U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Europe and Canada Bureau

U.S. Department of State
95/10/30 Briefing: Richard Holbrooke on Bosnia
Office of the Spokesman

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman __________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 30, 1995


Washington, D.C. October 30, 1995

MR. BURNS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today we have with us Dick Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs. He will speak to you ON THE RECORD. He only has about 20 to 25 minutes to be with you.

One quick announcement. We have a sign-up sheet in the Press Office for the trip to Dayton, Ohio, that Secretary Christopher will be making on Wednesday morning. If you are interested, you need to sign up with us by 4 p.m. today.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Thank you, very much, Nick. Well, we moved the talks from October 3lst to November lst so you could all do Thanksgiving at home with your kids.

QUESTION: Do you mean Halloween instead of Thanksgiving.



ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: That's for the other end of the talks. Halloween.

Let me tell you briefly -- let me start by just recapitulating in a tight sequence how we got to where we

are, then how we are going to run the Dayton talks and some of the immense practical difficulties that lie ahead.

This process began with the President's decision to have an intensified American peace initiative which began with Tony Lake's trip to the western European capitals, the lay-out, the principles which would govern our effort.

He and I then handed off in London -- I don't have the exact date with me, but I think it was the l0th of August, Monday the l0th, and we flew into the region, and after two stops in Belgrade and Zagreb, we had our tragic trip across Mt. Igman, and returned to Washington for the funerals of Bob Frasure, Joe Kruzel and Nelson Drew, and then returned to the region; quite unsure of what we would encounter because in the interim the NATO bombing had started.

Our next meeting was August 3lst in Belgrade with President Milosevic and he jump-started the process at the beginning of the meeting by saying "I've been busy while you've been away," and produced what we refer to in short-hand as the patriarch paper, the paper put forward by Milosevic which empowers him to lead a six-person negotiating team -- and I want to use the exact phrases in their own documents, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Srpska -- a six- person team in which, in the case of a tie vote in that team, he casts the deciding vote, and we call it the patriarch paper because it was signed as witnessed by the apostolic patriarch of the Serb Orthodox Church and the bishop of Vojvodina.

We knew immediately that the negotiation was about to get serious. In the eight hours that followed that night, we covered every issue in a different sense than we had at any previous meetings

That was -- what we discussed publicly at the time was an important procedural breakthrough, but in retrospect it was the opening of an intense process which is leading us to Dayton.

Five days later, after a side trip to Skopje to see what could be done on the Macedonia firearm Greek issue, we proposed to Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic the three Foreign Ministers meet in Geneva on Friday, September 8th. They agreed, and we announced the initial basic principles of Geneva, saying there was one Bosnia-Herzegovina with two entities.

But as we pointed out that day, quite openly and quite frankly, the connective tissue between those two entities was not in place in that agreement, and we took a calculated gamble -- one of many we have taken in the last three months -- by having an incomplete agreement. So we got criticized by some people for doing partition. But we knew that we were going to try to move forward.

In the interim, we then went to Athens and Skopje and made the breakthrough on the Athens/Skopje relationship. It was terribly important that issue be removed from the agenda before we got further in the peace talks because we don't want destabilization on the Albania/Macedonia/Bulgaria line in that part of the world. And I am very glad to report to you this morning that that road between Athens and Skopje is open. Commerce is on it, and there is a -- and both governments are now in intense discussions on how to resolve the name issue which is still to be fixed.

On September l4th at 2:l5 in the morning, came the next event, much reported in the press, so I won't cover it in detail; the climax of an eleven-and-a-half hour negotiating session and which was partly attended by Karadzic, Mladic, Krajisnik, Koljevic, and other members of the Pale leadership, and in which the Sarajevo cease-fire was arranged, a document drafted primarily by the United States but signed only by the Serbs and witnessed by President Milosevic. That established a cease- fire in the Sarajevo area.

That has not to this day, to my mind, been one hundred percent implemented, but there are a lot of reasons for it we can go back to, but it has been overwhelmingly implemented. Gas, electricity and water are flowing in to the people of Sarajevo. Any of you who have been in Sarajevo in the last three or four years will know that the city is a changed city today, and it is a direct result of that agreement.

And heavy weapons have been withdrawn and with the exception of occasional sniper fire, the military side of it has been enforced and honored.

