again UN policy serves to make sure that everybody gets what they want except the majority of the people of the country itself — the only people the UN will not allow become properly armed.