Ivo Skoric on 25 Jun 2000 16:27:44 -0000

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<nettime> Practicing detente in Montenegro

This is an example of how two powers may (still peacefully) co-
exist on a very small territory. It seems that both Montenegrin 
government of Milo Djukanovic and Yugoslav Army forces in 
Montenegro can do whatever they want, as long as they keep out 
of each other's way. So, while Djukanovic was able to receive a 
visit from Del Ponte, despite Yugoslavia (of which Montenegro is 
still a part) refused to issue her a visa, as long as he did it close to 
Croatian border, and while he was able to travel to Croatia, meet 
Croatian president and personally apologize for Montenegrin 
involvement in Milosevic's wars, Yugoslav Army was perfectly able 
to stage their maneuvres, the first after NATO bombing, in 
Montenegro, but close to Albanian border, under the motto "how to 
counter an assault of an enemy's airborne units and terrorist 

With meeting with Mesic happening immediately after Del Ponte's 
visit I suspect that actually that was one of the reasons for Del 
Ponte's meeting Djukanovic - to convey that message, and 
Djukanovic, obviously agreed - Mesic really wants Croatia to work 
with Montenegro, but the Croatian media would burry him because 
of  Montenegrin actions during the siege of Dubrovnik - so a cordial 
meeting between Djukanovic and Mesic would be unthinkable 
without Djukanovic apologizing for Montenegrin involvement in 
shelling of Dubrovnik - probably Del Ponte was used as 
an outside diplomat to convey messages between the two. Serbs 
get the court tribunal, Montenegrins get the truth commission.
Interesting development. Quite expectable, though. All this should 
have happened ten years ago (that the leaders of other Yugoslav 
republics gang up on Milosevic and kick him out of office). Too bad 
it didn't.

Of course, Yugoslav Army could not let those developments go un-
noticed. Therefore, the "excersises" that ensued a day after 
Djukanovic-Mesic meeting are kind of a logical course of action. Is 
the 'thin red line' crossed? I don't think so. Milosevic can only profit 
from normalization of relations between Montenegro and the rest of 
the world, being isolated as he is. It is not worth risking NATO 
retaliation by attacking Djukanovic. Djukanovic does not have 
enough manpower to counter Milosevic in a way Tudjman and 
Izetbegovic did. So, as long as the "West" does not directly 
intervene (like it did in Kosovo), and it doesn't look as this would 
happen any time soon, this co-existence may work for all three 
sides: the West - it proves that they are doing something on 
undermining Milosevic's power by extending their recognition to his 
sworn opponent Djukanovic; Djukanovic - it keeps him in power and 
secures financial support for his virtual state; Milosevic - it keeps 
Montenegro in Yugoslavia, it secures at least some flow of goods 
in and out of Yugoslavia under sanctions, it keeps him in power.

Any one of those three, however, may disturb that precarious 
"stability" very easily, at the price of severe bloodshed. That's, 
perhaps, why the West is constantly cautioning Djukanovic to 
mellow down on Montenegrin independence issue, while obliquely 
threatening Milosevic not to do anything stupid in Montenegro. But 
sooner or later one of them would decide it is time to do it. That 
was Balkan logic so far, wasn't it? Why would it fail us now?


ZAGREB, June 23 - Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic on 
Saturday extended his apologies for ``pain and damage'' Croatians 
suffered at the hands of his compatriots in the 1991-95 Balkan 
wars, Croatian radio reported. 

The pro-Western Montenegrin leader met Croatian President Stipe 
Mesic in the Adriatic resort of Cavtat -- south of Dubrovnik -- the 
area that suffered severey damage at the hands of the former 
Yugoslav army and Montenegrin reservists in the early days of the 
1991-95 wars in the former Yugoslavia. 

``On my behalf and on behalf of all the citizens of Montenegro, I 
want to apologise to all citizens of Croatia, particularly in Konavli 
and Dubrovnik, for all the pain and material damage inflicted by any 
member of the Montenegrin people,'' Djukanovic was quoted as 
saying by the radio. 

Djukanovic referred to the region south of Dubrovnik, which was 
heavily pillaged by Montenegrin reservists during the 1991 Yugoslav 
army offensive against Dubrovnik in the Croatian war. 

Participation of Montenegrin soldiers in the campaign and the 
savage shelling of the mediaeval walled city of Dubrovnik at the 
start of the conflict has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to 
a rapprochement between the two sides. 

A senior Croatian official close to Mesic's office told Reuters on 
Friday that the move had been expected as a token of goodwill on 
part of the democratic Montenegro government and a precondition 
for improving bilateral relations. 

Croatia declared independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991, 
earning international recogintion a year later, while Montenegro to 
this date remains a constituent member of the rump federation, 
albeit a reluctant one. 

The tiny mountainous republic shares a land border with Serbia, 
Albania, Bosnia and Croatia. 

The two sides discussed infrastructure projects -- particularly the
building of the Adriatic-Ionic highway, linking Greece and northern 
Italy via the Adriatic coast, that would boost tourism in both 
countries, the radio said. 

The issue of disputed Croatian peninsula of Prevlaka was also on 
the agenda, but the radio quoted Mesic as saying that the two 
sides must not allow the issue to burden the relations between the 
two former Yugoslav republics. 

PODGORICA, June 24 - UN Security Council member states 
support Montenegro's attempts to distance itself from Serbia, its 
federal partner in Yugoslavia, Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac told 
the Montenegrin daily Vijesti, the Agence France Presse reported 
June 24.

Speaking from New York, Lukovac that Montenegro's "presence in 
the UN and the Security Council was strongly accepted and hailed 
by participating states.

"Serbia does not have the right to represent Montenegro, its 
interests and policy. Only Montenegro itself can do it," he said, 
adding that he expected the international community to help his 
tiny republic in its "efforts to represent our interests and our policy 
on our own".

During a Security Council debate on the Federal Republic of 
Yugoslavia on Friday, the UN special envoy for the Balkans, Carl 
Bildt, backed Montenegro, saying that "the present structures of 
this present Yugoslavia are unsustainable".

Montenegro and Serbia are "on a slow but steady course towards 
collision," Bildt said, and it was important "that we all give support 
to the elected authorities in Montenegro in their efforts to pave the 
way for the new deal they seek".

In the letter distributed Friday, Montenegro also rejected Belgrade's
claim to represent it diplomatically, and called on the international
community to support opposition movements in Serbia, warning of 
the "dangerous possibility of a new crisis breaking out". Lukovac 
attended the session but was not invited to speak.

Meanwhile, Yugoslavia's army showed its muscle to the pro-
independence Montenegrin leadership also on Friday, staging a 
massive military exercise in Montenegro along the country's volatile 
border with Albania, the Associated Press reported form Podgorica 
on June 23.

The 2nd Army's exercise - code-named Operation Granite 2000 - 
involved land forces, rapid reaction troops and air power. It was the 
first operation of its kind since last year's 79-day NATO bombing, 
which forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a 
peace deal for the province of Kosovo.

The point of the exercise was to practice ''how to counter an 
assault of an enemy's airborne units and terrorist groups,'' said 2nd 
Army spokesman Col. Stanimir Dasic. Military attaches from 
Austria, Greece, Italy, Hungary and a number of other countries 
were able to observe the maneuvers. 

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