MARCH 15, 1996
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The big guns that ripped apart Sarajevo and other Bosnian towns are quiet, and thousands are trying to get their lives back to something resembling normal, but the peace, brought about by the Dayton Accord and 60,000 international troops, has been a nervous one. Just today, an American soldier was shot and wounded by an intruder at his base camp South of Tuzla. Also, an important deadline approaches on Tuesday, March 19th. Five suburbs around Sarajevo are supposed to revert to Bosnian government control. Four of the five have already been transferred. But militant Serbs have only grudgingly given up control, demanding all Serb residents depart, rather than live with Muslims. They set fire to houses and buildings, and there was no intervention from NATO troops to stop the destruction and intimidation. There were also reports of intimidation by some Muslim groups. Then there's the issue of pursuing indicted war criminals, such as Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic. That still thwarts the international peacekeepers. Mladic, who went skiing before news cameras, and Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic still appear in public but have yet to be arrested by NATO troops. Many of these problems will be pursued in diplomatic conferences this coming week. Handling the issue for the United States will be Acting Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, the man who replaced Richard Holbrooke as the Bosnia point man for the Clinton administration. I talked with him earlier today at the State Department.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.
JOHN KORNBLUM, Acting Assistant Secretary of State: My pleasure.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Just briefly, first, today's news. There was a U.S. soldier shot in Tuzla. What can you tell us about how it happened and what his condition is?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, I think what I can tell you is more or less what the army has announced, i.e., that he was on patrol. He encountered someone who shot at him, hit him. He has a wound. I think it's in his shoulder. He's not in any danger. And these are the kinds of incidents that one encounters in this kind of situation.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: There's a meeting scheduled for Monday in Geneva.
SEC. KORNBLUM: That's right.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: With all three of the Balkan leaders and Sec. Christopher.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yes.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is this a crisis meeting?
SEC. KORNBLUM: No, not at all. In fact, it's a meeting designed to make sure that we don't have difficulties. The 19th, which is Tuesday, is the 90th day after the beginning of implementation, so-called D plus 90. This first phase has been complicated, but has been fairly clear cut. Military forces were separated. Security was guaranteed. Borders were redrawn, and it was very much within the responsibility of IFOR, the military force, to do this. Now that this stage has been reached, next stage is going to be quite difficult. It's going to be changing behavior, bringing the agreement to people, making it living for them, resettling families, pursuing economic reconstruction, and our impression after lots of discussions that we've had over the past couple of weeks was that it would be useful to take advantage of the presence of Sec. Christopher. Sec. Christopher is not going to Geneva specifically for this meeting. He is there to address the conference on disarmament, on important nuclear non-proliferation issues, and testing, and so we're taking advantage of his presence there, inviting other members of the contact group at my level, the so-called political directors level, to--with the three Presidents--to both discuss which issues will be important in this new phase and to help give a political impulse to the phase which is beginning.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, there are many people now, as you probably know, who are saying, including Adm. Leighton Smith, who is in charge of the International Force, saying that the military side has proceeded well, but that the civilian side, the political side, is, is problematic, and we've seen in the evacuation of the Sarajevo suburbs, we've seen violence, we've seen fires set. You were just there, yourself.
SEC. KORNBLUM: I was there on Monday, yes.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Intimidation I understand by both sides. Tell me what your--what you saw there and how much of a concern this is.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, the concerns are real and the judgments are correct, but of course they're only half the story. The agreement is designed to go in stages, and the first stage was, in fact, the military separation, and in military parlance, D plus 90 is the point that we've reached now, and, and the first phase has been very successful. It is correct to express concern about the next steps, because they are really deep steps. They are aware the behavior of people has to change, where their commitment to overcoming the hostilities and the wounds and also the hatreds which led to this war has to become real, not on paper, but real.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But when you see what--I mean, tell me--
SEC. KORNBLUM: I saw lots of things, and--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Tell us what you saw.
SEC. KORNBLUM: I saw a suburb which is already war torn, as they say, in which there were lots of people moving out, and which buildings were on fire.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Which one was that, Ilijas?
SEC. KORNBLUM: This was Ilijas that I went through, yes, and so these are all real things.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Were these fires, they--
SEC. KORNBLUM: They were set by people who were leaving.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The Serbs.
SEC. KORNBLUM: The Serbs, yeah.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But they were also--it's also reported that there were Muslim--
SEC. KORNBLUM: Yeah. I wasn't there when this was happening. This was after Muslim control happened that there were Muslim looters, yes. This is all very deplorable, but, of course, it reflects what we found when we got there, which is a country with the deepest resentments and confrontations which, after all, led to fighting and war.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But what could be done? I mean, for example, these people who've been left--the Serbs who chose to stay in some of these suburbs tend to be elderly people. Now the international force has encouraged the Serbs to stay but the people are complaining that they're not doing anything to protect them against this violence and intimidation.
