Bosnian and Serbian Presidents to Meet in Paris
PARIS (AP) _ The Bosnian and Serbian presidents first met here almost a year ago to sign the peace accord that ended the 3 1/2-year war in the former Yugoslavia.
Today, the two are reuniting to remove some of the biggest obstacles to a permanent peace.
Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic _ who backed Bosnian Serb efforts to break off Serb lands, sparking the worst conflict in Europe since World War II _ is expected to recognize Bosnia, puncturing Bosnian Serb dreams of joining their territories with Serbia.
He hopes, in turn, to persuade Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic to withdraw the case Bosnia lodged against Yugoslavia at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Bosnia has accused Yugoslavia of complicity in genocide.
The high-stakes summit comes on the heels of Bosnia’s first postwar, nationwide election, intended to help knit the shattered country back together.
Bosnian voters selected a three-member presidency and a joint legislature for the entire country and separate governments for the Muslim-Croat and Serb regions.
Izetbegovic won the most votes on the presidency ballot, edging out the leading Bosnian Serb candidate, Momcilo Krajisnik, to become chairman of the three-member body. He has no more power than Krajisnik or the Croat member, Kresimir Zubak. But as chairman, Izetbegovic is Bosnia’s representative to the outside world.
At the first presidency meeting, held Monday in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the troika confirmed its commitment to defend Bosnia’s constitution _ implicit confirmation that Krajisnik had suspended Serb plans to secede from Bosnia.
Krajisnik said the Paris summit was on the agenda of the meeting.
He said Izetbegovic made assurances that he would not agree to ``anything that could disturb the future of our joint work in the current presidency.″
At the Paris meeting, Izetbegovic hopes to secure Milosevic’s guarantee that Krajisnik and other Bosnian Serb leaders will remain committed to a unified Bosnia.
Milosevic was instrumental in winning the Bosnian Serbs’ agreement to the Dayton peace accord, and international leaders are counting on him to continue his new role as regional peacemaker.
On Tuesday, the United Nations lifted the sanctions it had imposed on Serb-led Yugoslavia in 1992 for Milosevic’s role in fomenting rebellions by ethnic Serbs in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia.
The sanctions had been suspended 10 months ago, but were left in place until Bosnia’s elections were successfully completed.
Today’s meeting will be the first between Milosevic and Izetbegovic since the Bosnian war started in the spring of 1992. The two have met in larger meetings brokered and attended by international officials.
Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic protested the summit on Wednesday, saying it would have been better if all three Bosnian presidents were present.
``That way, all possible doubts would have been evaded,″ Plavsic was quoted by the official Bosnian Serb news agency as saying.