Two Confidential Letters on the End of the War

The first letter, addressed to the then Croatian president Dr. Franjo Tuđman, was most likely handed over personally by the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zagreb, Dr. Kasim Trnka. The statement was dramatic, both for its content, and even more because of its different interpretation of bloody war. Alija Izetbegović wrote that the conditions in the country due to the occupation of Srebrenica were very hard. That we are afraid of new attacks and new massacre in the enclave of Žepa. He therefore proposes that the only point of the scheduled meeting of the two presidents would be the question of “military alliance in a joint battle against the Serbian aggressors.” Tuđman responded the same day, July 18, 1995.
He agreed with the proposal, and added that the two of them should reach a political agreement on the revival of the Washington Treaty before the agreement on military alliance.

The agreement, President Bill Clinton, was signed in mid-March 1994 by Tuđman and Izetbegović, with the political patronage of the then US. The main intention was the suspension of the armed conflict between the armies of the two countries and the joint strike against Karadžić’s and Mladić’s army. However, it was not just that. The agreements planned the end of a certain period of peace negotiations which all predicted the division of Bosnia into three entities, in fact remaking the country into a kind of very loose federation, whose two parts would be closely connected to Serbia and Croatia. It was the realization of the initial political preferences clearly described by Tuđman to senior representatives of the then European Community. One of them was the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs van der Broek. I met him later, at a meeting of the foreign policy parliamentary committee in The Hague, where we explained, with then Vice President of the Slovenian Parliament Vane Gošnik, decisions and the meaning of the Slovenian plebiscite on independent state. The minister of foreign affairs mentioned then a meeting with Tuđman and his thesis that Bosnia and Herzegovina is Yugoslav problem that could be resolved only by direct dialogues between Belgrade and Zagreb. He spoke about the division of the country. And Croatian President believed in it. He was convinced that it in some way the interest of the international community too. He was proving it with the document, probably again a product of Milošević’s intelligence service, supposedly signed by the president of the English government John Major on his memorandum and sent to the then Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd. It was written that the survival of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be the interest of the English public policy, but that their de facto policy must be led by other interests, the interests of the division of the state. Of course, the letter was a complete forgery. However, it supported the then president’s key thesis he loved to repeat and for which he asked for international support that it was necessary to begin to look for a peace solutions with the knowledge of Croatian borders when entering Yugoslavia in 1918. He explained to the German Foreign Minister Dietrich Genscher at one of meetings that the Bosnia and Herzegovina borders are geopolitical absurdity, because the country has 30 per cent of Serbs, good 40 percent of Muslims and 20 percent of Croats. Therefore, the solution was, apparently, in the division.

It turned out that the division of the country could not receive international support. That is why the peace negotiators Lord Owen and David Stoltenberg supported, in 1994, at the Vienna negotiations, a new solution, which was not the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina but the establishment of the union of three republics. That was also the period of the new Izetbegović’s triumph, actually the beliefs that his 200,000 soldiers would liberate the country. And the period of the president’s new proposals. On 10 January 1994, they met with Tuđman at a secret dinner. Izetbegović offered a division of the country. The participant in the dinner, the then Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mate Granić, later wrote that the proposal was offered totally directly. Leave central Bosnia to us, and we leave to you the entire territory south and west of Prozor to the Neretva valley, and we divide Mostar into right and left bank. Izetbegović offered this again a few days later at a meeting of the presidents in Geneva.

The American administration started its participation in search for solutions and the end of the Balkan slaughter for the first time. Charles Redman was the personal envoy of the US president. He was very reserved in the already mentioned Geneva peace conference, even with a negative opinion toward the Owen-Stoltenberg plans. It was obvious that Clinton chose and ranked the Balkan wars high on its foreign policy agenda. Only two months later, Croatian and Bosnian President signed the Washington Agreement.

It seemed that the end of the war was close. However, it was not so. The signed agreement eventually somehow lost its credibility even for two presidents.

Full year later, US intelligence intercepted telephone conversations between Ratko Mladić and General Momčilo Perišić. They talked about the big new military operation. They talked about the attack on Srebrenica. US intelligence equipped the information collected by tapping with satellite images of military shifts of the Serbian army. Srebrenica was under the direct protection of the United Nations. The main military commander of the Blue Helmets, General Bernard Janvier, was convinced that Mladić’s army would not enter or invade the enclave of Srebrenica, but that would only take roads that connect the isolated Serbian villages and protect them from revenge, also bloody attacks of the Bosnian Army. The High Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali, Yasushi Akashi, went on vacation to one of the summer resorts on the south coast of Adriatic Sea with his key associates just during crucial days before the gruesome Srebrenica massacre. I met Akashi when I was waiting for one of the flights at Frankfurt airport next to Dr. Drnovšek. It was several months before the big tragedy. It was obvious that it was hard for him to understand relations in the Balkans. The same as he later did not understand warnings about preparations for the attack on Srebrenica. Mladić occupied the enclave militarily and began planned and systematic killing.

The survivors took refuge in a military base near Tuzla. The son of the American diplomat, unfortunately late Richard Holbrooke, Anthony, and Norwegian anthropologist Tone Bringa were one of those recording testimonies about massacres and ethnic cleansing, among those who recorded them. Anthony notified father on moving stories and Bringa to then US Ambassador to Zagreb Peter Galbraith. The ambassador knew, as he explained several days ago, that Akashi would tone down and relativize all testimonies, and he therefore decided to directly notify both the State Department and the White House. Holbrooke made similar decision apparently. Exactly that meant some kind of turning point. Mladić wanted to attack Bihać and enclave Žepa immediately after Srebrenica. And to continue with horrible ethnic cleansing. The two of them, he and Milošević, were confident that only the size of the occupied territories would be of importance at the end of the wars.

Tuđman and Izetbegović met in Split on 22 July 1995, after exchanged letters. They signed a declaration on reviving of Washington agreement and joint defence. Just a few days later, the Croatian president wrote a letter to Clinton. He notifies him that Croatia will provide military assistance to the neighbouring country because of the call of the president Izetbegović and for full implementation of the agreement signed in the US capital. He added that they were aware of the consequences of humanitarian disaster and other long-term consequences if the Serbian forces occupied Bihać.

Mladić’s army started to lose militarily in the coming weeks. They were ready to negotiate on the end of the war for the first time. All of them – Karadžić, Mladić and Milošević. This was followed by the Dayton Agreement and the end of the war.

However, the search for new ways of peace began. It could be seen how fragile all these processes are by the recent attack on Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić during his participation at the commemoration of the Srebrenica victims.