The next step in this process was the New York meeting of September 26th. This was the meeting that provided the connective tissue between the two entities, and as such I think gave the lie to those people who were charging -- and some still are because they just haven't read this agreement -- that we were agreeing to partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It established a presidency, a constitutional court, and a national assembly. A lot of the details of those three institutions have not been worked out, and that is going to be a major goal in Dayton. But all sides agreed they would exist, and frankly there were some internal divisions within each side which made it impossible to go as far as we felt it was possible to go. But we got the announcements in New York and, for example, it is a collective presidency.

For example, it's a collective presidency. For those of you who are familiar with the history of Yugoslavia will see the parallelism immediately, but that's what both sides wanted. That was September 26.

Then on October 5, we negotiated the general cease-fire agreement and the agreement to come to a site in the United States -- Dayton, Ohio. The cease-fire, which has been well reported in the press, has been gradually taking hold in the country. There are occasional violations of it; Dubrovka yesterday was a violation for about an hour. I would expect more of those kinds of violations.

But the lines have gradually hardened, and so we go into the Dayton talks.

The decision to go to Dayton was something of a gamble. We had to choose between continuing the shuttle diplomacy or bringing the three Presidents and other relevant parties to a single site to see if we could move faster. In certain areas, shuttle diplomacy was simply unworkable. Above all, the territorial issue. We found that it was physically impossible to do the 51/49 lines which would be the Federation, which would be the Serb parts, by shuttle. We had to have people together.

There was no one lower than the Presidents of the countries with plenipotentiary power. So the territorial issue alone -- the Proximity Talks -- were necessary.

In addition, other issues like the constitution, elections, refugee return, we felt we could perhaps make better progress on if we brought the Presidents together. So that's what we're going to do.

But I want to stress at the outset that we go into Dayton the day after tomorrow without any assurance of success but with the absolute determination of the United States and our Contact Group partners, all of whom have been in intense discussion with us in the last few days and most of them are currently still in this building working with us on the package, that we must succeed in Dayton or try to get as far as we can; that this is the right approach.

But we are not here to guarantee success, and we're not here to predict success. Indeed, I'm not sure I am ready to define "success" in a precise or narrow way.

In the last few days, as you all know and most of you have reported, all three sides have harden their positions going into Dayton. That's not surprising going into a negotiation but it's not good news either.

These negotiations will be as complicated that any negotiating or diplomatic experts we've ever talked to can remember. The comparison has been made to Camp David often, and reasonably so, because in recent diplomatic history no other negotiation is structurally as similar as Camp David, but there's some significant differences.

Camp David was two countries and one negotiating country -- Egypt, Israel, and the United States. This is three countries and five -- or if you count Carl Bildt as a separate negotiator -- six negotiating partners at the center. That alone makes it infinitely more complicated.

Furthermore, they had stopped fighting, basically, from 1973 until 1978. They had five years of peace. Bosnia has not had that. So they're much closer to the war, and their history is much rawer even than it was in that part of the world.

In addition, I would point out Camp David also, really, did not produce final agreements. It produced framework agreements, partial agreements, and a process, part of which was carried out, part of which wasn't.

The only negotiation I ever saw which was as complicated as this, that did not have people shooting each other, that was the GATT negotiation but it was entirely different. It bears no comparison.

In any case, Dayton itself. I apologize to you for our decision to close down in terms of media access. But everyone of us believes firmly that to the degree we have any chance of success at all, we're going to have to negotiate in a cocoon, in a vacuum, outside daily press flow. The Europeans and the Russians have agreed with us.

Carl Bildt and Nick Burns, yesterday, had a joint press conference at the Spanish Embassy in which Carl Bildt announced that for all practical purposes Nick Burns, operating from this podium, will speak for the Europeans as well as the United States. Carl Bildt and I will be in daily touch with Nick Burns.

We will give you whatever we can. There may be days were Nick says he has nothing to report. There may be days where we can tell you roughly the schedule, and there may be days where there are interim agreements, in which case we will either come back here to announce them or ask you all to come out to Dayton. But for practical purposes, we do not consider Dayton a place where you should expect or ask for daily press briefings. We will do it out of Washington, and I will let Nick address the rest of that now or later. I don't know how long Dayton will last.

QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke, what's to stop the three Presidents --



ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I don't know how long Dayton will last. Again, I'm not prepared to say exactly how we define "success," except that we must make progress.

Let me just say that if Dayton and the peace process do not succeed, the country will slip back into war because the issues that led to war are unresolved. If it slips back into war, I think the outcome will not only be tragic for all of the people but will certainly be even more disastrous for the Bosnian Serbs than it already has been.

