September 19, 1991 Yugoslav Combatants Ignore Latest ec truce Accord

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Issue Date: September 19, 1991

Yugoslav Combatants Ignore Latest EC Truce Accord

  • Battles Rage as Deadline Passes

  • Two Croats Quit Federal Cabinet

  • Croatia Blockaded, Capital Bombed

  • Armed Peace Force Proposed

Battles Rage as Deadline Passes

Fighting continued in the breakaway Yugoslav republic of Croatia September 18 in spite of a new cease-fire agreement engineered by the European Community. [See 1991 Other Yugoslavian News: EC Peace Talks Open; Other Developments]

The latest accord, brokered by EC mediator Lord Carrington of Great Britain, had been signed September 17 in Igalo, a town in the southern republic of Montenegro. The signatories had been President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia, President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and the Yugoslav defense minister, Colonel General Veljko Kadijevic.

The agreement, effective at noon (local time) on September 18, called for a cessation of hostilities in Croatia, a simultaneous withdrawal of all forces from battle zones, a return of federal military units to their bases, and the disarming and demobilization of the Croatian, Serbian and ethnic Serbian paramilitary forces in Croatia.

The participants September 17 had issued joint statement acknowledging that the truce was the "last chance to defuse and stop the present warfare." Lord Carrington later told reporters, "This country is only days away from a state of irretrievable civil war. On that, there is no argument."

On the night of September 17, ethnic Serbian snipers fired shots near the presidential palace in Zagreb, Croatia's capital. Zagreb had been blacked out because of a fear of attacks by the federal air force.

On September 18, all sides ignored the cease-fire deadline while at the same time accusing each other of breaching the agreement. Yugoslav navy gunboats shelled the Croatian coastal city of Split. Croatian forces captured an army base in the northeastern town of Osijek. Fighting raged in the suburbs of Zagreb, with some artillery rounds hitting the city proper. Also September 18, telephone communications between Croatia and Serbia were severed. And Croatia dismissed its defense minister, Luka Bebic, and replaced him with Gojko Susak. [See 1991 EC Mediation Fails to End Yugoslav Ethnic Bloodshed; Truce in Croatia Falters; Other Developments]

An exasperated Carrington said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. September 18, "I don't think there's anything else if this (truce) doesn't work. I mean, how can you hold a peace conference when everyone is killing each other?"

Two Croats Quit Federal Cabinet

Two Croatian members of the federal cabinet, Finance Minister Branko Zekan and Development Minister Bozo Marendic, resigned September 12 in response to an urging by the Croatian government.

Federal Premier Ante Markovic, himself a Croat, September 13 complained that Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia were refusing to cooperate with him in finding replacements for the ministers.

Croatia Blockaded, Capital Bombed

The Yugoslav navy began a blockade of seven Croatian port cities on the Adriatic southern coast, in the Dalmatia region, September 17.

The port cities were Dubrovnik, Split, Sibenik, Ploce, Pula, Zadar and Rijeka. The blockade appeared to be aimed in part at preventing Croatia from exporting its oil by sea. [See 1991 Other Yugoslavian News: EC Peace Talks Open; Other Developments]

A few hours after the cities were blockaded, the navy and federal army began a coordinated attack on Croatian forces in Sibenik, and federal forces landed on the coast near Split.

Earlier, federal air force jets had used rockets to destroy a television transmitter on the outskirts of Zagreb September 16, marking the first air attack on the Croatian capital since the start of the fighting. Air force planes buzzed Zagreb, terrifying the residents, through September 18. (Croatian forces had no warplanes at their disposal.)

In other developments:

  • Police in Bosnia-Herzegovina September 9 arrested Milan Martic, a Serbian guerrilla leader wanted by Croatia for "war crimes." Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic--not wanting to draw his republic deeper into the conflict--subsequently ordered Martic turned over to federal, rather than Croatian, authorities. [See 1991 New EC Accord for Croatia Fails to Slow Civil War in Yugoslavia; Monitors Sidelined, Clashes Continue; Other Developments]

  • Serbian police September 10 used water cannons to disperse 15,000 ethnic Albanian demonstrators in Pristina, the capital of the province of Kosovo. [See 1991 Yugoslavia Croats Pressed by Army Offensive; Military Seen to Back Serb Rebels; Other Developments]

  • Serb rebels in Croatia, backed by the federal military, September 12 seized a key highway bridge near the port city of Zadar. The bridge was the main link between Zagreb and the Dalmatia southern coastal region.

  • The Croatian government September 13 admitted that federal and pro-Serbian forces held one-third of Croatia. [See 1991 EC Mediation Fails to End Yugoslav Ethnic Bloodshed; Truce in Croatia Falters; Other Developments]

  • The central Croatian town of Kostajnica, near the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, fell to Serb insurgents September 13, after five days of fierce fighting. An estimated 300 Croatian militiamen surrendered.

  • Croatia September 14 cut off electricity, water and food to the federal army bases in Croatia. The same day, Croatia captured Major General Milan Aksentijevic, the deputy commander of federal forces in the Zagreb area. In retaliation, air force and navy units strafed and shelled the port city of Ploce September 15.

  • Serb insurgents seized five oil-pumping stations near Zagreb September 16, forcing the Croatian government to concede that it could no longer guarantee oil supplies in the republic.

  • The Hungarian defense ministry September 16 denied a Croatian news report that Hungary had shot down two Yugoslav air force jets. However, the defense ministry admitted that Hungary had strengthened its air and ground forces near the Yugoslav border. [See 1991 Yugoslavia Croats Pressed by Army Offensive; Military Seen to Back Serb Rebels; Other Developments]

  • Mogens Fokdal, a Danish member of the EC's unarmed observer team, September 17 was shot in the thigh by an unidentified assailant when he emerged from the federal army headquarters in Zagreb. The Croatian government September 18 accepted responsibility for the shooting.

  • The parliament of Macedonia September 18 voted to have the republic seek its independence from Yugoslavia. The vote confirmed the results of a referendum September 8. [See 1991 Macedonia Votes for Independence from Yugoslavia; Tensions with Serbia Grow]

Armed Peace Force Proposed

The Netherlands September 16 formally proposed to the EC that a "lightly armed" international peacekeeping force be deployed in Yugoslavia. [See 1991 EC Mediation Fails to End Yugoslav Ethnic Bloodshed; Truce in Croatia Falters; Other Developments]

The EC, which had no military arm, passed the proposal on to the Western European Union, a nine-member security organization that in August had failed to reach a decision on sending an armed force to Yugoslavia.

The proposal had the enthusiastic support of Germany and the conditional support of France and Great Britain. The French and British governments September 17 issued statements saying that they might contribute troops to an armed peace-keeping force, but only if all factions in Yugoslavia welcomed, and agreed to cooperate with, such a force. (Serbia in the past had said it would regard a deployment of armed foreign peace-keepers as an invasion of Yugoslavia.)

The British were reported to be irritated with the Germans. While the German government was pushing other EC nations for intervention in Yugoslavia, it was also stressing that the German constitution would bar its soldiers from serving as peace-keepers outside of Western Europe.

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