Related topics

Mediators Discuss Brcko Dispute

February 9, 1999

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ International arbitrators began new talks Monday on the status of a disputed Bosnian town, with Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-Croat Federation both pressing for a final decision.

U.S. mediators, Bosnian Serbs and leading members of the federation met at a downtown Vienna hotel in the third round of talks in three years on the status of Brcko (pronounced BIRCH-ko).

Who should control the northern port town on the Sava River is the stickiest territorial question left undecided from the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war by dividing the country between a Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

U.S. arbitrator Roberts Owen has twice postponed a decision, leaving the town in Serb hands but under international supervision.

Speaking outside the discussions, Robert Farrand, the American currently supervising Brcko, said the situation there is much calmer than it was one year ago.

Going into the talks, Serbs reiterated that they must keep control of Brcko because it is at the narrowest point of the corridor between the two halves of the Serb-run portion of Bosnia.

For Muslims and Croats, the town is both a symbol of the brutality of the Serb takeover and a vital link between the landlocked federation and the rest of Europe. Brcko was predominantly Muslim before the war, and Muslims say handing it over to Serbs would be a reward for genocide.

A decision on Brcko is expected by mid-March and is unlikely to be announced during the Vienna talks, which are to last about a week.

Update hourly