I'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I try on sanctions, which you didn't touch on? What is the Administration policy? What will it take to get the sanctions suspended against Milosevic, terminated? And is there a coherent position for the Contact Group and the U.S.?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I will answer this question once and then I'll go back into the "no-comment" mode which is the only appropriate way to discuss something that is a core part of the negotiations. But since several of you -- particularly, Elaine -- wrote about it over the weekend, I feel we have no choice but to comment on it.

Secretary Christopher has already commented in detail with the travelling party in Amman, Jordan.

Sanctions, as Carl Bildt said also yesterday, will be lifted when the peace agreement is implemented, and it will be suspended when a peace agreement is achieved. That is our position, and I'm not going to go into the nuances or potential for movement in that regard.

Elaine, I interrupted you.

QUESTION: I just had a technical question. Who speaks for the Presidents of the three countries? And what if they or their representatives start talking to the media?


QUESTION: They have?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: They have agreed not to. And if they go ahead and talk anyway -- we're not their jailers; we can't stop them -- it will completely mess up the negotiations, and we will make that clear to them. Good luck.

QUESTION: What do you know about -- what can you tell us about the massacres in Srebrenica? What can you tell us about Sanski Most and that area? And how will these new discoveries affect the negotiations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: First of all, they're not new discoveries. It's just brilliant recapitulating journalism by the New York Times and the Washington Post and several of the others of you in the last few days, all of which, by the way, I want to stress the State Department helped every reporter working on this, and we will help any of the rest of you who want to talk about this.

We knew from the beginning that Srebrenica was a war crime of historic proportions. I have said so repeatedly in public since the shuttle began.

I was trying to figure out yesterday how many times I discussed Srebrenica in Belgrade. We've been in Belgrade 15 times. Most of those trips we had more than one meeting with President Milosevic. We raised Srebrenica the first time I was there and every subsequent meeting, almost without exception.

The nature of the crime is clear. Each detail only increases our horror. John Shattuck, our extraordinarily able Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, has made three trips to the area in the last four weeks and tried to get into Banja Luka on Saturday. Could not because of weather conditions. He couldn't go in by helicopter because of the weather; he couldn't go in by road because the bridges are blown.

American journalists will be in Banja Luka today -- I think they're there now -- as a result of Shattuck's intervention; is that right, Nick?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: There are at least eight or ten American journalists in Banja Luka today. That's a direct result of Shattuck's negotiations. John himself is returned and has just finished reporting to the Acting Secretary of State and myself and others.

He has been on the phone all night long to Belgrade, working on other possibilities for humanitarian action, prisoner exchange, greater access, searching for more evidence of what happened.

As for the effect on the negotiations, we all knew about this while we were going through the shuttle diplomacy. If anything, it only increased our strong feeling that we had to negotiate rapidly. The Bosnians knew about it, certainly, and they want the negotiation.

I think that our efforts have reduced somewhat the risk of a repetition of it in the area east of Banja Luka, but there are still several thousand people -- primarily young men -- missing in that area. We have been hammering on this issue.

The ICRC has given lists of people to the Serbs. It is a huge issue for us.

QUESTION: While the facts of Srebrenica have been known for a while, real hard facts about Banja Luka were pretty vague last week. Can you bring us up to date as to what we know -- whether we have any reconnaissance; whether we have real facts or numbers?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Hard facts are still pretty hard. I think we'll know a lot more by tomorrow, because we're finally getting people into both that area and Sanski Most only today. I'm going to take off for Dayton right after this meeting, but Nick will try to keep you fully abreast of it through John Shattuck, and I think we'll try to make Shattuck, in one way or another, available to you as he pieces together. He's on the phone right now on this subject out to the region.

QUESTION: What role will Milosevic play in any of this, or what knowledge did he have of these atrocities before or during the -- when they were going on?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: He claims that he opposed the attack on Srebrenica; did not know it was happening; did not know about the atrocities. He has never denied they happened. He's never tried to say this is some kind of Western media plot, a phrase we're all familiar with; and he has now publicly, after Shattuck's trip, issued statements calling for a full investigation and media access.

We have no hard evidence linking him to these events, but we're very aware -- I stress -- of no hard evidence. We are very aware of the charges.

QUESTION: If I could follow up, do you believe his word?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: It's not my job, Elaine. My job is to work on a peace negotiation and not to draw conclusions on that. That's your job.

QUESTION: Are you saying that he has no relationship with the man known as Arkan in the Banja Luka area, when there is plenty of evidence of --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I didn't say that. I was answering Carol's question about Srebrenica.

