The Security Council, fulfilling its part of the Bosnia peace agreement, began on Wednesday to lift economic and military sanctions that had been imposed to end the fighting in the Balkans.
One resolution, adopted without opposition but with Russia abstaining, suspends indefinitely the arms embargo that was imposed in September 1991 after Yugoslavia disintegrated.
The other resolution, which passed unanimously, lifts the trade sanctions first imposed in May 1992 on Serbia and Montenegro, the remaining two republics in the Yugoslav federation, but will not apply to the Bosnian Serbs until their military forces have pulled back to zones specified in the peace agreement.
Russia, which was a co-sponsor of the resolution to end trade sanctions, abstained on the arms embargo because of “serious doubts and concerns” about an interpretation of arms control that lets the outgunned Bosnian army acquire more heavy weapons while requiring the Serbs to scale down their larger arsenal.
The Russian delegate, Sergei Lavrov, said allowing new arms into the region “does not fit into the logic of the political process.” China and the Czech Republic also expressed reservations about arms transfers but voted for the resolution.
The U.S. delegate, Madeleine K. Albright, defended balancing the arsenals.
“Our plan is to discourage an arms race and to encourage a stable balance of military power,” she said. “Our desire is to nourish a conviction on all sides that no side will seek to evade or take military advantage of this agreement.”
The arms embargo will remain in effect for 90 days once the peace agreement is formally signed, which is expected to take place in Paris in mid-December. During the following 90 days, it will be lifted on lighter defensive weapons, but not on heavy offensive weapons like tanks, artillery, and aircraft.
At the end of the 180 days, the embargo will be terminated and the system for controling and reducing the total number of heavy weapons in the region will go into effect.