Peace Plan Provides Basis, Fuel Brings Enemies Back Together
Jan. 28, 1996
KISELJAK, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ When Dragan Kozovic pulls up behind Esad Hamzic at the gas station and Ivan Barisic fills their tanks, it is the Bosnian peace accord at work.
Kozovic is a Serb. Hamzic is a Muslim. Barisic is a Croat.
The Bosnian war put them on opposite sides of multiple front lines near this Croat pocket 12 1/2 miles northwest of Sarajevo.
The Dayton peace plan enforced by NATO-led troops is allowing them to move freely through each other's territory once more. Given that chance, it is commerce that is drawing them together.
``If there is a way that all this horror will be forgotten, it will be because of things like this gas station. Money talks,'' Hamzic said.
To visit to his brother in Tuzla, the government-held northern town where U.S. troops are based, Hamzic drove his white Zastava with its Sarajevo license plates through Ilidza, part of the Serb-held ring of land that had isolated the capital for years.
A fuel shortage that drives prices way up in Serb-held areas made Kozovic drive from Ilidza to Kiseljak. He pulled up his red Zastava, with its Cyrillic license plates for ``Serbian Sarajevo'', behind Hamzic's car.
``Just few months ago, I would never turn my back to a Serb,'' said Hamzic, a tall, hollow-cheeked Sarajevo native and former soldier of the Muslim-led government's army.
``To be honest, I am not very comfortable now, either,'' he added.
Kozovic, powerfully built and chunky, also wasn't thrilled. Although Croats and Muslims fought each other, they ended as allies against the Serbs. Kozovic was on what until recently was enemy territory.
``I always have the feeling someone will walk over and start to harass me,'' he said, stroking his beard. ``I do this very often, and now I got used to being here, but the first time I was horrified.''
Barisic, the Croat, was at ease.
``I don't care who or what they are, I just fill up the tanks and take their money,'' he said.
The gas station commerce is just the tip of the iceberg.
Under the Dayton peace accord, Bosnian Serbs have to relinquish four Sarajevo suburbs to the control of the Muslim-Croat federation. Most Serbs don't want to live under government control, and many are moving out.
They bring refrigerators, stoves, video-cassette recorders and other household goods to Kiseljak to sell for a higher price.
Kozovic also said some Serbs from Ilidza buy hundreds of gallons of fuel here which they resell at a higher price at the suburb's black market. And the Kiseljak black market is full of goods from all three groups.
The whole experience, Barisic said, illustrates how stupid the war was.
``Take a look at these two guys,'' he said, pointing to the Serb and the Muslim. ``They both look the same. They both dress the same. They both eat the same. They even drive similar cars.
``The only reasons they were killing each other are their names and their religions. What an absurdity. What a bloody, deadly and stupid absurdity.''