The Foiled Peace Efforts

<i> Compiled by Carol J. Williams</i>

Diplomats from around the world have tried in different ways to bring peace to the war-torn Balkans, and especially Bosnia-Herzegovina. Here’s a look at some of these attempts:

Vance Plan

* Drafted in late 1991 while the Serb-Croat war was raging, the proposal of then-U.N. mediator Cyrus R. Vance called for the deployment of 14,000 peacekeepers to areas of Croatia occupied by the Yugoslav army. Federal troops were to withdraw to rump Yugoslavia, local gunmen were to be disarmed, and an international peace conference was to be convened to negotiate a political settlement. U.N. deployment occurred in spring, 1992; some Yugoslav army troops moved on to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Others, native to occupied territory, now referred to as the four U.N. Protected Areas, switched uniforms and deemed themselves the army of the Republic of Serbian Krajina, their rogue state. No international peace conference was ever convened because of the war’s flare-up in Bosnia.

Vance-Owen Plan


* Late in 1992, after Bosnian Serbs had rebelled against the country’s proclaimed independence for eight months, Vance and Lord Owen, the European Community mediator, crafted a plan for settling the war in Bosnia by dividing the territory into 10 ethnically defined provinces; three each were to be ruled by Serbian, Croatian and Muslim governments, Sarajevo to be jointly administered. The plan sacrificed Bosnia’s multiculturalism and integration but preserved the fiction of a single federal entity within prewar Bosnian borders. The Muslim-led government accepted the plan reluctantly, but Bosnian Serbs rejected it each of four times it was presented as the international community’s last offer for a peaceful settlement.

Lift and Strike

* Discussed during 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, lifting of the arms embargo hampering Bosnian government defenses and launching North Atlantic Treaty Organization air strikes to neutralize the Serbs’ heavy weapons were threatened as an alternative to the Vance-Owen plan if Serbian rebels refused a negotiated settlement. But European allies resisted this, fearing it would put Bosnian-based peacekeepers at risk of retaliation or hostage-taking.

Washington Action Plan

* On May 22, 1993, a week after the Bosnian Serbs had given final rejection of Vance-Owen in a referendum, Secretary of State Warren Christopher met with counterparts from Britain, France, Russia and Spain to urge another round of negotiations to settle conflict without resorting to use of force.

Owen-Stoltenberg Plan

* With Vance retired from mediation after failure of his original plan to win combatants’ backing or enforcement by the international community, former Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg took over the U.N. mediator role. He worked with Owen in revising the Vance-Owen plan to address Serbs’ demands for contiguous territory. A final map emerged in the autumn, proposing to divide the republic into three autonomous regions, each with right to eventually annex to a neighboring country. This clearly applied only to Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat segments. Sarajevo was to be under U.N. administration, Mostar governed by the European Community. The government refused for months to endorse what it considered ethnic partitioning. U.S. diplomats privately assured Sarajevo they were not forcing them to sign. The government capitulated only after mediators promised massive NATO troop deployment to enforce the deal envisioning the return of refugees to many areas from which they had been expelled in “ethnic cleansing.” Serbs, who had tentatively endorsed the plan, began demanding “quality” as well as “quantity” in territory, insisting on better shares of utilities, industrial centers and access to the Adriatic Sea. Their final rejection came at an EC foreign ministers meeting Dec. 23, 1993.

Contact Group


* After a diplomatic impasse following failure of Owen-Stoltenberg and ultimatums by NATO prohibiting heavy weapons around Sarajevo and Gorazde, the international community formed another mediation team. Mediators from the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Germany used the Owen-Stoltenberg map as a starting point, but reconciliation of Muslims and Croats eased partitioning by reducing the factions from three to two. Contact Group ended up proposing a roughly even split of Bosnia between Serbian rebels and new federation of Muslims, Croats and non-nationalist Serbs. Federation was to control 51% of Bosnian territory and rebels 49%. But only the federation had “confederation rights” to join in economic and political alliances with neighboring countries. Federation also was to retain Bosnia’s U.N. seat and other international memberships. The government reluctantly agreed to the split in a parliamentary vote in July. Serbs again rejected it in their parliament and in a late August referendum.