NEWSMAKER: RICHARD HOLBROOKE
AUGUST 11, 1997
The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the fighting in Bosnia, but many say it has failed to end the ethnic strife that tore the Balkan nation apart or to bring major war criminals to justice. After a background report, Richard Holbrooke, the chief U.S. negotiator of the peace agreement, reports on recent efforts to get the peace agreement back on track.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And joining us now is Richard Holbrooke. Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Ambassador.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
August 11, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth reports on the current situation in Bosnia.
September 13, 1996:
Low turnouts, delays and problems with voter registration:The Bosnian elections.
July 22, 1996:
Newsmaker:Richard Holbrooke on Bosnia's war criminals.
February 21, 1996:
Holbrooke discusses the possibility for peace in Bosnia.
November 30, 1995:
A NewsHour summary of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of Bosnia.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, U.S. Special Envoy: (New York) It's my pleasure to be back.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What agreement, if any, was reached about Radovan Karadzic?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, let me start with that. That was an excellent summary of where we stand. And starting with Karadzic, the--on Saturday morning, Milosevic brought President Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb co-president of Bosnia, to Belgrade to meet with Amb. Gelbard and myself. Amb. Gelbard, of course, is the administration's coordinator for Bosnia implementation. We said to Krajisnik exactly what your piece said; that the July 18th agreement last year had been flagrantly violated in recent weeks by Karadzic, who had given an interview the previous day to a major German newspaper.
Milosevic and Krajisnik readily admitted that he was in violation, and they said we'll reissue the statement, and we said, you know the statement is insufficient; we want more, Karadzic has to go to The Hague. They have refused to make him go voluntarily, and they are thereby taking great risks. But in regard to the July 18th statement of last year Krajisnik then said he would reinforce it and make sure that Karadzic now once again disappears from public view. I'm skeptical but I hope the world's press will note that Krajisnik has committed himself this time speaking as co-president of Bosnia to get Karadzic back in his cave of silence and oblivion. Let's see what happens. I'm skeptical but I'd like to see Karadzic stop spewing out that racist, ethic hatred, which is so deleterious to the peace process.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: When you say that the two of them--Krajisnik and Milosevic--are taking great risks in not getting him to turn himself over, what do you mean? What kind of risks; that NATO will come and take him?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I think it's very clear what I mean. I'm not going to go into details about whether or not things will happen, but what happened at Prijedor should be a warning to everyone. And by the way, that police chief who was killed in your piece, let's be clear--he committed suicide. He was surrounded by British troops, and he chose to shoot back. So he could have surrendered and gone to the Hague for a free and fair trial.
Karadzic: a barrier to peace?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Staying on Karadzic just for another minute or so, is he the main obstacle to the Dayton Peace Accords at the moment, or if he went, would there just be somebody to take his place?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: That's a very good question. He is not the only obstacle. But he is a real obstacle, and he should leave. And if he leaves, I think it will be a strong signal to all the people, but the obstacle is a mind set. The people who made this war are now being charged with implementing the peace. That's not what you normally do after wars, but it was the nature of the situation in Dayton that all the originators of the war are still in power. But, you know, on the other hand, as your piece made clear, some people have started to return as refugees to areas where they're a minority. Only 10,000, as you pointed out, but that in itself is something you and your colleagues would have thought impossible two years ago. Secondly, the ambassadorial agreement, which you didn't mention, was forged in the middle of the night by Bob Gelbard and myself. That's a remarkable agreement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain that.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Bosnia has now agreed--the three groups in Bosnia have agreed to distribute the ambassadorships overseas. What's so significant about this can be illustrated by the truly remarkable decision about Washington; the new Bosnian ambassador to the United States is going to be a Serb. Now, think of that because we all think of Bosnia as simply the Muslims beleaguered by their enemies. And yet, the three ethnic communities, represented by their three presidents, agreed to distribute ambassadorships. The UN will be Muslim, Washington will be Serb, Tokyo will be Croat, and so on. That's quite remarkable.
We also forged the telephone agreement. Now, I was a little bit distressed to see The New York Times yesterday make fun of the telephone agreement as a minor thing. It's not a minor thing. We now have one country area code for all of Bosnia. Previously, each of the ethnic groups worked through the phone systems of Serbia or Croatia or whatever. And the area codes for Bosnia are not going to be divided ethnically, as was previously anticipated. So these are small but significant gains.
Another major event that occurred during our trip was that the SFOR troops, the NATO troops, have now informed the three communities that henceforth the military annex will apply to the special military police. That is enormously significant because what several of the groups in Bosnia were doing was trying to trade in military uniforms for police uniforms, and then formed a kind of armed military unit pretending it was police. The new NATO commander, Gen. Clark, my former military deputy at Dayton and during the shuttle, has--who wrote the sentence in the Dayton accords covering that issue--has decided to get tough, and the new military team, Clark in Brussels and Gen. Shinseki in Bosnia, is going to be very tough, very evenhanded but very tough team. This plus Bob Gelbard's dynamic efforts are going to show the world that the United States is not only not walking about from Bosnia; it is redoubling its efforts. Now we are a little bit behind schedule in Bosnia; there's no question about it.