QUESTION: What about his relationship with Arkan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: On Arkan, a man who lives in Belgrade, owns a restaurant, married a very popular pop singer and has longstanding historic ties to the Yugoslav secret police. We have been having a separate and very intense dialogue. This is of enormous concern to us.

QUESTION: Is the Contact Group and Mr. Bildt and you -- are you all together? Are you all prepared and unified? Carl said something this morning about this was essential to successful negotiations. And then I would ask about the posturing of the Bosnian Serbs wanting to break that agreement in New York or at least talking about it. Is that just posturing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I don't know whether it's posturing or not. I'm not going to characterize it, but I will repeat what I said already last week -- I think it was to The Washington Post -- that the statements and resolutions passed by the Pale legislature are a direct misrepresentation of the New York agreements. They give themselves things like the right of secession after a year, which is absolutely off the boards for us -- and various other things.

The test in Dayton -- the test in Dayton -- to me will be whether President Milosevic speaks for the Serbs of Bosnia as well as for Serbia and Yugoslavia and can therefore have the ability and the willingness to negotiate and sign an arrangement which brings peace inside the country.

If he takes the position that he cannot speak for the Serbs of Bosnia, then we're not going to have an agreement, and that's why I started my chronology with the Patriarch letter, because it's that letter which makes Dayton possible. And it's only if that letter remains true that we can have success in Dayton. So your question goes to the core of what's going to happen in Dayton.

QUESTION: How specific --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: And the jury is out. We will see.

QUESTION: How specific are the documents that have been prepared for presentation to the --


QUESTION: Yes, your documents.


QUESTION: Well, for example, what is the constitution of the new Bosnia-Herzegovina?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: For example, that's the kind of question I can't answer, David.

QUESTION: Well, take some of the other issues. Are these documents which the -- if the warring parties agreed, they could sign them and that would be the end of it --


QUESTION: -- or are they outlines? Are they lists of issues?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: No, no. They're detailed peace agreements. Let me say this once and then --

QUESTION: Is there a territorial map already?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: No, there isn't, because that's the one area we haven't done yet. We're deliberating waiting until we get to Dayton on that. But we have a pretty good idea of 90 percent of the territory, but the remaining ten percent -- Sarajevo, Gorazde, Brcko and the Posavina Corridor, a few areas on the edge of the Livno Valley -- those are really tough.

But I want to be clear on this. We have told you and your colleagues that we have these papers, and that we will present them in the early days of the meetings in Dayton. We're not going to go into their content now or never. If they leak, I'm sure they will leak inaccurately, and we may have to do some corrective surgery, but that's it. It would be absolutely impossible for us to negotiate if we presented the details of these documents in advance.

We've gone a little further than I feel comfortable with, just saying that we have the documents. But we wanted to make clear to all of you and through to you, to your audiences, that we are going in with a comprehensive Contact Group coordinated set of plans.

But we know we're not going to come out of Dayton with what we're going in with. It's not going to be that easy.

QUESTION: Nick, it's nearly two months since Secretary Christopher said we recognize that we need to deal with the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs as well as the leaders of Serbia. Will there come a point where the Administration will have to hold its nose and deal in some fashion with these indicted war criminals who are not going to be in Dayton because of the allegations against them?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We did that already to get the Sarajevo cease-fire.

QUESTION: Well, you did that, but you're counting on Milosevic to deliver them, to speak for them in Dayton.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: But he's going to have a Pale delegation with him.

QUESTION: But they're not the leaders.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: There are three parties in Dayton - -

QUESTION: I understand.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina Republic -- that is, the Croat-Muslim Federation -- and a joint Yugoslav-Srpska delegation.

QUESTION: But the two top leaders --


QUESTION: -- and they're indicted criminals, and under current policy you won't talk to them.


QUESTION: You won't talk these peace terms to them.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: That's up to President Milosevic. He will have with him in Dayton representatives of the Pale Serbs, including Koljevic, Krajisnik, Buha. That's the Vice President, the Speaker of the House and the "Foreign Minister" of Srpska, and he'll have a whole team from there.

QUESTION: The United States has consistently said it would not support a lifting of sanctions on Serbia unless Serbia agrees to cooperate with the international war crimes prosecution. Has that condition now been dropped?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Our position hasn't changed on that.


QUESTION: How advanced are you in your planning on how to equalize the forces of the Serbs and the Muslims?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We're still in an intense discussion phase within ourselves and with the allies on that. It's lagging a little bit behind the rest of our preparations, because it's not part of a package we have to present in the early days.

