THE AMERICAN INITIATIVE // 09. 1995.
MIRKO PEJANOVIC // MEMBER OF THE BH PRESIDENCY/PRESIDENT OF THE SERB CIVIC COUNCIL
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

September 1995

Mirko Pejanovic
Member of the BH Presidency/Serb Civic Council
THE AMERICAN INITIATIVE

‘That was the first time that Republika Srpska was promoted as a separate entity. And basically, this is how things stayed. According to that arrangement, BH was defined as a loose union consisting of two entities which could come to an agreement on some common questions. For instance, they would have Council of ministers for foreign policy. Nothing else. For us, in the Serb Civil Council this was very disturbing. The Council invited us for Peace in the Balkans. We went to Washington and met with important American officials, among who I would like to single out Anthony Lake, National Security Adviser, President Clinton, and Senator Bidden, a Democrat. Several of us talked to Anthony Lake: Kljujic, Komsic, Tanja Mijatovic Ljujic and I. We made an agreement that Kljujic would be first to speak. Kljuic knew how to speak as Sarajevo's advocate. He said that we do not ask anything else but what the United States, as a multi-ethnic and federal republic, has. I had the impression that Anthony Lake accepted all these arguments, and so the American administration fixed in advance another meeting in New York to which it invited the BH, Serb, Yugoslavian and Croatian ministers of foreign affairs. At that New York meeting in the end of the September, the roof of BH was being made. It was ensured that BH would have top government officials just as any other country.’

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SEPTEMBER 1995


• NATO strikes ongoing. A senior U.S. military official announces: “The operation will take place over 24 hours, we won’t say any more than that. NATO will not cease the largest operation in its history until the siege of Sarajevo has been lifted. We’re not talking about loosening the noose; the noose needs to be broke, not just loosening it around the victim’s neck. The objective is the removal of heavy weapons, opening the airport and roads for entering and exiting the city, and releasing electricity, water and heat. The siege needs to be lifted, and the operation will not be interrupted until we achieve those objectives.” These can be achieved in three ways: a Bosnian Serb surrender, a just peace agreement, or an honest war.


• The ARBiH are ordered to engage in no action during NATO operation “Night flight”.
• The goal is to weaken the aggressor, while not overly strengthening its victims.
• Chirac: “The siege must end!”
• The RRF targets mobile rocket launchers aimed at NATO planes. Reconnaissance patrols on the ground guide the planes. NATO planes first destroy the systems for air defense.
• Admiral Leighton Smith: “I’d prefer to have the other side guess what we’re going to do than tell them myself.”
• André Soubirou, RRF commander: “When the Serbs realized that we could move our artillery against their artillery, they immediately fell silent.”
• The first target of RRF artillery is a building near Igman that threatened their security. As a sign of the troops’ multinationalism, the French fire a 155mm cannon and 120mm mortars, the British 105mm cannons, and the Dutch 120mm mortars simultaneously at this initial target.
• Support for the strikes from Germany, Holland and Austria.


• Moscow is stunned, surprised and confused by the scale of the NATO and RRF operation. Disputes and condemnations.
• In Belgrade, a delegation of Bosnian Serbs from Pale meets with Milosevic with the aim of forming a joint delegation for further peace talks. Their arrival to Belgrade is the first in more than a year. Their agreement on joint participation is blessed and signed by Serbian Partiarch Pavle. Milosevic will be the head of the delegation and his word will be law in all future negotiations.
• Bill Clinton: “The NATO operation was the right response to the savagery in Sarajevo.”
• Richard Holbrooke: “We are on the verge of real negotiations.”
• German “tornado” jets participate in the operation but do not engage targets
• The UN requests that the Bosnian Serbs remove artillery from around Sarajevo within a radius of 20km, and halt the shelling of civilian targets as well as all combat activities.
• By this point 500 NATO planes have flown on missions.
• Russia will request an end to the bombing at a meeting of the Contact Group.
• List of equipment necessary for NATO pilot survival if shot down: pistol, knife, compass, global positioning system, first-transmitter, flare gun, first aid kit, camouflage, map, food and water supplies.
• “Liberation”: “How is it possible that a 300,000,000 franc “Mirage” can be hit by an unsophisticated surface-to-air missile SAM 7, that’s been in use for the past 30 years?” Answer: A warning system designed to alert pilots that a rocket has been launched was not installed for financial reasons. The final bolts, nuts and box that would make the plane optimal were missing. .
• After the armed battles, diplomatic ones lay ahead on the road to peace.
• Milosevic destroys Karadzic. He becomes a peacemaker and saves the Serbs on the battlefield. Milosevic is stronger than ever.


