Sarajevo Borders Remain Open
Serb Mayor Urges Dayton Process to Proceed
The mayor of Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo said Friday that the border with Muslim-Croat territory remained open and civilians could cross despite an order from Serb military commander General Ratko Mladic. "The border will not be closed," Maksim Stanisic told Reuterss. He said an order issued by Mladic Thursday for Serbs not to cross the border applied to soldiers only. "Everything now is very dangerous. The peace process is like a ship being tossed on the sea," Stanisic said.
The mayor said he understood Mladic's statement as an appeal to civilians not to cross to Muslim-Croat areas of Sarajevo, but not a ban. At the border itself, small groups of Bosnians were crossing back and forth as normal, trudging through thick snow across the devastated former no-man's land. No Serb police checkpoints were to be seen in the Serb-held suburb of Ilidza.
In another sign that the Bosnian Serbs have not completely cut off all contacts, Stanisic said he would be willing to meet the international community's top civilian envoy Carl Bildt, or his deputy Michael Steiner, in the mayor's office in Ilidza, or at the NATO-controlled airport. "We want to talk about all important issues," the mayor said. Stanisic described the crisis which erupted over the Muslim-led government's arrest of a Serb general and colonel on January 30 as "very dangerous" and a breach of the Dayton peace agreement. But he said he would be willing to meet government representatives on neutral territory to discuss the arrests and also the future of Serbs living in Ilidza which is to come under full Muslim-Croat control on March 20.
The Bosnian government has accused Serb General Djordje Djukic and Colonel Aleksa Krsmanovic of war crimes, specifically the killing of civilians in Sarajevo. The international war crimes tribunal in the Hague has asked the government to provisionally arrest the two officers while the tribunal investigates their cases.
One Serb civilian in Ilidza who heard Mladic's ban on movement across former front-lines on Serb television said he hoped people would continue to move freely. "During the war Mladic was God. But now he is not. There is a big question mark over him," he said.