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June 13, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 142
Serb Serbian Relations

Kidnappers And Hostages

by Filip Svarm

Zoran Lilic, the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, took a short break from extending all kinds of congratulations to his counterparts throughout the world, and, for a change, at the Twelfth Congress of the Unions of Yugoslavia, banged his fist on the table and shouted, ``Millions of Yugoslav citizens cannot be held hostage by any leader either from the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Bosnian Serb Republic, or the Republic of Serb Krajina. Nobody gave them the right to do this, and this war must come to an end. (...) Therefore, the people rightfully expect that the peace negotiations will be successful and cannot agree to the option of endless stalling.''

Lilic did not specify who exactly he had in mind, i.e. who those leaders are. Fearing that the President of Yugoslavia may name him in this context, Mile Martic, the President of the Republic of Serb Krajina, rushed to announce the continuation of the talks with the Republic of Croatia in Plitvice on June 16 and 17. He immediately forgot all conditions he had previously set ranging from the suspension of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 820 to the request that the talks take place in Geneva. His Prime Minister Borislav Mikelic followed suit. ``Mr. Lilic is an absolute friend of Serb Krajina, and has the right, if he believes that is the case, to point out a leader who has stopped some processes with his destructive behavior,'' he said.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic did not remain indifferent either: by forcing his soldiers, who he claimed are civilians, to withdraw from a U.N.declared 3 km exclusion zone around Gorazde and accepted a month long truce with the MoslemCroat federation with bad grace. Only in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia no one felt he had been referred to, except for, perhaps, General Momcilo Perisic, the Chiefofstaff of the Yugoslav Army. Talking to the journalists he emphasized that not a single member of the Yugoslav Army was engaged in the war in the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Republic of Serb Krajina, that the Yugoslav Army was not instigating incidents on the borders with Macedonia and Albania, nor exerting pressure in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo.

It turns out therefore that Lilic's mentioning of hostages had but little effect. The President of Yugoslavia is not the one whose statements should be taken seriously. Slobodan Milosevic, the President of Serbia, seems apt to accept the peaceplan in BosniaHerzegovina, and thus finally get rid of the sanctions, which his wife Mirjana Markovic, a high official of the Communist Leaguethe Movement for Yugoslavia (SKPJ), announced a month ago in her public diary, ``Concerning the war, the Serbs in Serbia have settled all their debts in all wars in this world. (...) And the representatives of those Serbs (mainly outside Serbia) who think that the war is their only option, i.e. a necessity that cannot be avoided, should not imputed that option to the whole of the Serbian people, especially this one in Serbia.''

This is not the first time that hostages are being brought up, when Belgrade happens to demand of its satellites over the Drina River to back off, which, in all likelihood, will not fare without fierce inter Serb squabbling and reranking.

The first to hint at this, as he subsequently hinted at many other things, was Vuk Draskovic, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), on independent TV station Studio B in October 1991 when he said, ``It is not the first time that Serbia proper had been deprived of the significance it used to have and that the heart of the nation, where the Serbs aren't the exception, finds itself in disagreement with the nation's periphery.'' Since the then stand of the Belgrade regime was that ``Serbia is defended in Knin,'' Draskovic was denounced as a traitor as he was many times before and after that.

However, only two months later Slobodan Milosevic repeated his words in a much harsher way when Milan Babic, the then President of Serb Krajina, refused to accept the Vance plan. In the famous open letter sent to Babic on January 9, 1992 Milosevic said, ``With your conduct you violated the explicit stands of the Yugoslav Presidency and the Serbian leadership and more than once usurped the right to make decisions the consequences of which have to be paid with blood of all Serbs. (...) I believe and hope that the citizens of Krajina will not give support to such acts. The fact that Serbia has pledged wholehearted and unwavering support to you does not mean that you have the right to decide about the lives of its citizens. The citizens of Yugoslavia are not your hostages, nor will they be.''

The President of Serbia was wrong if he thought that Babic would vanish from the political life just like that. The Krajina leader launched a counteroffensive aimed at establishing whether Knin was the capital of Serbia. His reply to Milosevic was announced two days later, ``We were especially saddened by your words that the citizens of Serbia are not and will not be our hostages. (...) Your objections regarding Serbia's support to us cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a plea that there is no such support. However, we are positive that there is no one who could issue such an order to the Serbian people and have it carried out. (...) If that is the case, we will defend ourselves, naturally, with the help given to us and to the Serb national question by indifferent Serbs.'' Babic was replaced a month later when Milosevic found new yesmen in Krajina by applying a combination of various forms of pressure. Although Babic had accused the Serbian and the Army leadership of communism, and presented himself as an anticommunist, there was no one, at least not in Serbia, who would back him.

