The three enemies that have fought over Bosnia for more than three years took another step toward peace Tuesday, agreeing on the structure of what the United States hopes will become a unified government for Bosnia.
After days of intense negotiations, the foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia endorsed a two-page statement calling for a group presidency, a parliament and a constitutional court - in which the Bosnian government and its Bosnian Croat allies will share power with a newly created Serb republic. But the document left many questions unanswered about how such a government would actually function.
The agreement, brokered primarily by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard C. Holbrooke, calls for “free and democratic elections” under international supervision in both the territory that will be controlled by the existing Bosnian-Croatian federation and the separate Serb republic.
But as the three parties talked hopefully about peace, elections, respect for human rights and restitution for displaced families, they could not agree on a cease-fire. And in Bosnia the fighting continued, forcing more civilians to flee their homes in terror.
Tuesday’s agreement on the structure of a future power-sharing government also left unresolved what may be the hardest issue of all: how the country’s lands will be divided between Muslims and Croats on the one side and Serbs on the other.
Nor did the 12-paragraph statement of principles address the future status of Sarajevo and the Serbs who live in its suburbs, or spell out the full powers of a national government that will preside over two sub-states.
In presenting the agreement at a news conference, Holbrooke was blunt about its shortcomings.
He said that if “this document was all we had,” it would not bring peace. He described it as “still too vague,” and “not a legal document.”