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Interview
Muhamed Sacirbey, Dayton Accords Signatory
“DAYTON IS STILL THE ROOT OF WHAT IS WRONG WITH BOSNIA”
Objavljeno: 20. Nov 2010. 12:11:09

Muhamed Sacirbey
Fifteen years ago, on the 21st of November 1995, in the relatively unknown American city of Dayton, in Ohio, the leaders of Bosnia’s warring factions signed a peace agreement to end Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War Two. Some 200,000 people were killed in the conflict. Two million were displaced, and the country was left divided along ethnic lines. One of the signatories of the Dayton Peace Accords was Muhamed Sacirbey. He was Bosnia’s ambassador to the United Nations and then foreign minister. He was known for his impassioned pleas during the war to lift the arms embargo against the Bosnian Muslims. For the anniversary of Dayton, euronews caught up with him at the UN headquarters in New York, where he lives.

Euronews: “Ambassador Sacirbey, thank you for talking to euronews. You once said that, and I think you were referring to Dayton, that a bad peace is still better than a war. Do you still feel that way?”

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“Absolutely. Let me put it to you this way. In terms of my own reputation, in terms of my own well being, that’s not the case. A good war would have been better than a bad peace. But imagine all the people whose lives were directly at stake, and it was my opinion that peace was better than war, even perhaps an imperfect peace , even perhaps an unjust peace. However, I want to signal that I was not going to be bound by the wishes of the big powers who had , in effect, imposed the Dayton that we ended up signing. And I think in fact Dayton is still the root of what is wrong with Bosnia. But on the other hand, I must say that Dayton is the basis for peace right now. So, we have to be careful, especially I who am very negative about Dayton, who has withdrawn my signature from Dayton, about trying to paint it in just one colour.”

Euronews: “It seems that by November of 95, the Srebrenica massacre had taken place, the tide of the war had been changing a bit. The NATO airstrikes had started, why didn’t the Bosnian Muslem and Croat side hold out longer? Why was it so important to sign Dayton then?”

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“There was a threat, first against the Croatian forces and then the Bosnian forces if we did not immediately accept a ceasefire. And therefore moving on to the next level of negotiations, that the might of the allied forces, NATO forces, particularly air strikes could, and would be, used against the Croatian and ultimately Bosnian army. It was a bluff. We knew it was a bluff but it was too high a risk to take. I had a gun held to my head. That gun wasn’t literally to my head – it was to the heads of the citizens and the soldiers that I represented. And could I afford at any point in time to say go ahead and pull the trigger, especially if it wasn’t going to be my brains splattered all over the fields of Bosnia and Herzegovina? So that’s why I questionned Bosnian diplomats, Bosnian leaders who would now agree to Dayton as a kind of continuing foundation for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a foundation for peace, it’s certainly a foundation for ending the war, but it’s no foundation for any normal country. Certainly not one for aspirations like Bosnia and Herzegovina , the aspirations of its citizens to be part of the euro atlantic family.”

Euronews: “Richard Holbrooke said in an interview two years ago that if there hadn’t been Dayton, Al Qaeda would have been preparing 9/11 out of Bosnia instead of Afghanistan. How do you react to that?

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“With great anger. First of all that’s not true. I don’t see under those circumstances Al Qaeda would have been able to establish such a base in Bosnia as it did in some other places. Certainly there would have been a radicalization of the Bosniak population but terrorism is terrorism and we, as victims of terrorism, I think understood the difference. But most importantly, I think what Richard Holbrooke is trying to do is rationalize the Dayton deal now, somehow that he had subdued a risk that was directed at the US and Europe by, in effect, imposing this type of Dayton. Maybe worst of all, he has now somehow rationalized or legitimized the original claim of the Serbian ultra-nationalists, the Mladics and Karadzics, for the war. Because they always thought they could rally Europe and the US behind them on the war cry, well, let’s get rid of the muslims from Europe.

Euronews: “There were elections last October seen as a key test for where Bosnia’s future lies. It seems the results of the elections showed that Bosnians still voted along ethnic lines and then you have the prime minister of the republic of Srpska more or less showing his disdain for a united Bosnia Herzegovina. Isn’t it inevitable that Bosnia has to be divided permanently?”

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“I am not the one who’s going to pronounce those words of death upon the country. I think the country certainly has gone beyond me and it has a heartbeat and hopefully a mind and soul of its own. But let’s talk about how those elections not, came out, but how in fact they were carried out and the answer is what we did in Dayton upon the urging of Mladic, in this case Milosevic as his representative, on the urging therefore of the western alliance including the western representatives is that we were told we had to accept voting and representation in office along ethnic lines, and that’s why Dayton is failing over the long term. You are embedding, I emphasize the word embedding, ethnic politics, so there will be an ever greater appeal to chauvinism. That’s why it’s important to reverse the negative consequences of Dayton right now. That’s why I withdrew my signature five years ago when I saw that in fact the dynamics of Dayton had been allowed.”

Euronews: “So from what I understand, you signed and then you resigned and then you withdrew your signature five years ago.”

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“That’s correct.”

Euronews: “So, I’m going to ask, I know this might be repeating but why did you sign it in the first place?”

Muhamed Sacirbey:
“To end the war. Simple as that.

It is not a coincidence that we speak of Sarajevo as the European Jerusalem but of course just like the Jerusalem in the Middle East, it constantly faces challenges and the current challenge to Bosnia and Herzegovina is not from within its genetics. It is from which in effect has been imposed through the Dayton accords which I think is really in the long term is not, I don’t want to call it a false solution, again I emphasize that it stopped the war, but it is not in fact, the final, lasting basis for the country to prosper.” Euronews.net



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