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President Carter Helps Restart Peace Efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter traveled to the former Yugoslavia in December to support efforts to end civil war there. The Carters, who went as private citizens and representatives of The Carter Center, were successful in brokering a four-month cease-fire agreement and a pledge from all sides to resume peace talks.

In mid-December, President Carter received an invitation from Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to visit the troubled region, where conflict has raged between Muslims and Serbs since 1992. Following extensive discussions with White House and U.N. officials, and after a briefing at The Carter Center by representatives of the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. State Department, President Carter sought approval from President Clinton to travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina. His trip was approved, and the Clinton administration made arrangements for the Carter Center party to be transported by military plane from Germany to Zagreb, Croatia, and then by U.N. plane to Sarajevo.

Harry Barnes, director of The Carter Center's Conflict Resolution and Human Rights programs, and Joyce Neu, associate director of the Conflict Resolution Program (CRP), accompanied President and Mrs. Carter to Bosnia. In February 1993, the CRP held a discussion session on the former Yugoslavia during the annual meeting of its International Negotiation Network at The Carter Center. Since then, the program has monitored several conflicts in the region.

From the outset, President Carter indicated he did not intend to become a permanent negotiator but that he hoped his trip might provide an opening to move toward a cessation of hostilities and to encourage the acceptance of the Contact Group's plan as the basis for further negotiations. The Contact Group includes the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Among other points, the Group's plan called for a comprehensive cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Prior to leaving for the region, President Carter secured a pledge from Mr. Karadzic to reopen the Sarajevo airport, to institute a temporary cease-fire in and around Sarajevo, to release young Muslim prisoners, to allow unrestricted movement of all U.N. convoys, and to begin honoring basic human rights. When he departed for the region on Dec. 18, President Carter said, "After receiving assurances from Dr. Karadzic about a series of actions to be taken to lessen tension between Serbian forces and those of UNPROFOR (United Nations' forces) and NATO, we attempted to ascertain the status of these promised actions. There obviously were some positive developments, but the exact situation concerning all the points is impossible to ascertain at this time. Our plans are to proceed to Zagreb and then to assess the fulfillment of those commitments before going to Sarajevo."

Upon arriving in Zagreb, President and Mrs. Carter were pleased to learn that planes were once again delivering supplies to Sarajevo and that the movement of 17 U.N. convoys has been approved the preceding day. However, almost 2,000 rounds of small arms gunfire from various sources had been recorded in the Sarajevo area.

In the Balkans, President Carter held extensive discussions with the president of Croatia, the U.N. special representative for the former Yugoslavia, the current and former U.S. representative to the Contact Group, commanders of UNPROFOR, representatives of relief agencies and human rights groups, and leaders of the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the of the Bosnia Serbs. After two days of talks, the leaders of Bosnia's Muslim-led government and the Bosnian Serbs reached mutual agreement on several points.

At this writing, the following agreements, laid out in a Dec. 20 press statement, have been finalized:

  • A nationwide cease-fire was implemented within 72 hours of President Carter's departure from the region.
  • Negotiations on an agreement for a total cessation of hostilities began on Dec. 23, 1994. On Dec. 31, a four-month cease-fire was finalized.
  • Each side agreed to resume peace talks under the auspices of the Contact Group, using mediators proposed by the Contact Group and mutually agreed by the parties.
  • During this cease-fire period, all sides agreed that there will be unrestricted movement of relief convoys, use of the airport at Sarajevo in accordance with existing agreements, and the delivery of humanitarian services by official institutions and nongovernmental organizations. They also agreed that each side could join with UNPROFOR inspectors to assure that no armaments or weapons of war are included in the cargoes to be delivered.
  • Each side pledged to be responsible within its controlled areas for the total elimination and prevention of the firing of any guns or weapons of any kind that might be damaging to people or property.
  • Each side agreed that representatives of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights will be free to observe compliance with international human rights standards.
  • Each side agreed to an early exchange of all detainees under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC will have unimpeded access to all detainees to ensure that the provisions of this agreement are fulfilled.

"There are many difficult issues and questions that still need to be resolved," said President Carter prior to leaving Sarajevo. "It is my hope that these issues can be resolved peacefully, utilizing the services of the Contact Group and UNPROFOR as appropriate."

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