The Dayton Accords: a peace agreement for Bosnia – archive, 1995

The agreement reached on 21 November 1995 by the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia ended the war between the former Yugoslav republics, outlining an agreement for peace

No war crimes deal, vows US

By Martin Walker in Washington
2 November 1995

The United States opened the Bosnian peace talks in Ohio yesterday with a firm pledge that in no circumstances would the war crimes charges against the Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Radko Mladic, be lifted as part of any eventual deal.

“I hope that some day Dayton, Ohio, will be remembered as . . . the place where the killing was finally brought to a halt,” the secretary of state, Warren Christopher, said on arrival at the Wright-Patterson air force base near the town.

The chief US broker of the talks, the assistant secretary of state Richard Holbrooke, presented the parties with a 10-point draft peace settlement the US had agreed with its Contact Group partners, Britain, France, Germany and Russia. The draft, still highly confidential, is believed to include an exchange of the Muslim enclave of Gorazde for Serb-held territory around Sarajevo, rejecting the Bosnian Serb demand for a division of the city.

The fundamental principle of the US plan - that a sovereign Bosnian state can be composed of two almost equal Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croatian-Muslim entities, has been agreed on by all three parties.

Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic, President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Bosnia‘s president, Alija Izetbegovic, all expressed cautious optimism as they arrived. But Mr Holbrooke, who met them separately before the talks opened, warned that the sides were still far apart.

The only real US leverage was to stress that “failure means the resumption of the war”, he said. “They talk peace, but they don’t show the slightest readiness for compromise. They are hardening their positions in expectation of very tough talks. I think we have to start by just getting back to where we were a few weeks ago.”

Bosnia peace gamble for US

By Jonathan Freedland and Martin Walker in Washington and Mark Tran in New York
22 November 2020

President Clinton announced the biggest foreign policy triumph - and the greatest political gamble - of his presidency yesterday, as he moved to plunge 60,000 Nato troops into the Balkans to enforce the historic but fragile Bosnia peace accord brokered, against the odds, by his administration.

As the first, small US advance and logistics teams headed for Bosnia last night, paving the way for at least 20,000 US combat troops, Mr Clinton faced more friction with his European allies, the Russians, his own Congress, and the spectre of American casualties in an election year as a result of a deal already being denounced by Bosnian Serb leaders.

After 21 days of bitter wrangling at Wright-Patterson airbase near Dayton, Ohio, aimed at ending nearly four years of war, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Bosnia‘s President Alija Izetbegovic and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia initialled the hard-won text of 65 pages, 11 annexes and scores of detailed maps, in the B-52 room of the airbases’s Hope Hotel.

Click to view.

The US secretary of state, Warren Christopher, shook hands with Mr Milosevic, who in turn shook hands with his Bosnian and Croatian counterparts, and all three then applauded the day’s work. The European Union negotiator, Carl Bildt, and British, Russian, French and German representatives all witnessed the document.

“This ensures the continuity of a single Bosnian state with effective federal institutions with a single currency and the full respect of all its neighbours as a sovereign entity,” Mr Christopher said. “It is a victory for all of us.”

“It may not be a just peace, but it is more just than a continuation of war,” said Mr Izetbegovic. “In the situation as it is, and in the world as it is, a better peace could not have been achieved.”

The deal is fragile, with the Bosnians only joining reluctantly, after they faced isolation as Croats and Serbs said they were ready to sign.

Under the plan, Bosnia nominally remains one state with a single elected president and parliament, and a unified Sarajevo as its capital. But the territory is divided into two virtually equal sections comprising a Bosnian-Croat federation and a distinct Bosnian Serb republic.

The Bosnian government won a key demand: a ban on all indicted war criminals from political life. Rebel Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic both face war crimes charges at The Hague.

Bosnians also won a guaranteed right of return for all refugees - estimated at over 2 million - and freedom of movement throughout the new state. The Bosnians also gained a corridor linking Sarajevo and the Gorazde enclave.

For the Serbs, their reward came from New York where the UN security council was set last night to lift the economic sanctions imposed against Belgrade since the beginning of the war.

The breakthrough came at 10.30am yesterday after two nights when the warring sides came close to packing up and leaving. Twice Mr Milosevic and Mr Izetbegovic ordered their baggage placed aboard their personal jets, and the engines were running even as Mr Christopher urged one final effort.

The Guardian, 22 November 1995.
The Guardian, 22 November 1995. Click to view. Photograph: Richard Nelsson/The Guardian

‘Dirty dick’ edges Europe off map: Holbrooke’s tantrums and swashbuckling tactics have led to a triumph for US diplomacy

By Martin Walker in Washington
24 November 1995

When the European negotiators entered the B-52 room of the (Bob) Hope hotel to prepare for the ceremonial signing of the Bosnian peace talks at Dayton this week, they looked at the stage and exploded.

“Dirty Dick does it again,” snapped one, as they saw no British, French, German or Russian flag, and no seats at the top table to record the European presence at the US-imposed settlement of Europe’s first war in 50 years.

They scurried away for yet another row with Dirty Dick - the US chief negotiator Richard Holbrooke - to get the flags and the chairs put back and some scrap of Euro-honour restored. The 21 days of negotiations at Dayton may have secured a Bosnian peace agreement, but they opened a wide rift between the US and the Europeans in the Contact Group.

At one point the Russian deputy foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, stamped from a meeting to phone the deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, in Washington.

“This cannot go on. We are walking out of this farce,” Mr Ivanov said. “We are treated like cattle here. Holbrooke is a disaster, he locks us out of rooms, he refuses to let us see the maps. Nobody will deal with this maniac.”

