Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sacirbey: They knew about Karadzic deals

By Afshin Rattansi for Press TV

The following is Press TV's exclusive full-length interview with former Bosnian foreign minister Mohammad Sacirbey.

Press TV: I noticed that Richard Holbrooke is saying that it is an outrageous fabrication. What did Karadzic mean by a deal with Richard Holbrooke?

Sacirbey: I have actually been aware of the deal from almost the day it was made. In the summer of 1996, Karadzic withdrew from Bosnian politics, presumably. He withdrew from the leadership of his party. Then he was already indicted, but in fact, he was also running to become a member of the Repablica Serbska's (Republic of Serbia) chair in the presidency. All of a sudden he withdrew.

That night I met with a US diplomat, a very distinguished gentleman who I have a lot of respect for and he was quite enthused to tell me that Karadzic had withdrawn from politics, and, of course, when I said that why would he withdraw, what is the deal?…there was a bit of silence.

In the end, it was acknowledged that in fact Karadzic had been promised by Richard Holbrooke that he would not be arrested even though he was indicted and wanted by the war crimes tribunal if he did withdraw, and of course for the next two to three years, Karadzic, in fact, was quite free and was relatively at liberty and without any threat of arrest.

Press TV: Obviously, I don't expect you to name your source, but Richard Holbrooke is quoted here as saying "I never made such a deal. It would have been unethical and immoral."

Sacirbey: No, let me make sure. I have been very straight with the same picture for over a decade. My source was Ambassador Robert Frowick, at that time the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia that was overseeing the elections. I have put this on the record, I think, at least 10 years ago.

Press TV: Would president Bill Clinton have been aware as well of this deal with Radovan Karadzic?

Sacirbey: Well, I am not sure of that. All I can tell you is that there was another deal that I think was much more serious and the consequences were much more grave and that was a deal that took place early in the summer of 1995.

That involved Richard Holbrooke and that involved Carl Bildt who, then, was the EU mediator and now is Sweden's foreign minister. It involved a French general who was the head of the military forces of the UN in Bosnia i.e. Bernard Jean Vieh. It involved Yasushi Akashi who was the head UN civilian official. They, in effect, acquiesced, gave the green light to Milosevic, Mladic as well as Karadzic to take over the territory of Srebrenica but also Zepa and Gorazda.

At that time there was enormous pressure on us to trade these territories and to give, in effect, to Belgrade and the Bosnian Serbs what they wanted in return for them presumably during the peace talks what would end up being Dayton. We refused and as we resisted the green light was given to the Serbian forces to attack that enclave. Of course, I did not know about it.

I do not think anyone in my government knew about it and the result was 8000 people murdered. So the second deal probably is explained by the first deal. I suspect many people who were in the US administration at that time, even if they objected to making deals with Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic, who all subsequently were indicted at that time, they clearly would not be very pleased if that information came out right now.

Press TV: The UN peacekeepers, of course, were watching the Srebrenica massacre in real time. Why do you think the Dayton agreement was so important to the United States that they would be willing to turn a blind eye to massacres like [the one in] Srebrenica. What is it about Dayton?

Sacirbey: First of all I am not sure that actually the Dutch peacekeepers knew of the deal. I think that the Dutch peacekeepers and the Dutch government were supposed to be left holding the bag as one would say. What I mean by that is they were supposed to be the excuse why, in fact, NATO and the United Nations did not act to protect Srebrenica as they were obliged to do under the UN and the NATO resolutions.

The defenders of Srebrenica were disarmed and the UN and the NATO were supposed to defend them, so when the Dutch peacekeepers were faced with substantial Serbian tanks and heavy weapons, clearly a superior force, all they had was small guns to fight back.

That is when the NATO was supposed to come in. In fact, the Dutch defense minister did call the NATO. I spoke to him on the evening before Srebrenica fell. He told me "I am calling in NATO. They are going to come in the morning and I am going to do it regardless of what the consequence are for the Dutch forces.

That call was not honored and that call resulted in a Dutch government falling. It obviously resulted in shame for the Dutch forces who were there and it resulted in 8,000 Bosnian men, children and also women being murdered. It also was a black eye upon NATO because obviously, NATO did not fulfill its commitment and it was clearly one of the worst moments for the United Nations.

So it is rather unfortunate, someone who always wants to speak of multilateralism, in fact, betrayed multilateralism in Srebrenica and here I am speaking specifically of Richard Holbrooke but I also must include people like Carl Bildt, like Bernard Jean Vieh and Akashi.

Press TV: Some people say it is even higher up than your making out and that right from the start it was a deal by Bill Clinton's government with the German government to dismember Yugoslavia and the Dayton agreement was about privatizing all the resources of a state which had resources in the hands of the government.

Do you think it goes as far as that and in fact all of this is part of an agenda for big companies? And do you think this will all come out in The Hague as we watch Radovan Karadzic defend himself?

Sacirbey: Well, I want to be very careful that I speak of what I have at least some limited first-hand knowledge of. I do have some, now, first-hand knowledge of the deal that was made, simply because as foreign minister certain things were told to me…certain things happened rather peculiar and coming back upon it all it fits into a deal.

Was this something that was arranged at the very highest levels? That I leave for someone else to speculate but clearly, I think, what would be more appropriate now is to talk about if Dayton was achieved through, in effect, genocide, if Dayton is the consequences of embracing the results of that genocide shouldn't we talk about reversing Dayton, in effect, reversing that which in fact rewarded genocide?

Let me be very clear on this, Bosnia is a multiethnic country. We have there not only Bosniac Muslims but we also have the Serbs who are orthodox. We have the Croats who are Catholics but Dayton is a form of Apartheid. Dividing these people in a way that they have never been divided and creating clear ethnic enclaves and this is something that I do not believe is consistent with the history of Bosnia nor with the future of Bosnia in a European family and I certainly can not see how Europe can tolerate that.

How the Euro-Atlantic family can tolerate that type of division in a country that clearly has a future as part of the Euro-Atlantic family. So there seems to be something rather funny here, which is that, that one country that has a Muslim majority seems to be subject to a different set of criteria. I will grant you that and as an American, remember that I am also an American, I see this very clearly these double standards.

On the other hand, the rather bigger game that you speak of, whether that exists or not, as I said, I leave that for someone else to speculate but I cannot understand how either the United States or the European countries can now tolerate the continuation of the Dayton. Built not only upon the framework, the foundation of genocide, but, in effect, perpetuating what amounts to fascist and racist ideas.

Press TV: Well, I can assure you that German companies, shipping, construction and so on and other European countries are very happy with the present deals. Do you think, in the end, that this was not NATO just out there in the former Yugoslavia trying to help Muslims and do you think that the people are quite frightened in Washington and in London and in Berlin and in Paris at the prospect of what we are going to here at The Hague in the coming month?

Sacirbey: Well, I think that is a good guess. They have been rather upset with some of the things that I have said as you can imagine and I have been saying this for over a decade. It is just that most people weren't either paying attention or they, of course, tried to make sure that my words were not heard too loud beyond the four walls I am sure there will be much more that comes out.

Nonetheless, as I said, looking at this as a Bosnian, I cannot be happy with what I have seen for the Bosnian people. It clearly is not something that is sustainable nor does it make a normal country and as an American I cannot stand behind something that is, in my opinion, so inconsistent with the values of the United States, a country that is divided along ethnic lines, along religious lines and, in fact, when something was achieved like that through the genocide of a significant portion of the Muslim population of Bosnia Herzegovina.