November 21, 1995
Web posted at: 5:10 p.m. EST (2210 GMT)
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (CNN) -- The presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia initialed a wide-ranging peace agreement Tuesday, signaling what negotiators hope will be an end to the 43-month civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
Franjo Tudjman of Croatia, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina initialed the agreement at about 4 p.m. EST at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where negotiations had been held for the last three weeks. Only a few hours earlier, the talks had appeared on the verge of collapse.
A formal peace agreement is to be signed next month in Paris.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher said, "On this Thanksgiving weekend our joint work has made it possible for the people of Bosnia to spend New Year's Day in peace for the first time in four years."
Earlier Tuesday, President Clinton announced the agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House. "The presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, have made a historic and heroic choice," he said. "They have heeded the will of their people. Whatever the ethnic group, the overwhelming majority of Bosnia's citizens and the citizens of Serbia and Croatia want the same thing. They want to stop the slaughter, they want to put an end to the violence and war, they want to give their children and grandchildren the chance to lead a normal life. Today, thank God, the voices of those people have been heard."
The agreement could clear the way for 20,000 U.S. troops to enter the former Yugoslavia as part of an international enforcement effort led by NATO. Clinton said he would consult with Congress on U.S. involvement in the deployment and ask for its support once he receives complete details on the plan.
Under the agreement Bosnia would be preserved as a single state but still divided into two separate republics -- the Bosnia-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, would remain united.
On a key point of contention, Clinton added: "Those individuals charged with war crimes will be excluded from political life (in Bosnia)." That would effectively exclude Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and others indicted by an international war crimes tribunal for crimes involving "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnian Moslems by Bosnian Serbs.
Another roadblock to a peace settlement was a dispute over a small piece of government-held territory in northern Bosnia. Serb negotiators want the land, known as the Posavina corridor, to link Serb holdings elsewhere in Bosnia. More importantly, the corridor would also be a connection to Serbia, itself. The Bosnian government wanted to keep the land as an outlet to trade on the Drina River.
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