Mr Talbott sent the ambassador John Kornblum to smooth the ruffled feathers, a job to which Mr Kornblum had grown accustomed in the tempestuous wake of Mr Holbrooke’s diplomacy.

Mr Holbrooke is an extraordinary figure, so adept and assiduous at manipulating his own press coverage that he is widely hailed as the architect of the Bosnian peace.

But, deploying rages and tantrums and sudden manly embraces, Mr Holbrooke’s diplomacy is a contact sport, a high-risk exercise in manipulation and deliberate brinkmanship that will do whatever it takes to close a deal.

“All you need for the unification of Europe is to put us in a room with Holbrooke,” one of the European diplomats said. “He created an unbreakable cohesion between the Europeans and Russians because he tried to marginalise us all, to squeeze us out of the process, all the while reminding us that we had failed and that America was taking over.”

The leaks and complaints of the discomfited Europeans at Dayton reflect the reality that American diplomacy was finally required to resolve a European war. The American version of the Dayton talks is different, with happy anecdotes of lobster dinners.

In the American accounts the isolation of Dayton, Mr Holbrooke’s tough-cop rages and Warren Christopher’s soft-cop ways were all part of a brilliantly orchestrated realpolitik to achieve a deal. US officials told how the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, would trade towns as he sipped Scotch and talked about Gone With the Wind. One evening he nestled by the Officers Club piano to render a saccharine version of the romantic classic Tenderly.

Most of the American briefings have focused on the Nintendo Room, a computer -filled chamber where the detailed maps could be manipulated at the touch of a joystick, using programmes devised to simulate bombing runs. Another computer then calculated the percentage of land that each side would receive.

“Milosevic was insisting on no more than a two-mile wide corridor to link Sarajevo and Gorazde. General (Wesley) Clark took him to play Nintendo, and showed him that God had not designed the topography that way. Milosevic sipped his whisky, agreed to five miles, and now we call it the Scotch road,” a US official said.

“The American computers outsmarted themselves,” a European official said. “They took (Bosnian president) Izetbegovic into the room and showed him that the map would give him 55 per cent, cutting the Serbs down to 45 per cent. They wrote on a blackboard ‘Bosnia Wins’. But they forgot to rub that out when Milosevic came in. He blew up, refused the deal, and finally the Americans got Clinton to call (the Croatian president Franjo) Tudjman and he had to give up some land to compensate the Serbs.

“That was when Holbrooke panicked. He had been outrageous to us, but suddenly came to us all charm. Could we get President Chirac and prime minister Major and Chancellor Kohl to call Tudjman too.

“Holbrooke nearly broke the deal. Tudjman would not shake his hand. The Bosnians stopped talking to him. They knew he sneered at them as Izzy, Silly and Mo (President Izetbegovic, prime minister Haris Silazdic, and foreign minister Muhamed Sacirbey) and tried to divide them among themselves.

“He had more success dividing the Germans. When Warren Christopher arrived on Friday night thinking he had just to pluck the ripe fruit from the tree, he found he had to save the talks that Holbrooke had wrecked.”

The sharpest threat to the peace initialled this week comes from the Bosnian Serbs, who not only denounced the deal in public, but in private refused to initial either the map or the military annexes to the long and complex agreement. Only shown the final map by Mr Milosevic minutes before the peace agreement was announced, the Bosnian Serbs in the delegation were stunned to see they had lost the Sarajevo suburbs and commanding heights they had defended throughout the siege.

The map showed a large swath of land looping down from north of the city and around to the west and south-west switching from Serb to government control. Grbavica, an inner-city district where Serb frontlines swoop to within a hundred yards of the destroyed Bosnian parliament tower, will revert to government control.

The disputed northern suburbs of Vogosca and Ilidza to the west will change hands, giving the government control of the railway, airport, and key roads necessary to tie Sarajevo to the rest of Bosnia and the world.

“We now wait for the boys from Belgrade to visit Pale with the pliers and electrodes to get the Bosnian Serbs to sign on before the Paris peace ceremony,” another European diplomat said.

Slobodan Milosevic (L) Alija Izetbegovic (C) and Franjo Tudjman before signing the Dayton peace accord, 14 December 1995.
Slobodan Milosevic (L) Alija Izetbegovic (C) and Franjo Tudjman before signing the Dayton peace accord, 14 December 1995. Photograph: Joel Robine/AFP/Getty Images

Pomp and protocol mark signing of peace treaty

By Alex Duval-Smith in Paris
15 December 1995

After the maps were drawn up in Dayton and the geopolitics sketched out in London, Paris provided a backdrop of red carpets and cherubed pillars for the signing of the first European peace treaty for 50 years yesterday.

Beneath a painted ceiling in the Elysee Palace representing “the Republic safeguards peace”, the presidents of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia signed an accord aimed at halting nearly four years of the worst fighting in Europe since the second world war.

The leaders of former Yugoslavia were succeeded at a plain oak desk by two triumvirates of world leaders who signed the same four copies of the General Framework Accord for Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina – three in Serbo-Croat and one in English.

In a morning laden with pomp and underscored by protocol rivalry, President Clinton, President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Helmut Kohl signed next, before John Major and Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Russian prime minister, and Felipe Gonzalez, the Spanish prime minister.

The speeches, from a podium in front of 23 flags, placed in French alphabetical order, were strictly limited to six minutes each. Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president, said: “My government is signing this agreement without any enthusiasm, like someone who is taking a bitter but useful potion.”

The signing of the 165-page document, initialled on November 21, after three weeks of continuous negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, starts the clock on a series of deadlines for troop movements and the release of prisoners.


compiled by Richard Nelsson

The GuardianTramp

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