Ilija Radulovic, the then vicepresident of the Serbian Renewal Movement, said that he would have signed Milosevic's letter, and Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan said that no one had the right to play with the destiny of the Serbian cause. Only the Democratic Party (DS) said in its announcement, besides hailing the Vance plan, that it ill befits the President of Serbia to replace legally elected representatives of the Serbian people outside Serbia, and the then leader of the party, Dragoljub Micunovic, meet Babic. In any case, everybody was fed up with the war in Croatia, the ``new'' slogan said ``Serbia is defended in Belgrade,'' and the war was about to break out in BosniaHerzegovina.

This time the hillbillies from Bosnia became new ``kidnappers'' of the citizens of Serbia. A year after the outbreak of hostilities in BH, the VanceOwen plan was on the agenda. The plan formally envisaged preserving of the unity of this former Yugoslav republic but actually represented its carveup, and as such was acceptable for the Serbian President. However, it was not acceptable for Radovan Karadzic who thought he would lose everything he had gained by force. All in all, at the beginning of January 1993 he stubbornly refused to sign the proposed constitutional principles of the future BosniaHerzegovina. Dragoslav Rancic, the special advisor to the then President of Yugoslavia Dobrica Cosic, wrote in his book ``Authority without Power,'' that ``at the Conference on former Yugoslavia (Geneva, January 1012, 1993) Milosevic undertook the task to talk Karadzic into accepting and signing whatever was on the table. ``You can't hold the entire Yugoslavia hostage,'' Milosevic told Karadzic, and the latter responded that no one understood why he kept insisting that one constitutive unit is included in the document. ``Fuck off with your constitutive unit,'' the President of Serbia retorted, ``The people is a constitutive unit, and you keep insisting on hills and valleys. (...) The world might understand that you disagree with the maps, but no one will understand about that fucking constitutive unit.'''' Karadzic gave in and signed the constitutional principles, but when it came to the signing the maps according to the VanceOwen plan (followed by an ultimatum to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that the sanctions will be tightened unless there is a consensus), he became obstinate again so that ``holding of hostages'' was brought up again.

``You have no right to endanger 10 million citizens of Yugoslavia,'' wrote Milosevic, Cosic and Momir Bulatovic, the President of Montenegro, to the members of the Bosnian Serb Assembly, who refused to accept the peaceplan at the parliament session in Bijeljina, ``because of the questions that remain open of all the results that have been achieved. (...) We allow ourselves the same right that you have to make decisions that are of importance to the Serbian people.''

But, Karadzic, Bosnian Serb Army Commander General Ratko Mladic, and their MP's persistently refused. They didn't break down despite the presence of the three presidents who signed the letter, reinforced by the then Greek Prime Minister Konstantin Mitsotakis, nor on the other occasion during the Bosnian Serb Assembly session on Mount Jahorina. Another attempt with the same goal at founding ``the allSerb parliament'' in Belgrade with the same function as the Informbureau failed. It was boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian opposition parties while Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), openly expressed his solidarity with Karadzic. This embarrassment, so humiliating for Milosevic, ended with the tightening of sanctions, and a conclusion that if Pale isn't the capital of Serbia then Belgrade is not the capital of the Bosnian Serb Republic either. The President of Serbia described the behavior of the Bosnian Serb representatives as that of ``drunk poker players,'' forbade Biljana Plavsic, the member of the Bosnian Serb Presidency, to cross the Drina River saying that her place was in a lunatic asylum and everything was forgotten.

Lilic's statement came at the moment when it is being widely speculated that U.S. is ready to alleviate the sanctions against Serbia if the Moslems refuse the latest peace plan and the Serbs prove to be cooperative. If that's true, Slobodan Milosevic cannot but use the opportunity, it is realistic to expect that he will not hesitate to put any kind of pressure on those who may spoil it for him and that this time he will not stop with prohibiting entrance to Serbia to several trucks from the Bosnian Serb Republic as he did last year.

The reaction of ``some'' leaders to Lilic's statement is an altogether different matter. Velibor Ostojic, the Chairman of the Board of the Serb Democratic Party of Serb lands, believes that the statement does not apply to the Bosnian Serb leadership, whereas Biljana Plavsic believes that this statement together with several others that the Socialist Party of Serbia has issued is a blackmail and complies with Draskovic's platform, who according to Plavsic said, ``Take them there and let them live together with the Muslims.'' She concluded that the changes in Serbia are inevitable. It is possible that a good part of the Serbian opposition is counting on these changes, some of the opposition parties began acknowledging

Karadzic a long time ago, like the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) that believes that Lilic's statement further deepens the divisions among the Serbian people and weakens its negotiating positions. In the possible conflict between Milosevic and Karadzic, unless the latter gives in, they will openly side with the Bosnian Serb leader. Karadzic's prospects do not seem to be gloomy and all kinds of things may happen yet, which is additionally confirmed by the statement of the Serbian President's yesman Mile Martic who said after agreeing to the negotiations with Croatia, ``The people of the Republic of Serb Krajina are in complete solidarity with their brethren from the Bosnian Serb Republic.''

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