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Public Papers - 1992 - October

Statement on Humanitarian Assistance to Bosnia


All Americans, and people of compassion everywhere, remain deeply troubled by the cruel war in Bosnia and the broader turmoil in what was Yugoslavia. We took several important initiatives in August, and today I am announcing further steps to help ease this conflict.

The United States has been working intensively with other concerned nations to contain the conflict, alleviate the human misery it is causing, and exact a heavy price for aggression. This international effort has produced some results. The recent London conference set up an international mechanism for addressing all aspects of the Yugoslav problem and put in motion an active negotiation. The tenuous truce in Croatia is holding. International observers are on their way to neighboring countries and other parts of the former Yugoslavia to prevent the violence from spreading. The United Nations trade embargo has idled roughly half the industry of Serbia, whose leader bears heavy responsibility for the aggression in Bosnia. Our demand that the Red Cross be given access to detention camps has begun to yield results, and the release of detainees has now begun. The U.N. resolution we obtained to authorize ``all necessary measures'' to get relief supplies into Bosnia has led to the creation of a new U.N. force to be deployed for that purpose.

We will continue to honor our pledge to get humanitarian relief to the people of Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia. To this end, I have directed the Secretary of Defense to resume American participation in the Sarajevo airlift tomorrow morning. I wish I could say that there is no risk of attack against these flights, but I cannot, although we are taking precautions. We can be proud of the Americans who, along with courageous personnel from other countries, will go in harm's way to save innocent lives.

Still, the savage violence persists in Bosnia. Despite agreements reached at the London conference, Bosnian cities remain under siege, the movement of humanitarian relief convoys is still hazardous, and innocent civilians continue to be slaughtered. At London, the parties agreed to a ban on all military flights over Bosnia. Yet the bombing of defenseless population centers has actually increased. This flagrant disregard for human life and for a clear agreement requires a response from the international community, and we will take steps to see that the ban is respected.

Now, a new enemy is about to enter the battlefield: winter. Some weeks ago, I asked for an assessment of the effects that the combination of war and winter could inflict on the suffering people of Bosnia. The answer was profoundly disturbing: thousands of innocent people, some uprooted, others trapped, could perish from cold, hunger, and disease. Anticipating this danger, the United States has been working with other nations and with the United Nations to mount a major expansion of the international relief effort and to support the tireless negotiations of U.N. and EC envoys, Cyrus Vance and David Owen, to get the fighting stopped.

I want the American people to know what the United States intends to do to help prevent this dreadful forecast from becoming a tragic reality. I have decided to take a number of further steps:

First, having authorized a resumption of U.S. relief flights into Sarejevo, I am prepared to increase the U.S. share of the airlift.

Second, we will make available air and sea lift to speed the deployment of the new U.N. force needed immediately in Bosnia to protect relief convoys. The United States will also provide a hospital and other critical support for this force.

Third, the United States will furnish million in urgently needed cash to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for the purpose of accelerating preparations for the winter. This is in addition to the million in financial and material support we have already committed.

Fourth, we will offer to the United Nations and the Red Cross help in transporting and caring for those who are being freed from detention camps. We have already provided million for this purpose.

Fifth, in cooperation with our friends and allies, we will seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution, with a provision for enforcement, banning all flights in Bosnian airspace except those authorized by the United Nations. If asked by the United Nations, the United States will participate in enforcement measures.

Sixth, we are taking steps in concert with other nations to increase the impact of sanctions on Serbia. I call on the Serbian authorities to cooperate fully with the United Nations and to comply with its resolutions.

Seventh, we have been working with the United Nations, European Community, and our other allies to introduce an international presence into Kosovo. The United States and the international community will continue to monitor the situation closely.

There is no easy solution to the Bosnian conflict, let alone the larger Balkan crisis. So we will persist in our strategy of containing and reducing the violence, making the aggressors pay, and relieving the suffering of victims, all the while lending our full support to the quest for a settlement. History shows that what this troubled region needs is not more violence but peaceful change, and I am confident that the steps I am announcing today will help the innocent victims, strengthen the hand of the negotiators and reinforce the pressures for peace.

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