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, that's not their job. I mean, they did try and guarantee general security as this was happening, but the real test now, and that's again one of the tests that we probably will discuss in Geneva, is to build up a civilian police force.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, is anything going to change in terms of what the international forces can do? I mean, do you still have confidence that the local forces can handle this, given all that you've seen and all that's happened?
SEC. KORNBLUM: At this point, of course, no. That's again--but we have a group called the International Police Task Force which is building up to have about 2,000 police monitors. We have police building programs, advice programs, the--a strong federal police is being set up, and so, umm, all of these--that in a way again goes back to the reason for this meeting in Geneva. All of these are very difficult internal tasks which are all written down in Dayton, by the way. We've known this was coming. I think the point here is not that we're reading some new crisis or there is a whole raft of unforeseen questions, but rather we've known this was coming, and we knew that once we got through the first phase of separating forces that the next phase would be this very difficult phase of establishing civil society is what we're really talking about, and, as you know, we're aiming for elections in August and maybe early September, and to make sure that these elections are a success, a very strong sense of civil society has to be begun, and that is what this next phase is going to be about.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So you say there have been no surprises at this point?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Not really. I mean, that would be a foolhardy thing to say. There have been so many things happening that a lot of them have been surprises and some of them bad, some of them good surprises. But I think it is safe to say that the implementation of the agreement is, as such, on track, that certainly this first phase of establishing the entities of drawing the borders, of separating the forces has proceeded really quite satisfactorily, but we're not at all, not at all overly-optimistic about what the next phase is going to bring.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is what you've experienced so far caused you to re-think any of the roles and positions that the U.S. has taken, or that you've outlined for the International Force?
SEC. KORNBLUM: I think not. I think, again, it's going about as it was agreed in Dayton. The basic point, again, to remember is that this is a very new kind of undertaking. For example, we've had not that experience at all in getting access to grave sites for war crimes, et cetera, maybe better than we thought we would. On the other hand, some of the cooperation of local officials, including in the Bosnian-Croat Federation has not been as good or as satisfactory as we thought it should be.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, there are reports that this Bosnian-Croat Federation is about to fall apart. I mean, isn't that the linchpin of the Dayton Accord?
SEC. KORNBLUM: It is. It is a very important part of it.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So how, how real is that reporting, that this is coming apart?
SEC. KORNBLUM: No, it's not about to fall apart, and, in fact, again, if you go through, and this is, after all, a very detailed and somewhat--sometimes if you go through all the steps taken, a lot of them, a lot of the structures have been set up, but we know that more needs to be done, that more cooperation and a more open and tolerant attitude among people needs to be pursued, and this, again, is the reason that a good, strong political impulse right now could be very useful.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You mentioned access to the graves, to the grave sites. What about the pursuit of war criminals? There are reports of sightings on the ski slopes and elsewhere of indicted war criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. What's the status of that?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, I think there's general agreement that it's not either the job of IFOR, for example, or a reasonable task to ask it to do to go out on sort of search out missions. As far as those who wish to, if you will, play cat and mouse with us, or with IFOR, that is, is a, a problem which can't simply be solved by going out and getting them. There are posters around. The pictures are there, and IFOR, of course, will arrest them if they are able to do so. But they cannot be expected to mount major missions to try and go out and find them.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Finally, Mr. Secretary, let me ask you this. When we interviewed Richard Holbrooke, your predecessor, in his farewell interview, when leaving the Department, he said that his impulse, his passion about Bosnia had derived from going there and seeing neighbor killing neighbor, personal warfare, as it were, and what impulse--do you have similar impulses, or is there another calling to your mission to Bosnia?
SEC. KORNBLUM: Well, I have, of course, worked with Mr. Holbrooke during this whole period. I was the senior deputy and so shared all of these experiences and all of the impressions and feelings that he had were very much mine also. I think now that he accomplished this great feat of putting this agreement together, a first very strong impulse of all of us is to make it work. But why make it work? Well, make it work because, first, the killing has now stopped. We have never sat down--we'd be silly to do so--to try to figure out how many lives have been saved, how many people haven't died, but it's in the tens of thousands, because we got a cease-fire in the Fall and because of this agreement. That is a very strong feeling that we have. But secondly, this war really is or really was, the situation really is and was a sort of cancer. It could spread to other places. It could hold back democratic development in other parts of the Earth, and in the end, it--if left unchecked, it could really give the impression that if you're determined enough and angry enough and bloodthirsty enough, you can do whatever you want to do, and that is a very strong impulse to make clear that that kind of behavior isn't acceptable in the modern world. And making this agreement work, I think we all think, all of us who work on this, and we have a very large team who's doing it, believe that we are also sending a signal for a peaceful development, which is really very necessary in this world that we're living in.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you.
SEC. KORNBLUM: It was very nice to be with you. Thank you.