TOPICS > World

Richard Holbrook

November 21, 1995 at 12:00 AM EDT


ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us. When did you know that you had a deal?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: (Dayton) About I’d say sometime between 10 and 10:30 this morning. We went to sleep last night having closed down the talks because each side kept changing positions, and we felt that the deadline had to be real, it had to be credible, and it wasn’t a bluff. We drafted failure statements, asked each side to recommit itself to an indefinite cease-fire, passed out the statements, assembled our team and sent them all to bed, except for one group of people whom we asked to go over and tell each President. And during the night they went to work with each other and came back to us early in the morning with a request that we finish it up very fast.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And tell us, describe for us, if you can, those last few hours what you were, the toughest thing you were negotiating about and how you resolved it.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: By the last few hours, the issues were very small in relationship to what had been achieved. 99 percent, more than 99 percent was finished, but the question at the end of a negotiation like this not of substance but of political will, do you pick up the pen and put your initials on a piece of paper, or do you keep seeking more and more and more, so you never get there? In Camp David in 1978, the war between Israel and Egypt had been five years old, and it still was difficult. Here we’re trying to do the same thing in the middle of a war with three countries, instead of two. It was tough.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Was there a point at which you thought there, the political will just wasn’t there and it would all fall apart?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: All the three presidents kept saying they wanted a peace, but the issues that they were arguing over would seem to an outsider to be pretty small compared to the opportunities for peace and economic reconstruction.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let’s talk about some of the issues. We heard about–well, first of all, the issue of what kind of a country this will be–is this a unified country, or is this really two countries under a minimal government?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Well, it is one country. That was the deal. That country’s divided into two entities. Now, in theory, these entities should be like American states or Canadian provinces. But in the real world, these entities have been fighting with each other, so the demarcation line between them became treated as a battleground line not as the line say between New York and New Jersey. It got very, very tough. But it is one country, one central government. It will be freely elected, and the elections, in my view, are going to be the key to the test of whether we’ve succeeded or failed here in Dayton.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What kind of powers will the central government have as opposed to the two entities, or as opposed to the smaller units?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: The agreements here specify that they’ll have foreign policy, foreign trade, immigration, citizenship, taxation, a court, parliaments, and a couple of other issues that slip my mind right now. It’s significant enough to constitute a real central government. But testing that will be quite key.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Testing it will be quite key. We’ve heard a lot about Sarajevo over the years and watched the television shots and the sadness that has occurred in Sarajevo. What happens to Sarajevo under this agreement?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Sarajevo becomes an undivided city, controlled and run by the Republic of Bosnia- Herzegovina. It will be a very, very important, centrally important part of this process, and if it isn’t implemented, then the rest of the process will be at grave risk.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So the Bosnian Serbs do not have control of any part of Sarajevo under the agreement?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: They have control of some of the outer fringes but the urban area is unified under, under the control of the federation.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to ask about enforcing some of these. I understand that refugees will be allowed to return home under the agreement, is that right?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: That was always agreed to in writing. That was in the Geneva, New York agreements two months ago.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, how will this be enforced now? Let’s say you’re a refugee wanting to return to your village.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Elizabeth, let me make a point here. You’re either going to have peace or war. If there is war, these agreements will be a fond memory of something that might have been. If there is peace, these things are going to happen. This is not–you’re asking technical questions. I want to focus on the issue of political will and leadership.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And at this point, you’re optimistic that it’s there and that there will be peace?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: I’ve never been an optimist about this part of the world, but this is a historic step forward today. And the key to it is that the president of Serbia, the leader of a joint Yugoslav-Bosnian Serb delegation, Slobodan Milosevic, has committed himself and has assurances from the Bosnian Serbs that this will happen.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: He does have assurances from the Bosnian Serbs? I wanted to ask you about that too. Are you convinced as of now he’s bringing them with him?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: We’ll see.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. What about the war crimes, people who’ve been indicted for war crimes, what is in the agreement about that? What happens to, for example, the leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, Karadzic and Mladic, who have been indicted for war crimes?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: All parties have agreed to respect the tribunal, but I can’t answer your question specifically, because these are people who are outside the reach of the international law community right now. Let’s see what happens next.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So there’s nothing in the agreement that says they have to be brought before the war crimes tribunal?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: There’s nothing in the agreement that obligates the parties to go out and find them, but there are certain obligations to deal with them under certain circumstances. It’s technical, but let me stress this: The war crimes issue was not forgotten in Dayton. On the contrary, the war crimes issue was very, very strongly taken account. Never before in a negotiation has an issue like that had such a prominent place.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What was the most difficult issue when you look back at these days of negotiating, what’s the most difficult issue for you?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Sarajevo and Brcko.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Sarajevo we’ve talked about. Talk about Brcko, please.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Small town on the Croatian-Bosnian border in Serb areas. Both sides claim that it was the scene of terrible ethnic cleansing early in the war. It is completely isolated, and it’s–the outcome of it was terribly critical. In the end, it was agreed that it would stay where it is for the next year and then its final disposition would be determined by an arbitration panel in which the deciding vote would be cast by an international jurist, chosen by an international group.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And that was arranged this morning, is that right? That was one of the very last things that you worked out.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: That was pretty close to the final issue, but it was Sarajevo, Elizabeth, from the beginning. That’s where the war started. That’s where the war must end.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How did you get that agreement on Sarajevo? How do you explain Milosevic giving up the Bosnian Serbs’ desire to have part of Sarajevo?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: The–how did we get that agreement?