• NATO rejects conditions from the Bosnian Serbs on the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the surroundings of Sarajevo and will order renewed attacks if they fail to comply with their requests: “The response from General Mladic was not sufficient and is not the basis for an end to air strikes.”


• The Serbs shell Sarajevo.
• Geneva: meeting between the foreign ministers of BiH and Yugoslavia.
• The NATO operation is named “Deliberate force”.


• Opening of “blue routes”: A timetable for exit from the city is set at 8-11am and 3-6pm. Security on the road is handled by the RRF and French battalion. This time the UN does not request the consent of the aggressor to open the “blue routes”.
• Holbrooke dines with Milosevic in Belgrade, then travels to Athens.
• NATO fighter jets are available for numerous other targets if air strikes continue against the Bosnian Serbs.


• “This is a textbook operation”, say defense analysts: first, communication is disabled around Pale, then munitions warehouses and factories, then artillery positions.
• Serb artillery is well hidden in buildings, forests and underground shelters.
• German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin meet at Zavidovo hunting lodge and discuss the need for an international conference on Bosnia.
• 1,000 take offs of NATO planes.
• Holbrooke is a keen negotiator and a relentless one. He is an American, and has behind him the U.S. administration and the power to launch strikes, unlike previous negotiators Lord Carrington, Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg.


• The Serbs begin to withdraw several hours before the ultimatum.
• Budapest: the delegation from Serbia assumes responsibility for their government’s provision of guarantees for the free flow of gas to the areas under the legal control of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina
• NATO and RRF renew their attacks because of the insignificant withdrawal of weapons. The Serbs stage a carnival, arranging scenes to show that NATO struck civilian targets.
• Nikola Koljevic sends a letter of agreement on the withdrawal of weapons.
• Karadzic again uses former U.S. president Jimmy Carter as a message bearer. Karadzic promises to withdraw the weapons and meet the requirements of the ultimatum in order to buy time, but the deception fails.
• NATO command: “NATO strikes will last as long as Mladic’s paramilitaries do not lift the siege of Sarajevo.”
• Russia condemns the strikes on Bosnian Serb positions and demands an immediate end to the operation.
• Avignon: Hunger strike among French artists in protest against the role of the French government in the war in Bosnia.


• An unmanned American “Predator” spy plane worth $2,000,000 is shot down.
• Holbrooke and his negotiating team are in Zagreb, at a meeting with Franjo Tudjman.
• The Russian Duma seeks the dismissal of Kozyrev, because of his missteps that brought a humiliating collapse of Russian diplomacy in the Balkans, discrediting the Russian Federation and its president.
• NATO continues to bomb Serb targets.
• ARBiH fires two shells from the center of Sarajevo at UNPROFOR command. It is interpreted as the isolated actions of an individual.
• Karadjic in an interview with the BBC: “Please stop!” The message is addressed to NATO. “Suspend this unprecedented campaign of military reprisals against the Serb people.”
• NATO continues bombing.


• Admiral Leighton Smith denies the claims made by the Bosnian Serbs: “I do not think that our bombing lies apart from our political views.”


• Geneva: meeting of foreign ministers. Sacirbegovic represents BiH; Milutinovic, SR Yugoslava; Granic, Croatia.
• Admiral Leighton Smith: “Our goals remain unchanged. These are non-negotiable. There is no evidence that the Serbs are willing to accept our terms.”
• Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic: “Determined defense of the borders, territory and people of the Serb state.”
• NATO continues bombing.


