CNN Balkan Conflict News

On eve of talks, Bosnians dare to hope


November 1, 1995
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EST (0545 GMT)


From International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

SARAJEVO, Bosnian-Herzegovina (CNN) -- On the eve of Bosnian peace talks in the United States, most in Sarajevo were hoping for results and a real peace. They are skeptical, however, having seen too many peace plans and truces come and go.

U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke will mediate the talks among the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and the Serb Republic. The negotiations are to begin Wednesday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

Serb civilians are depressed over recent losses and continue to press for a separate state. The Bosnian government was wary of the kind of peace that will come of the talks. Its primary goal is to prevent the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina.


"We have to be very careful; we have to make sure Bosnia stays as a single country as recognized by the international community and that we'll not have any surprises later on," said Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic. (153K AIFF sound OR 153K WAV sound)

If the plan does not provide for a strong central authority, the Bosnian government fears the Serbs will carve out a fully separate state and eventually secede. The government said after constitutional issues are set in stone, maps can be sorted out.

The Serbs say they want part of Sarajevo. It's been divided by war, but the government and the people demand it be reunited in peace.

"If I accept a divided Sarajevo, that means I'll stay separated from my parents and sister who are on the other side," said one resident.

Goradze Muslims

Other territorial minefields include the Serb demand for a wide northern corridor, access to the sea, and the eventual status of Gorazde, the last remaining eastern enclave held by the Bosnian government. Goradze is still under Serb siege, but its mostly Muslim residents insist their town can never be traded.

With maps come the issues of human rights and the right of return for refugees. The plan calls for all those who fled or were ethnically cleansed to go back. But this war was fueled by the Serb quest for an ethnically pure state, and U.N. relief workers have said it's pure fantasy to imagine people will be able to go home soon.

Peace is also meant to create conditions for future elections. The Bosnian government says it will not allow accused war criminals to stay in power.

"Implementation is the most difficult part," said Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic. "You can always find a book which describes a surgical operations. But you have to perform that operation and the patient has to survive." (145K AIFF sound OR 145K WAV sound)

Many here wonder whether any agreement signed in the United States will bring real peace or just a pause in the fighting. All sides say they are tired of war, and are cautiously optimistic as they head for the talks. If they fail and war resumes, the Bosnian government will demand arms and training for the next round of warfare.

A United States negotiator said Tuesday the parties to the war in Bosnia will not leave the talks until they achieve results.

UN soldiers destroy a leftover NATO bomb as a gesture of goodwill -- (363K QuickTime movie)


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