NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW WITH HARIS SILAJDZIC
DECEMBER 1, 1995
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for being with us.
HARIS SILAJDZIC: My pleasure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In your remarks in Sarajevo after the signing in Dayton, you said, "This is not a just peace, but it's better than going on with civil war." Now, in the period of time that's passed since then, do you feel the same way, or are you a little more enthusiastic?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: I still think there cannot be a just peace after 200,000 killed and 2 million expelled out of their homes, but it would be unjust to go on with war, for many people to die, if we can give the peace a chance right now. And I think that's what we are doing right now.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was your lack of enthusiasm about the peace, your reservations, was it partly because it does validate ethnic cleansing?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: Well, it does validate ethnic cleansing. It's the worst ethnic cleansing, unfortunately, and that is the painful part of it. For some time the ethnically cleansed areas, the areas from which people had to go out of threat of life, will remain for some time under the control those who did it, of the perpetrators of this crime. That's the painful part of it, but again to continue the war might mean more cleansed people, more killed people, so I think it's a good agreement in Dayton. We have a good agreement. We shall proceed with it and hopefully, we shall implement it as soon as possible. That's why we hope that the troops will leave there within a week.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is that what you're doing? Tell me what you're doing here in Washington.
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: I came here to ask support from the American Congress to send the American troops within the NATO troops to Bosnia-Herzegovina, because I believe that without the American troops, the NATO operation will not be the same. We need the confidence, we need the trust of the American troops and the Americans enjoying my country. We need the credibility to make this truce a lasting peace. I must tell you that without the United States of America, we Europeans cannot do it. That's fact. That's why we need the American troops there. That's why we need the American presence, and that is why we needed the American leadership and the initiative in this peace process, and that is why we reached the Dayton agreement, because of the American leadership there. That is a fact.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: As you know, one of the worries of those who are skeptical about sending troops is they worry about what the Bosnian Serbs will do, and in recent days, Bosnian Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic has said, he would, he would--that the Serbs would turn Sarajevo into another Beirut if there's not a re-negotiating of the Sarajevo part of the peace accord. Is that something you take seriously, or is that a lot of just sort of big talk right now?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: Well, that individual said many things, and the latest one is that he completely agrees with everything and--but I--what is important is that a big majority of people, including the Serbs, and especially the Serbs in some areas, welcome the agreement. There are some that would, of course, lose some privileges, if you like, or will have to leave other people's houses and homes where they live now, but that's minority. The great majority of Serbs in Bosnia and of the Serbs in Serbia proper welcome the agreement, they greet the agreement. They want peace, because they had been intimidated into the war by their leaders. They have been manipulated into this war. No, no person wants war. The Serbs, just like any other people in the world, want peace, not war. War there means war in the region and Europe usually. Peace there means peace everywhere in Europe. That's how it is, and that is why, I think, we must do it. We must implement the agreement. That is far from perfect but it's better than war in my mind.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So at this point you're not terribly worried about the Bosnian Serbs acting against the agreement once the troops get there?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: Of course not. That's scare-mongering there. We know who those people are. They're afraid of justice, among other things. They know that the international tribunal in the Hague would want some of them brought to justice to answer some questions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The war crimes tribunal.
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: The war crimes tribunal, and I think it should be done. A great majority of the people are just normal people living in Bosnia; like the rest of us, they want peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I wanted to ask you about the war crimes tribunal. The peace agreement recognizes "the obligations of all parties to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes." But there's no mechanism in the peace agreement for bringing people to justice. How do you expect this to work?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: I think that the implementation force will have the right to apprehend and deliver the war criminals to this tribunal, and I think that's the right thing to do, the only thing to do, because whatever happened to those dead and raped, and, and camped, and whatever, we cannot, you know, bring it back, but we can deliver the minimal justice, and that is to punish those indicted.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to ask you some other questions about your expectations from the peace agreement. People who are worried about U.S. participation, are worried about troops being called upon to do non-military tasks, and the peace agreement does talk of troops, for example, fulfilling supporting tasks like observing and preventing the interference with the movement of refugees. How do you see that working? Would the troops protect refugees as they're moving from place to place? How do you understand that part of the peace agreement?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: I want to make this very clear. We are not asking the foreign troops to come and fight our war or build our country. We fight our wars, as you know, alone, with the arms embargo upon our backs also, unfortunately. We fight our wars, and we win our wars. We build our country, but we need a catalyst there because of the mistrust, the distrust, whatever, there now in the country, because we had bitter fighting. We have a lot of people dead. We want a force there, a credible force, to bridge.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But I'm just curious about how--let's say relatives of yours need to return to a village that they were kicked out of, and they're not allowed to. Would you--would it be your expectation that the implementation force would help them return?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: The implementation force would see that the other force is withdrawn within a period of time from that village, or from that area, and they would move in and stay there for three months, until things settle down, and then you have the right of return.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I see.
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: So there is--that's a very carefully scheduled thing, and I think it will be--it will be successful because, as I said, the majority of people want to see this happen, this happen, and people want to go back to their homes. People do not want war, but the problem is, the problem is that we have this ideal ethnic purity, whatever that means, of ethnically pure territories there, and the Belgrade regime with which we now made peace had this idea of the expansion of Serbia at the expense of Croatia and Bosnia. That project is now over because it has failed, so that is why I believe in this peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you find? You've been back home since the signing in Dayton. Are people optimistic? Are they--do they fear this will be just one more cease-fire and, and peace agreement that's broken?
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: Well, it depends. The majority of people are very optimistic about this. They welcome the peace. Some of them, especially those, of course, that come from the areas and regions to remain under the control of the Serb terrorists, now those are not very enthusiastic. But some of them say, well, let's have peace, let's make peace; we have the right of return. The international community has been obliged to create conditions for return, so we will return one day. Most of the people are enthusiastic. Some of them, of course, it's very painful for them to know that there hometowns will remain under the control of the perpetrators of the crimes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER SILAJDZIC: Thank you.