QUESTION: On your document, is that the only document circulating, or are there counter-drafts, other proposals, which may go into --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We in the Contact Group have agreed we will not submit counter-drafts. But I'm sure we're going to get counter-drafts back from the parties once they read what we've proposed. But to your point, which is a critical conceptual point, we are not going to Dayton to ask the two sides to give us their peace plans, because that's hopeless.

We're going to Dayton to try to present some American and allied leadership in pressing both sides towards agreements.

QUESTION: But apparently or presumably you arrived at this document by exploring with the various warring parties what limits they have and what they would accept.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: That's right. Let me make clear what our goals are here, because I don't want to leave you with the idea that we're just going to take each side's position and cut it down the middle.

We have certain very clear base points. Both Secretary Christopher and the President as well as myself and others have described these many times. But let me repeat them for you.

A single Bosnian state. A single country.

A single national government with this Collective Presidency, which everybody wants. The court, the national assembly.

Two entities. One which calls itself now Republic of Srpska, the other one of which is the Croat-Moslem Federation.

If you want, think of those as states in the United States -- New York and New Jersey -- but New York and New Jersey are not getting along very well.

The problem here -- a problem that hasn't been asked yet, but I will put out on the table -- is the tremendous tensions within the Bosnian-Croat Federation, which have caused us some of the biggest difficulties of the whole war, and which are tremendously troubling to us.

By the way, when President Clinton saw President Tudjman and President Izetbegovic last week in New York, that's what they talked about. They didn't talk about the Serbs; they talked about the problems they're having with each other. So I want to stress the tremendous importance of that.

A clear-cut agreement from Bosnian's neighbors -- Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia -- that this country's territorial integrity and sovereignty will be fully respected.

A free return of refugees.

Internationally supervised elections for the leaders of the country.

Full prosecution at the International War Crimes Tribunal, to go back to Tom's question.

Compensation for those who can't return.

Creation of a National Monuments Commission and Human Rights Commission, and the other items laid out in the Geneva agreement of September 8.

That's only part of what we're trying to achieve, and then a clear separation of forces.

Yes, Constitution -- thank you, Barry.

QUESTION: How does the uncertainty about what position Congress will take on sending American troops as peacekeepers affect what you can or are trying to put on the table in terms of discussion of implementation and separation of forces?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: There's a resolution circulating on the Hill today which I think grievously interferes with the negotiating processes of peace. I think any member of the Congress who supports that kind of resolution on the eve of an historic and important negotiation is doing grave damage to the national interests.

In less than 48 hours the negotiations will begin in Dayton, and this kind of resolution is extremely unhelpful. It would weaken the United States. It would weaken the negotiations. Let Members of Congress speak as individuals. Let them send letters to the President, as Speaker Gingrich is doing now -- a very interesting letter, listing a lot of very useful questions, the same ones we're dealing with. That's appropriate.

But we will oppose resolutions, even sense of the Congress, that significantly interfere with the negotiations. Was that clear enough?

QUESTION: You mentioned how raw the history is of these groups. Is it possible to end this war with a piece of paper?


QUESTION: Dick, you were talking about the Croatians. Sir, do you see the Croatians and their militarily strong and somewhat maverick posture now as a weak link in this peace agreement?


QUESTION: The Croatians as a weak link in the peace process.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: They're not a weak link, but you can't have peace without the Croatians. Let me go back to the previous question, because I don't mean to play wiseguy with you.

It's going to be very, very hard to get peace agreements in Dayton. I say "peace agreements" plural, because we may come out of Dayton with partial agreements, or we may come out of Dayton with something bigger, or we may come out of Dayton with nothing.

But even if we come out of Dayton with peace agreements, they aren't worth anything unless they are implemented.

Just to be clear on the U.S. role -- to go back to the earlier question -- there will be no peace without NATO and American support for its implementation; and there will be no American and NATO involvement unless there is a real peace agreement.

President Clinton and the Administration are not going to send up to the Hill any kind of requests or proposals or recommendations for an involvement and implementing an agreement unless the President feels that we have a real peace.

There's an understandable feeling on the part of Americans that when we talk about implementing a peace in Bosnia, the word "Bosnia" triggers mental images of war and that this might sound like a slippery slope -- a kind of Vietnam or Somalia situation. But that is simply not what we're talking about.

We are not going to send people into a war. We would send people in to implement a peace. You might say, they're going to violate the peace; they're going to test the peacekeepers. You're absolutely right.