• Yeltsin orders the delivery of humanitarian aid to Serbia. Developments in the situation may lead to “adequate procedures”. Yeltsin issues threats of a new cold war. “Bombing has never led to a positive result.” At the same time the Russian army is bombing Chechnya.
• Confusion ensues as to who is in control in Pale.
• Milosevic will provide for the withdrawal of artillery if Holbrooke, Stoltenberg and Bildt promise him that the sanctions will be lifted.
• Paris: Meeting of the two Contact Groups, the European-American and the Organization of Islamic Countries, OIC.


• Geneva: Holbrooke makes a proposition – Bosnia, within its internationally recognized borders, is split into two entities, the Federation BH and the Republika Srpska.
• The international Contact Group for BiH and the foreign ministers of BiH,Croatia and Serbia issue a joint statement.
• BiH Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbegovic for the first time mentions and recognizes the Republika Srpska.
• The Republika Srpska is no longer “so-called” and BiH is no longer “the former.” The international continuity and legality of Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained and the Serbs gain legitimacy.
• Yeltsin: “Russia will provide the Serbs with military aid if NATO continues its actions.” He qualifies the NATO and RFF actions as reflecting the West’s pitting the Croats and Muslims in a war against the Serbs.
• NATO – disappointment over the reaction in Russia, as Kozyrev on May 30 1995 had signed the “Partnership for Peace”. However, it gave no concessions to Russia or Serbia.
• Households in Sarajevo receive electricity every fourth day.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic: “This is not a division, this is a demarcation that we agreed more than a year ago, borders which we approved in signing the Contact Group plan.”
• The Pope speaks to a large gathering of 100,000 people: “Not far from you, people are killed waiting in line for bread. Tonight we are all citizens of Sarajevo.”


• The “Normandy” aircraft carrier fires 13 “tomahawk” missiles at Banja Luka. These include cruise missiles that take 40-45 minutes to reach their targets.


• The ARBiH liberates the area of Vozuca south of Ozren mountain.
• Shell attack on Sarajevo, 8 wounded.
• Willy Claes: “Karadzic does not quite understand what’s happening, Mladic is worthy of contempt, and we will continue the operation regardless of either.”


• A “Benetton” shop opens in Sarajevo.


• The ARBiH liberates Donji Vakuf. HV troops and the HVO liberate Jajce, Drvar and Sipovo.
• NATO does its “regular job” in conducting military operations. New strikes follow. NATO aviation is more precise in Bosnia than in “desert storm”.
• Russian news agency Itar Tass: “NATO fired on Markale.”


• Cardinal Vinko Puljic: “The war in Bosnia is not a religious war, which is why the Muslims and Croats should be fighting to survive, to preserve their identities and their homelands.”


• New ARBiH victories: Bihac municipality under control. The ARBiH advances toward Doboj and Kljuc.
• Mostar: Izetbegovic meets with Holbrooke before he leaves for Belgrade. The Bosnian Serbs agree to withdraw if the BiH government promises a ceasefire.
• The Bosnian landward breeze blows with tempestuous force: Bosanski Petrovac, Kljuc and Krupa fall.
• “Le Figaro”: “Fake war in Western Bosnia- handover of territories agreed on in advance.”
• In 7 days 3,200 square kilometers of occupied territory are liberated.
• U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher: “The offensive against Banja Luka will be stopped. We have encouraged the Muslims and Croats to halt at that point, and currently focus on the peace process rather than capturing new territory.”
• The work of “shuttle diplomacy”: Holbrooke in Zagreb then in Belgrade.
• UN Security Council: stop the Muslim and Croat offensive, as it jeopardizes the peace process.


• U.S. State Department, Nicolas Burns: “As long as people and automobiles cannot leave or enter the city, we do not consider the siege lifted.”


• UN and NATO agree to terminate the suspension of air strikes.


• In Sarajevo, the city clock stops.


• Mass grave found near Kljuc.
• Celebration of the Jewish New Year.
• The Serbs fire upon Konjic.


• Holbrooke in Sarajevo: discussions on a potential ceasefire.

THE PRESIDENCY BUILDING

The building was located in the city center. It was built in 1885 in the Neo-renaissance style and it was modeled on 15th century Florence palaces. It was the favorite target. A great number of people was killed or wounded in the streets near the building. The Presidency remained in the building throughout the war and foreign politicians or delegations were always welcomed because their visits meant a temporary respite from shelling.

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