CNN Balkan Conflict News

[Jim Clancy] U.S. envoy warns against 'false hopes'

September 15, 1995

From International Correspondent Jim Clancy

[Richard Holbrooke] SPLIT, Croatia (CNN) -- U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke spoke with caution as he surveyed the prospects of an end to the siege of Sarajevo and a cessation of NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs.

"I don't want anyone to draw false hopes from a humanitarian flight here or a convoy there," Holbrooke said Friday. "The time is past for these half gestures. If the Serbian side means what it says, they've got to prove it with deeds or else the bombing will resume."

[Alia Izebegovic] After holding talks in Mostar with Bosnian President Alia Izebegovic, Holbrooke said the negotiations thus far represent small steps toward peace. He welcomed the Bosnian government's pledge to show restraint around Sarajevo and not take advantage of NATO demands for the Serbs to withdraw their heavy weapons.

Izebegovic said after the talks that he believed he had western support for a key demand: keeping Sarajevo unified under the control of the Bosnian government.

"We agree that Sarajevo must remain a united, undivided city," he said. "We will never accept the dividing of the city. (155K aiff) or (155K wav)

[battlefield] The recent battlefield gains of combined Croat and Muslim forces in western Bosnia have buoyed the morale of government forces after years of pounding by the Serbs. Holbrooke said all sides know that in wartime, negotiations are heavily influenced by the situation on the ground.

Negotiators in the Bosnian conflict have realities of their own to face, Holbrooke said. "There's a deep, deep reservoir of distrust here. It's more than distrust; it's deep hatred. People have argued over its roots, but the reality of it is self-evident." (113K aiff) or (113K wav)

While hopes have been raised by Holbrooke's determined negotiations, he will only say that progress has been real, but limited. "The road forward is really tough," he said.

Ahead on that road are more talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosovic in Belgrade, and a visit to Sarajevo that may test the situation on the ground there. It will give the Holbrooke a chance to find out first hand whether the siege of that city has really been lifted.



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