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June 15, 1992
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 38
Mr. Cedrick Thornberry, Head of the UNPROFOR Civil Mission

The Struggle for the Airport

by Seska Stanojlovic

The airport in Sarajevo, which for thousands of long suffering citizens represents a ray of hope, has become the symbol of international concern. This is exactly why, as Mr. Cedrick Thornberry told VREME in an exclusive interview, it cannot be expected that the international community will put to one side its de-blockading and the delivery of the humanitarian help.

The author of the document concerning the de-blockade, signed at the end of last week in Sarajevo, expressed his hope that the agreement would be respected and put into effect and that no one will take the suicidal step of not honoring it. Mr. Thornberry considers equally risky the possibility that a certain government (under the sponsorship of the UN or on its own) could make a drastic decision and, for the agreement's efficiency sake - ask for military intervention. "I sincerely hope that nobody will have to face either of these two possibilities - the sabotage of the agreement or its implementation by use of force - because this would cause a further escalation in the region".

We spoke with Mr. Thornberry on Thursday afternoon, almost a week after the painful negotiations on the de-blockade of the airport were completed and the agreement signed by all the B&H Presidency members, Mr. Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. On Wednesday, the delicate realization of the agreement began. The first group of around seventy military observers and some logistic support units - whose task is to monitor the withdrawal of the anti-aircraft weapons stationed around the airport - left Belgrade for Sarajevo.

The convoy was stopped near its destination, in the village of Lukovica, because the UN convoy which had left Sarajevo to meet the one coming from Belgrade, had been shot at.

This first group of UN monitors sent to Sarajevo is just the initial phase of putting the "Butmir" airport under UN control, enabling the landing of planes with humanitarian aid. The plan is made up of four phases, the last one being the landing of the first plane. Mr. Thornberry expects this to happen by the middle of this week at the earliest.

Bearing in mind the outcome of most of the agreements made lately and, especially, the extremely difficult situation in Sarajevo where the breaking cease-fires is widely practiced, we asked Mr. Thornberry to say whether he is an optimist or a pessimist. "Neither of the two. We have the UN mandate and we are professionals. However, frankly speaking, the situation in Sarajevo and its surroundings has been so unbearably difficult for the populations of any nationality that we simply have to do all we can to put and end to their suffering".

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