Differences Over Bosnia Emerge At Onset Of Christopher Trip
ROME (AP) _ Secretary of State Warren Christopher is determined to stall a European proposal to ease sanctions against Bosnia if Serbs agree to return captured lands to Muslims, a spokesman said Monday.
Christopher’s stand puts him at odds with U.S. allies at the outset of a weeklong trip to Europe, his third to the region this year.
Christopher was determined to keep up an economic blockade of Serbia to try to force a settlement of the 19-month conflict. But the Europeans, led by Germany and France, were considering an easing of the sanctions.
Under the European plan, the sanctions would be eased if Bosnian Serbs agreed to return to the Muslims 3 percent to 4 percent more territory than the Muslim-led government would retain under international peace proposals.
On another Bosnia issue, Christopher was expected to announce major new U.S. assistance for Bosnians who have lost their homes in the fighting or have been pushed out as part of ″ethnic cleansing.″
″There can be no movement toward moderating sanctions until a Bosnia settlement has been reached and the international community sees that it is being implemented,″ Christopher said through spokesman Michael McCurry on the flight from Washington.
Hedging U.S. opposition a bit, the statement also said the Clinton administration would reserve final judgment on sanctions ″until we see whether some conduct on the ground warrants movement on sanctions.″
What this means is that the United States wants the Bosnian Serbs, who have taken some 70 percent of the former Yugoslav republic, to show they are willing to make concessions. That would include permitting unhindered delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to tens of thousands of civilians imperiled by the bite of what promises to be a rough winter.
On two previous trips to Europe, Christopher differed with the allies over Bosnia-Herzegovina. They refused to approve a U.S. proposal to clear the way for weapon shipments to the Muslim-led government and to bomb Serb artillery sites.
As a result, the U.S. plan was shelved, giving rise to criticism of Clinton administration foreign policy as timid and also neglectful of trapped civilians.
The disagreement over sanctions may be only academic. Bosnian Serb leaders have given no indication publicly they would accept the European overture.
″This is our territory, this is our land,″ Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, said Sunday. At the same time, Alija Izetbegovic, the republic’s president, said, ″If the Serb side does not return territories, sanctions should be tightened and not lifted.″
On Tuesday, Christopher will address a foreign ministers meeting of the 53- nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and he is expected to push for a broader role for the conference in preventing conflicts in Europe.
He also is expected to use the speech to announce a new U.S. aid program for the Bosnians, who already have received more than $400 million in American aid.
″The United States will continue to do its part in supporting the humanitarian relief effort,″ McCurry said.
Christopher’s next stop is Brussels, Belgium, where he will meet on Wednesday with ministers of the European Community and on Thursday with NATO ministers. Bosnia will head the agenda along with peacekeeping measures, including wider use of Russian troops in Georgia and other former Soviet republics.
The ministers are expected to approve a U.S. initiative to permit former Warsaw Pact countries to participate in NATO exercises.
President Clinton then would get final approval from the heads of the 16 North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries at a meeting in Brussels in January.
The head of Russian intelligence has criticized the idea as having the potential of setting up an anti-Russian coalition.
But President Boris Yeltsin and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev have endorsed the ″partnership for peace″ plan, U.S. officials said.
Next weekend Christopher will open a one-week trip to the Middle East to try to keep the Israel-PLO agreement on Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho from flying apart.
Negotiations are deadlocked over how much authority Israel will retain to protect Jewish settlers in Gaza and the size of the areas to be put under Palestinian civil authority.
Christopher also hopes to steer Israel and Syria into serious negotiations over the future of the Golan Heights, the strategic buffer Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day war.