Dáil Éireann - Volume 447 - 24 January, 1995

Written Answers. - Bosnian Peace.

48. Mr. Molloy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, he will take within the European Union to achieve a more effective policy by the Union to bring peace to Bosnia in view of the continuing unrest there and the suffering endured by large numbers of civilians. [1473/95]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The Government attaches the highest priority to securing a negotiated settlement for the former Yugoslavia, and most immediately in Bosnia. The conflict there, which has continued now for almost four years, is a matter of the utmost concern to the Government, the European Union, the United Nations and the international community at large.

Much remains to be done before Bosnia can enjoy lasting peace. But there have been a number of positive developments.

The war between the Bosnian Government and Bosnian Croat forces ended last year, following the conclusion of the Washington agreements. These laid the basis for the establishment of a Federation in the territories of the Bosnian Muslim and Croat peoples. Aid convoys are now moving freely in central Bosnia, where the situation on the ground has been gradually improving.

The European Union's Administration of the city of Mostar is contributing in a practical way to reconciliation between Bosnia's Croat and Muslim communities. It is helping to overcome mutual hatred and mistrust and to bring together two deeply divided communities. Mostar, I hope, can be a model for the development of Croat/Muslim relations elsewhere in the Federation.

Notwithstanding these developments, [1335] it is clear that a lasting peace will not be established until two key issues are resolved — territorial delimitation between the Federation and the Bosnian Serb territories, and constitutional arrangements for the government and administration of Bosnia.

The Contact Group — France, Germany and the UK on behalf of the EU, Russia and the United States — continues to play a leading role in the search for a settlement. Its proposal for territorial delimitation involves the preservation of Bosnia as a single union within its internationally recognised borders, the territorial division agreed earlier by all three parties — 51 per cent for the Croat and Muslim communities and 49 per cent for the Bosnian Serbs, the continuation of Bosnia's international legal personality and the right of refugees and displaced persons to return freely to their homes of origin.

The contact group's plan has the full support of the UN Security Council. It has been accepted by three of the four key participants in the conflict the Bosnian Government, Bosnia's Croats, and the authorities in Belgrade who represent the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The plan has not however been accepted by the Serbs in Bosnia itself and a key objective of the international effort is now directed at obtaining Bosnian Serb agreement.

To this end, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has ended its support for the Bosnian Serb leadership and has closed the border between the Federal Republic and the Bosnian Serb territories. A Mission of the International Conference, to which Ireland is contributing four personnel, is monitoring the closure.

Following the visit by former US President Carter to the region, a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement came into effect at the beginning of January. This contains important provisions on the separation of forces, withdrawal of heavy weapons and on full freedom of movement for UNPROFOR and humanitarian agencies. UNPROFOR is [1336] working with the parties to ensure that these provisions are implemented on the ground. While the Bosnian Serbs have continued to obstruct the access to Sarajevo for aid convoys, the UN considers that the parties are generally discharging their obligations, other than in the Bihac area.

At the General Affairs Council yesterday, European Union Foreign Ministers reviewed the situation in Bosnia. We agreed that it is vital now to exploit the window of opportunity created by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement to relaunch the negotiating process it is essential that all parties honour their commitments under the agreement and that negotiations should recommence without delay on the basis of acceptance by all parties of the contact group plan.

Should agreement on the territorial issues be secured, the constitutional questions can then be addressed with, I believe, a reasonable prospect of success. A settlement in Bosnia will greatly enhance the prospects for a more global settlement for the Yugoslav region.