SEC. HOLBROOKE: We wouldn’t have had an agreement here if we didn’t have that as part of it.


SEC. HOLBROOKE: So it was Sarajevo, or we leave Dayton empty handed. I want to stress something. The administration was always prepared to leave Dayton without an agreement, rather than get into a bad or inadequate agreement.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does this agreement depend on the U.S. sending 20,000 troops as part of a NATO peace implementation force?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: It really does. It really does.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Without that, you think this agreement can’t hold?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: I don’t think it’ll last without a full commitment of NATO, and NATO is the United States.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So NATO without the United States, it would not go?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: That’s my view.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you say to people in Congress, for example, who say, can’t do it, it’s not in the U.S. national interest to do it?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: I’ll try to help explain that when the time comes. It’s along argument, but I think the case for it is overwhelming.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Can you say anything now about what you would say, since this is clearly under debate right now?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Of course, of course. Peace in the region is essential to all of Europe. European stability is essential to the United States. United States leadership in Europe is essential to our national interests. You can draw the syllogism out any way you want.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And under the agreement, what would those troops be doing? Is it spelled out clearly in the agreement, what they’d be doing?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: I’m sorry. I didn’t get the question.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Under the agreement, what would the troops be doing? Is it spelled out clearly in the agreement?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Word for word in a document hammered out by our military team here led by Gen. Clark and assisted by all the NATO countries back-stopped in Brussels.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Can you summarize for us. I know that you’re very tired, and it’s difficult, and technical, but would you try, please.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: To summarize it?


SEC. HOLBROOKE: The commander–I’m sorry, there’s something beeping in my ear, Elizabeth, so I’m having trouble getting all the questions, but the answer to your question, if I understood it correctly, is that the commanders will use whatever means are necessary to protect their forces and carry out the military provisions of the agreement. There is no restrain on them. We’re not going to go in the way the UN went in with political authorities and dual keys and all that garbage which constrained the UN and led to such a tragedy.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Under the agreement, what now would happen to sanctions against Serbia and to the arms embargo?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Say it again, Elizabeth. I’m sorry.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What would happen–I’m sorry, you’re still having that trouble with the beeping– what would happen to the sanctions against Serbia and the arms embargo against the whole area under

the agreement?

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Those are being taken up in the United Nations tonight and tomorrow. They will both be suspended or lifted in accordance with phased schedules as part of these agreements.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And this agreement now will be signed formally in Paris between now and then. Will anything be happening having to do with the agreement that I should know about? I mean, with the language, what’s actually in the agreement?SEC. HOLBROOKE: The agreement will–we have a lot of work to do, most of it bureaucratic, to get ready for implementation.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you’ll be meeting to try to figure out how to implement all these different parts.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: That’s right.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for being with us.

SEC. HOLBROOKE: Thanks, Elizabeth.