But the Dayton Agreements were very ambitious, and we are making slow but steady progress. I'm concerned that we're behind schedule; so is the President; so is Secretary Albright and Sandy Berger. Gelbard will go back to the region within the next few days at the end of this week to pick up from where we left off yesterday. And I think you're going to see a real acceleration of the American and western implementation effort in the next few weeks and months, and I think everyone in the region already knows it. It's not so clear to Americans because the reporting on this trip was somewhat confused.
A tougher stance against war criminals
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you a minute. In--last month you wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times in which you called for just this. You praised the British troops' action, taking the police chief of Prijedor--actually he died, as you said--but taking the other person prisoner. And you basically said in that op-ed piece that the enforcement troops should have enforced more of the Dayton Peace Agreement. I hope I'm summarizing what you said.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Absolutely correct.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And do you think that the corner has been turned on that? Is that what you're saying here, that you believe that is about to happen, or is still a little bit up for grabs?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I'm awfully pleased to see Gen. Clark there. He knows the agreements inside and out, having helped write them, and I think that the world should understand that the NATO SFOR command is going to be very vigorous -- but I stress evenhanded -- in implementing this agreement. And Gen. Clark called Gen. Milosevic during each of my meetings with him--during each of our meetings with him to make clear that we were all on the same team. Also, Gen. Clark, Gen. Shinseki and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Shalikashvili, met with Amb. Gelbard and me in Tuzla to discuss these very events. So let the world understand there is a redoubling, reacceleration of the effort.
Another point, the British. The British now have a new government and the new foreign secretary, Robin Cook, who is a real no-nonsense guy, went to Bosnia a few days ahead of us, and issued a dramatic realignment of British policy, so that for the first time in five years there is no daylight between London and Washington on Bosnian policy. That's a big event.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Look ahead just a bit for us, a year from now, the troops, U.S. troops are supposed to be leaving Bosnia. What will happen if they do leave, do you think?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I want to be clear that the President has stressed that we are going to make Dayton succeed. What happens to the troops is a decision which the President and his colleagues will make in light of the events as they go forward. I think you ought to address that question directly to people who are full-time government employees. I was just a one-time visitor, though it's my third trip back there since I left the government, but I think the key thing here is that the United States is going to see this through. It's part of our foreign policy. It's a core part of it closely related to NATO enlargement which is equally important and the two cannot be separated, and to our continual support for reform and democracy in Russia. And, as you know, Russian troops are serving with American troops under an American commander in Bosnia.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to press this just a little bit because you know this region so well. I understand you're not an official representative right now. If--if the situation has not improved greatly and troops left in a year, would the warring parties go back to warring, in your view?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: There are two flashpoints on the map. One is Mostar, where the Croats and the Muslims still have to work out a way to live together in peace, as they had for centuries but have not been able to in the last two or three years. The second, which is even more difficult, is a town on the Croatian-Bosnian border called Brcko, B-r-c-k-o, where the Serbs seized the town and ethnically cleansed it in 1992, and it is a tiny corridor between the federation and Brcko. That was the one issue we couldn't settle at Dayton. We agreed to put it under arbitration. That arbitration must make a decision by the end of this year. If the arbitration is not successful, fighting could resume there, which was the area of the heaviest fighting during the war. So we're not out of the woods yet, but I think the kind of determination which the President and his team and the British and French have shown recently is very dramatic and I think we're going to see this thing through. I really am much more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago, although as I said at the beginning of this interview, we are behind schedule, and we have to redouble our efforts.
An gift of books; a symbol of peace?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Finally, we don't have much time left, but speaking of that mind set, what did you find? You haven't been there for a while, were people acting differently with each other than they have been before?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Let me share with you the most amazing of many surprising vignettes that we saw. It was the joint presidency meeting. Here was Mr. Izetbegovic, Mr. Zubac, the Croat co-president, and Mr. Krajisnik, who was Karadzic's closest colleague, and who we believe still gets some of his instructions from Karadzic. These men were killing each other two years ago, literally, and I watched Krajisnik and Izetbegovic and during the breaks in the meeting they sat next to each other and they chatted with each other. At Dayton no one talked to Krajisnik; he was completely isolated in his room. No one talked to him. And at the end of the meeting it was 4 in the morning, we worked for 14 hours, Krajisnik went up to Izetbegovic and gave him a gift of some books, and I watched this in utter astonishment because we'd had some bitter arguments over the telephones, over the ambassadors, very emotional stuff, and I said what's going on, and they said, you know, we've known each other a long time, we're going to try to work with each other, I'm giving him a gift. I don't want to take that out of context. The problems are real. And I'm the last person to be a rosy-eyed optimist, but something is beginning to change on the ground.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That's all the time we have.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: It's not there yet.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry. Mr. Ambassador, but thank you so much for being with us.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: My pleasure.