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December 11, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 219
Interview: Tarik Kupusovic, Sarajevo Mayor

No Sarajevo Without Serbs

by Radenko Udovcic

The joint Sarajevo municipalities had 526 thousand citizens before the war - 259 thousand Muslims, 157 thousand Serbs and 34 thousand Croats, while 56 thousand people declared themselves as Yugoslavs. Today in Sarajevo under Bosnian control live somewhere between 280 and 330 thousand citizens. The real number is difficult to determin, since a census was not held. Data on the number of inhabitants arrive from various sources hence the huge discrepancies. It is even more difficult to ascertain the national structure and according to some rough estimates, 70 percent of the citizens are Muslim (before the war they made up 49%). Almost half of the current population are refugees.

In the part of Sarajevo under Serb control, according to Serb data, live 120 thousand people. However, according to UNHCR lists, the number was around 70 thousand, while the spokesman of this organization recently announced that the Serb-held Sarajevo had no more than 40 thousand people.

Dr. Tarik Kupusovic, mayor of Sarajevo, speaks for VREME about part of the Dayton agreement which deals with Sarajevo.

Dr. Kupusovic was born in 1952 in Sarajevo. He has been mayor since April 1994. By profession, he is a civil engineer. He is a member of the Democratic Action Party (SDA).

VREME: If all goes as predicted by the Dayton agreement, you could soon become Mayor of a re-united Sarajevo?

Kupusovic: "I would leave out the "if". Everything shows that the implementation will be as predicted in Dayton. Since only 10% of the urban part of Sarajevo was held under Karadzic's control, we never accepted that the city was divided. The city was besieged and blocked. We have always believed that the situation is only temporary, and with this signature, the time has come to reintegrate the suburban municipalities into one organic city whole.

The ten percent that you mention is Grbavica. The division line there was left a bit unclear.

The line is above the Vrace neighborhood. It belongs to the united city. The neighborhood and military barracks belong to the Serbs. As well as a part of Trebevic hill, from where Sarajevo cannot be seen. Extremely precise maps exist and they have been definitely finalized.

Will Sarajevo have greater independence than the cantons?

In some ways, it will. It is the capital city of both the Federation and the Union. All the state institutions will be in it. However, it is not a district as was predicted by the previous plan.

What status shall the Serb citizens have in the parts which are to belong to the Federation? Karadzic spoke of a certain autonomy?

Under the Dayton agreement, every local community in which the majority is of a different nationality than the city's majority population, will be given a certain autonomy. However, the municipalities which are now Serb-controlled, have undergone drastic changes in their ethnic structure; all non-Serbs have been expelled. The best examples are Ilidza and Grbavica. The goal is to re-establish a national structure like the one before the war. Still, I have to add that those local communities must not resemble states. Whatever a person feels as his national, religious and cultural affiliation shall be included in the autonomy in those local communities.

Between 35-40 days after the signing of the agreement, the forces shall be separated with a one kilometer demarcation zone. But, even that is a lot for a city. A kilometer in a city means almost half of Grbavica.

What if Serbs completely abandon this area, as they did in Krajina? Do you feel that the multiethnic quality of the city would be endangered by such an action?

I heard that some people have started evacuating from Ilidza. I still believe that a larger part of the Serbs will not leave. They have no reason to leave, and no place to go to, and even some, who after being influenced by the propaganda of the last few days, at first decide to leave, will return in the end. I am talking about the people who did not commit any crimes. When the multiethnic quality of Sarajevo is in question, a danger exists that a certain community becomes too small, and then disappears altogether. However, I believe that such a danger does not exist in Sarajevo. There is a huge number of Serbs from Sarajevo, not only here in the center of the town, but also on Ilidza and Grbavica who will, I am certain, remember that they are true citizens of Sarajevo and not citizens of a Serb Sarajevo. A Muslim Sarajevo does not exist. Sarajevo cannot lose its multiethnic quality, and if it should come to that, we could openly state that Sarajevo has ceased to exist.

Finally, not only in the part of Sarajevo under Karadzic's control, but here as well, returnees should be expected. What steps does the city have to make to ensure that they are accepted?

We have already started working on that. Practically the largest number of property take overs which took placeat the beginning of the war are illegal because they were not accompanied by court decisions; but it's all human, since people expelled from their homes had to find a roof over their heads and took abandoned apartments. It is all connected. Those who will return to the city, shall return to their apartments, and those that have moved in, shall return to the place from which they were expelled.

The first wave of returns has already commenced, mostly family members of those who are here. That is the easiest part of our work, since those apartments were not abandoned. At least one family member had remained in Sarajevo. The essence being that, when someone returns and knocks on his door, he can enter his apartment, while for those that are in it, new accommodation is found. Sarajevo needs all of its citizens, since almost a half, so to say, of Sarajevo's original citizens, have left the city. In most cases they left because of mortal fear for their survival. It was not easy to live under shells, without water, electricity.

The future of Sarajevo, Sarajevans hope, cannot happen without a majority of its citizens. I invite them to return as soon as possible to their city, since that is where our future lies.

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