THE ATHENS CONFERENCE ON BOSNIA;
MILOSEVIC ASSESSES RESULTS OF TALKS: SECURITY OF BOSNIAN SERB TERRITORY ASSURED
Serbian Radio, Belgrade 1519 gmt 2 May 93
Text of recorded interview with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by Miodrag Vucelic in Athens on 2nd May
[Vucelic] President Milosevic, how do you assess the work and the results of the work of the Athens conference?
[Milosevic] The result is obviously so great that it perhaps does not even need comment. It would not be enough to say that the result is major or big. It would be more appropriate to label it the decisive step for finally achieving peace in the Balkans and not just any peace but a lasting and just peace. I am sure that the decisions of the Athens conference will have an enormous significance for the interests of our entire nation.
[Vucelic] Do you believe that the assembly of the Serbian republic will ratify the Vance-Owen plan at (?its session scheduled for 5th May)?
[Milosevic] I think that the assembly of the Serbian republic cannot make a decision that is against the interests of the Serbian people. Therefore, I am convinced that the assembly of the Serbian republic can and should accept this plan. What is probably needed is to analyse all elements of the plan and the significance of the results achieved in the recent negotiations. I am referring to the talks held in Belgrade last week, as well as these in Athens, (?contained) after all in the statement by the co-chairmen and finally in the results of the documents of the conference itself.
Since this is a very serious question on which the further course of things depend, I would also like to stress some important elements and reasons as to why this is necessary and justified. In short, I would say that there are three aspects of the issue that one should bear in mind: territorial, state and security aspects.
I would like to say something about each one of these important elements. First, regarding territory, it is quite clear that according to this plan, according to the letter of this plan, the Serbs get 45% of the territory. On the other hand, there are no circumstances whatsoever that could prevent links between the Serbian provinces, which is the most important thing. Therefore, from the point of view of this territorial aspect, no one who is objective could make any significant objections, especially if one bears in mind the fact that the document, which was signed today by the three co-chairmen, as there are three of them now, together with the president of the Serbian republic, the question of the provisional borders is still open. This question will be settled through the mechanism envisaged by the plan and in a way, I hope, that will fully affirm the interests of all three peoples and thus the Serbian people. Therefore, considering prospects and the course of things, I do not see any major reasons from this territorial point of view, and of course, considering open demands and the need for [words indistinct].
The other aspect of things, I would say, is the state or political aspect. The Serbian people have regained the status of an equal constituent nation. When they were virtually deprived of this status with the so-called referendum, which was illegal and illegitimate, big clashes broke out. Simply, there was no one prepared to accept such a usurpation of the rights of the Serbian people.
We are not only talking about a declarative return of this status of equal, constituent nation but also the whole mechanism that will ensure that all major issues are solved by consensus. Therefore, there is absolutely no danger of a decision being made against interests that will be maintained by the representatives of the Serbian people in this tripartite presidency that should appear on the political scene and perform its duties.
Third, but in my view the most important aspect, is the security aspect. During the talks in Belgrade and which were continued here and confirmed in the official documents of the conference in Athens, in addition to the territories that were included in the Serbian provinces, neither the Croatian Defence Council nor the Green Berets [Bosnian Muslim forces] will be allowed access to all other territories outside the Serbian provinces where the Serbs live but rather only UN forces. In practice, this means that there is absolutely no reason for the Serbs who find themselves even in this transitional arrangement before the borders are fixed, and they are referred to as provisional borders that are yet to be discussed, outside the borders of the Serbian provinces, have no reason to leave their hearths and homes because the enemy army will not be able to come to these territories.
I think that this is a key question for the understanding of the entire plan and I believe that this is a very stable guarantee for the successful settlement of the remaining outstanding questions.
To sum up, when territorial, political-state and security aspects are borne in mind, as well as the size of the remaining outstanding questions, then everyone should understand that the time has come for the outstanding issues, which are incomparably smaller in relation to what has so far been resolved and regained, to be solved through the mechanism of the plan itself and not by war or on the battlefield.
Therefore, it is obvious that the best way to resolve the remaining issues, the remaining issues to be resolved at the conference table and not further confrontation and bloodshed, is more than anything else in the interests of all three peoples and thus the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina. If sacrifices are made, then they are made in someone's interests. When these interests have been achieved, then unnecessary victims can only be big mistakes.
Therefore, I am convinced that the remaining outstanding issues can be successfully resolved through the negotiating mechanism envisaged by the plan. You should also bear in mind the fact that in the last few months, the representatives of the Serbian republic justifiably insisted on direct contacts with the Croatian and Muslim sides so as to continue negotiations on the final solution concerning maps. What more direct way of talks can you have than a tripartite presidency, which represents a continuous, direct, and institutionalised form of the direct harmonisation of mutual interests?
No side should deny the right of other sides to the interests that do not affect its interests. I am sure that in this process good solutions could be found for the remaining outstanding issues.
[Vucelic] [Words indistinct] that is facing us. What would you give priority to? To what issues, problems and points of arguments that you (?mentioned) would you give priority?
[Milosevic] There is no doubt that at this moment the strict observance of the cease-fire is the number one priority. I must say that those who fail to understand that a failure to observe the cease-fire is the crudest attack on the interests of their own people, and that such people must be prevented from violating the cease-fire. The strict observance of the cease-fire is the absolute priority and the first step.
I hope that the assembly of the Serbian republic will carefully analyse all these arguments and pay considerable attention to the observance of the cease-fire and the creation of conditions for the plan to be realised. I hope that the assembly of the Serbian republic, in pursuing the interests of the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina - and I am sure that it knows that the people are fed up with the war and that they want peace - will behave in this way. This means that the assembly of the Serbian republic should try to simply reject the views that we heard from some responsible leaders. Let me be completely open. If someone can say that six million Serbs can die but that there will still be six million more Serbs who will survive, then people who make such statements and people who generally think along such lines, if their place is not in hospital, then they should probably, and I am in fact sure, be banned from public life. The problems and interests of this nation cannot be resolved with such ideas.
I am sure that the assembly and the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina can recognise what their real interests are and what are not and what the expression of patriotism in a way that contradicts the real and historical national interests of their people are. I am sure that among these interests the Serbian people in Bosnia-Hercegovina will recognise peace as one of their prime interests. I hope and expect the assembly of the Serbian republic, in the spirit of historical interests of the Serbian people, now that we are talking about a just peace and not just any peace, will adopt a decision that we all expect it to make it - the decision that is, after all, expected of it by all Serbia and Yugoslavia.
[Vucelic] Finally, Mr President, we cannot but mention the role of Greece as the host of this meeting in Athens and the role of Prime Minister Mitsotakis.
[Milosevic] I would like to take this opportunity to particularly thank the friendly Greek people, the Greek state and government, and Prime Minister Mitsotakis. They made a great contribution to the success of this conference. This is perhaps, in a way, a fact that symbolises our friendship. No one could have expected something unfavourable to happen to the Serbian people here in the heart of Greece, in Athens.
I believe that they will be aware of our gratitude for everything they extended to us.
Copyright 1993 The British
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
SECTION: Part 2 Eastern Europe; C.1
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