European ministers propose that Serbs swap land for peace, eased sanctions Croatia pressured to yield in Krajina

November 21, 1993|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- In a last-ditch effort to bring peace to the former Yugoslavia before the brutal Balkan winter sets in, European foreign ministers will propose a new, wide-ranging settlement that covers Croatia as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, European officials said yesterday.

The plan, to be presented to the warring parties when they meet in Luxembourg tomorrow, would require the Serbs to offer the Bosnian Muslims a little more land in addition to what the Serbs agreed to give up in exchange for peace last summer. In return, there would be an easing of the economic sanctions that are now affecting the people of Serbia and Montenegro.

At the same time, the European foreign ministers will encourage the Croatian government to sign the cease-fire agreement it almost worked out with representatives of its dissident Serbian minority in the Krajina region during secret talks in Norway two weeks ago.

Finally, the Europeans will emphasize their determination to provide effective relief to needy people in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the coming winter and send technicians to reopen the airport at Tuzla to create another air link to central Bosnia in addition to the existing one to Sarajevo.

This offer comes after Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian leaders agreed in Geneva last week to allow relief convoys free access to the whole country this winter and after European donor countries said they would find another $60 million to finance the U.N. aid program for the rest of the year.

Behind this latest European attempt to resume active peace efforts lies a feeling that the efforts have been allowed to mark time for too long since the predominantly Muslim Bosnian government turned down a plan accepted by Serbs and Croats to divide the country into three ethnic states last summer. The Europeans fear that positions will harden unless the parties are forced to start negotiating again.

"We think the time is ripe to test all three parties on the critical questions before them," a European diplomat here said. "Are the Serbs ready to give more land? Are the Muslims ready to make peace in return? And are the Croats ready to cut a deal on the Krajina?"

If successful, European diplomats said, the new peace initiative could pave the way for a broader settlement of the whole Yugoslav issue at a reconvened London peace conference next year.

That conference would deal with other sensitive matters like greater autonomy for Serbia's province of Kosovo, whose population is predominantly Albanian.

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