Iran, Afghanistan also figure in briefing on State's Burns travel to Europe
A poster lists Bosnia's most wanted war crimes suspects which is distributed to all EU peacekeepers based in Bosnia (©AP/WWP)
By Jeffrey Thomas
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The future of Kosovo, war crimes fugitives, Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions and NATO’s role in Afghanistan will be the focus of an upcoming trip to Europe by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, a trip that includes stops in Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.
The United States intends to make a major diplomatic push on these issues over the next few months, said Burns at a briefing October 7 at the State Department.
KOSOVO FINAL STATUS TALKS SHOULD BEGIN, BURNS SAYS
On Kosovo, he said the United States agrees with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that final status talks should begin. Burns said he expects Annan to appoint a special envoy soon to oversee the talks, which he hopes will start before the end of 2005.
Kosovo has been under United Nations administration since 1999, when a NATO-led force drove out Serbian forces persecuting the ethnic Albanian majority. A NATO-led peacekeeping mission (KFOR) with 18,000 soldiers currently provides security.
The status quo no longer is sustainable, Burns said. “The people of the region have a right to know that they have a future and that they can control that future,” he said.
The United States will appoint its own special envoy to work in partnership with the U.N. envoy, he said, adding that the United States will be “centrally involved” in these talks, using its influence and exercising leadership, although the United States has no position on the talks’ eventual outcome.
“My trip is meant to prepare the ground for these talks and to try to make progress with the parties on the issues,” he said.
U.S. TO DEMAND ARREST OF INDICTED BALKAN WAR CRIMINALS
Burns said that during his meetings in Pristina and Belgrade he intends to demand the arrest of the three most prominent indicted war criminals still at large. Until General Ante Gotovina is in The Hague standing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the United States will block any NATO move to normalize relations with Croatia or to bring Croatia into NATO membership, he said. Until General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are captured and turned over to the tribunal, the United States similarly will block any move toward NATO membership for Serbia, he said.
The under secretary added that during his last trip to the region in June the Serb leadership had led him to believe the arrest of Mladic was imminent. The United States was “severely disappointed” that the arrest did not take place prior to July 11, the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacres, when 8,000 men and boys were murdered in or near the Bosnian town, allegedly at Mladic’s orders.
“We will have a very tough-minded view of this,” Burns said, adding: “Someone has to stand up for the people, for the families of the victims of 10 years ago, and we cannot forget what happened at Srebrenica. We won't forget it and they will not be coming into NATO until these actions are taken.”
He noted that while the United States resumed foreign assistance to Serbia in June after the Serbian authorities arrested a number of indicted war criminals during the first six months of the year, that aid again could be suspended.
“It's a lack of political will on the part of the Belgrade authorities,” he said. “It does not stand to reason that these people cannot be found.”
For additional information on U.S. policy in the region, see Balkans.
BURNS TO DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN, IRAN, KOSOVO AT NATO MEETING
In Brussels, Belgium, the first stop of his four-country trip, Burns plans to participate in a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters, where Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iran will be the major items on the agenda.
He will discuss with his NATO colleagues the future role of the alliance in Afghanistan, with the aim the increasing integration of NATO forces and the U.S.-led coalition force “so that we can have a more seamless and effective military presence in Afghanistan.”
Burns said he also expects Iran’s nuclear program, an issue “at the forefront of our diplomatic agenda,” to figure prominently in the meetings at NATO.
The United States continues to support the “EU-3 process,” Burns said, referring to talks with France, Germany and the United Kingdom from which Iran withdrew in August. Iran should suspend its uranium conversion activities, return to the negotiations with the EU-3 and seek a negotiated settlement, said Burns.
Noting the September 24 vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finding Iran in violation of its nonproliferation obligations and decision by the IAEA board of governors to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, Burns said, “The solution should be that Iran shall not have access to the nuclear fuel cycle on Iranian territory. No one trusts Iran to have that.” (See related article.)
Given the actions of the new Iranian government the last two months, “we will continue to have a very tough-minded approach to Iran,” he said.
POLICE REFORM TO BE FOCUS OF SARAJEVO VISIT
In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burns said a central objective is to encourage police reform.
The 1995 Dayton Accords that brought the civil war in Bosnia to an end left the country with three entities divided along ethno-religious lines, one Serb, one Muslim and one Croatian.
The United States welcomed the passage October 5 of a defense reform law by the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina as the “most significant step towards Euro-Atlantic integration taken by Bosnia and Herzegovina since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords” because it creates a unified defense establishment. A similarly unified police institution would help Bosnia continue on its way towards a multiethnic future within Europe, he said. (See related article.)
The United States will be inviting some of the Bosnian and other Balkan leaders to Washington in November to commemorate the 1995 Dayton Accords, he said.
A transcript of the briefing is available on the State Department Web site.