Thursday, December 5, 2013
- Renewed war between Croatia and Serbia could break out when a two-year United Nations mission in Serb- held Croatia ends on March 31, observers here and in Zagreb believe.
Tensions have risen since Croatia ordered an end to a three- year stalemate in its efforts to reclaim the third of their country seized by rebel Croatian Serbs with Belgrade’s aid in 1991. Aiming to resolve the issue by more direct means, Zagreb ordered the 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the country out.
The Serb held territory, now the self-declared and unrecognised Serb Republic of Krajina retaliated on Feb. 8 by suspending talks on restoring communications and economic ties with Croatia and putting the country on ‘war alert’.
The U.N. is stepping gingerly between two sides. U.N. sanctions have cut off Krajina from all but smuggled supplies and oil passed on from Belgrade, freezing industry and reducing farming to subsistence level.
Despite this U.N. special envoy Yasushi Akashi is in the Krajina ‘capital’ of Knin for talks on unhindered transit of U.N. aid convoys to the north-west Bosnian Muslim enclave of Bihac.
Though only 80 kilometres from Zagreb, some 200,000 starving people are trapped in Bihac. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has only been able to ship in 10 percent of their needs, thanks to the Croat Serb blockades.
Both sides deny preparing for war. Zagreb says it wants the U.N. to go only to force Serbs to start serious negotiations on reuniting the two territories. Krajina says it is anticipating a Croatian attack. The Croatian Serbs rebelled against Zagreb after it seceded from the Yugoslav Federation in 1991.
A significant fear is that the fighting would then spread to Bosnia-Hercegovina, where the beleaguered government is allied with its Croatian community against the Bosnian Serbs.
Aside from Bihac, a nationwide ceasefire is loosely holding there, but observers warn of an imminent two-front attack against the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. This would inevitably draw Serbia proper into the battle.