Three or four things are quite different between UNPROFOR -- the most disastrous operation I can think of its sort ever -- and what we're talking about. One, UNPROFOR was more or less operating as a U.N. Chapter Six operation under U.N. control. This would be, if there is a peace -- and only if there is a peace -- it would be Chapter Seven and there wold be no U.N. chain of command.

The very first time that the IFOR troops, which will be under American command and British command and French command -- the NATO chain of command -- the first time these forces are challenged, they'll get hit. If they are challenged again, they'll get hit again. I don't think we're going to have anything like what UNPROFOR saw.

QUESTION: Can I ask on Croatian President Tudjman? He is going to have to return to Croatia for the elections for a period of time. Will he be returning again or will he not?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: The elections were yesterday. The results are coming in now. He will arrive in Dayton tomorrow along with the other two Presidents. He is going to commute between Dayton and Zagreb. Everyone agrees to that. He will leave behind his senior ministers with full powers and return whenever needed. He does not need to stay in Dayton the whole time.

The big issue there is Eastern Slavonia. We are not going to have Eastern Slavonia settled before Dayton begins, but we will continue the Eastern Slavonia talks both in Dayton and in the field.

QUESTION: Getting back to Milosevic, how seriously are you all pursuing the possible connections between him and what has happened in Banja Luka and Sanski Most given the fact that he is the linchpin to your hopes for a peace settlement?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Very seriously. If your question implies that we're not looking for evidence because the evidence might hurt the negotiation, let me reject it categorically.

I don't believe that any Administration ever has pursued the human rights agenda as vigorously as this Administration is now doing it at a time of negotiation. We are not going to compromise these issues which you and Tom Jelton and others have asked about for the sake of Dayton.

There are moral issues at stake here. I would contend that the United States record on this has been extremely good since Srebrenica.

In regard to Srebrenica itself -- I read these articles very carefully over the last few days. Let me just say something about them because there are a couple of things that have been left out. The United States desperately wanted airstrikes in that period when the Dutch were trapped at Potocari. We couldn't get them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We could not get them. The entire chain of command on both sides -- both sides of the dual-key -- was trapped and paralyzed because of the Dutch presence at Potocari. It was a terrible, terrible moment. I was on the phone and so were many of my colleagues all night long to our Ambassador in The Hague, Terry Dornbush, to the command in Zagreb. We couldn't budge them. I don't want to get into characterizations of their behavior now, but it was a real low point.

I thought after Srebrenica, it might be the beginning of the end, thinking it was 20 years exactly since the end of Vietnam. When Zepa fell and Gorazde was in their path, I thought we might not be able to turn this thing around anymore.

But, finally, with the Dutch out of Potocari, the Europeans realized that we were now on a course which would either lead to the U. N.'s withdrawal, with NATO involvement, or steadying, and with the tremendous efforts of President Chirac and others, with the military counteroffensive in the West, and with NATO air strikes, it came to the point we are at now.

At no point in this process since then have we ever compromised on these issues. I think what happened at Srebrenica is a terrible thing, but I do not believe that the United States in any way either covered it up or failed to take action when it could have.

I recognize, as the New York Times pointed out that the photographs themselves did not come to the attention of government officials until after the reports of the massacre, but we had the massacre reports long before we had the photographs. The photographs were only dramatic visual confirmation of what we already were fairly sure had happened.

Our failure to get action was not a result of some technical failure with the photographs. It was a terrible policy consequence of what happened in that area. It has been very well chronicled, but I say all this because I feel very strongly -- and you all should know that we are not going to let Dayton divert us from these issues which you and Tom and others have asked about.

QUESTION: Can you tell us now that the CIA is being properly tasked to follow up with photographs so that that kind of lapse does not happen again?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I can tell you the CIA has been tasked repeatedly and they are doing their job.

But I want to stress, don't put too much importance on the fact that the photographs weren't discovered immediately. This was not the Cuban missile crisis. We didn't need to have the photographs to know what was happening out there. The failure to act was not a result of some technician's delay in noticing what was happening in the soccer field. We had refugee reports.

Phyllis Oakley, members of the Embassy in Zagreb -- in fact my own son, by coincidence -- had gone out there and interviewed refugees. He had gone from Thailand, as I have told some of you. We knew what was happening. My own son was calling me from Tuzla saying that there are people missing, you've got to do something.

It was the dual key at its worst, and it is why the London conference changed the rules. And the new rules are still in effect, and the NATO air option would still be viable if there were violations which justified using it.

QUESTION: What can we expect if hostages -- IFOR hostages are taken?

(No response.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 12:17 p.m.)


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