Croat-Bosnian Agreement: Reluctant Allies
31 July 1995
A day after the latest London conference on Bosnia, Croatia and Bosnia took another strong step. With a number of Croatian and Bosnian officials looking on, Presidents Tudjman and Izetbegovic signed a joint defence treaty in Split. The full name of the document is Declaration on Implementing the Washington Agreement, joint defence from Serb aggression and achieving a political solution in accord with the efforts of the international community. The ceremony was also attended by the US ambassador to Croatia and Germany's envoy to the Moslem-Croat Federation.
The treaty was mediated by Turkish President Suleiman Demirel who was called in by Tudjman as a proven friend of both Croatia and Bosnia-Hertzegovina.
The declaration was signed on the third anniversary of the never implemented agreement on Croat-Bosnian military cooperation but this time it certainly isn't just a formal agreement. Its introduction claims that the moment is decisive for the survival of both peoples who are faced with increased violence and the uncertainty of the peace process and inefficiency of the international community. The military rapprochement was initiated by Tudjman but the declaration says Bosnia called Croatia to provide urgent military aid, especially in the Bihac area and adds that Zagreb accepted.
Independent military analyst, retired General Karl Gorinsek, said Tudjman has obviously understood that he needs serious help from the Bosnians or Milosevic will achieve his plans. He said the agreement is in response to the quiet expansion of Serbia in Croatia and Bosnia and added that it could change the balance of forces on the ground. Gorinsek warned that we have to wait and see how the FRY will respond.
Croatia and Bosnia agreed on permanent coordination in defence activities and cooperation in logistics, military production, communication and analytical activities. The arms embargo was bypassed when both sides said it should be lifted for Croatia and Bosnia at the same time. Croatia has so far opposed the lifting of the arms embargo for the Sarajevo government.
Croatian political circles have been busy lately proving that the international community has two solutions for the crisis in former Yugoslavia: either a restoration of Yugoslavia or a delimitation which will boil down to the carving up of Bosnia. Since both Croatia and Bosnia don't want to join any kind of new Yugoslav association it's clear what Zagreb is hoping for. Also, there are increasingly frequent rumors in Croatia, especially among the state media, that the international community is prepared to divide Bosnia which would satisfy Croatia's strategic interests.
A day after the signing of the declaration, Sime Djodan told Vjesnik daily that the Contact Group plan is dead and that a new plan is being prepared to divide Bosnia into three equal parts; the east for the Serbs; the southwest for the Croats and the central parts for the Bosnians. The Serb part would join Serbia, the Croat Croatia and the Bosnians will stay in their own state, he said, and have confederal links with Croatia.
Some opposition leaders noted that a lot could be hidden behind that interpretation. Their reactions were not numerous perhaps because the Croatian opposition defined its stands on Bosnia in the recent Sarajevo statement, but the conclusion that can be drawn from some statements is that they have different stands on the declaration.