Remarks on Bosnia and an Exchange With Reporters in Newport News, Virginia
The President. Ladies and gentlemen, I've received a number of reports today on the situation in Bosnia. I've also been in touch today with President Yeltsin.
We don't have any definitive reports on the status of Gorazde, but I can tell you that there has been some progress in the negotiations between the United Nations and the Serbs. Mr. Akashi has been working on it, Ambassador Redman and Mr. Churkin, and they may have something to announce shortly.
I also—I don't know that this has been made public or not, but the Serbs released 16 Canadian soldiers, and we're working on the release of the other UNPROFOR forces today. So the situation is still tense around Gorazde. There is still some degree of uncertainty there, but there has been, as of my latest report, which was just about 10 minutes ago, some progress in the negotiations between the U.N. and the Serbs on getting back to the negotiations and reducing the tensions.
Q. What's the U.S. role been?
The President, Well, essentially, we've been— Ambassador Redman has been there. He's been working very hard, especially for the last 7 hours, trying to hammer out an agreement that everybody could live with, along with the U.N. and Mr. Churkin.
Secondly, we've worked very closely with the Russians trying to think about what the end game might be, how we can work this out to a successful conclusion over the long run. And of course, we're still a very important part of the NATO alliance, and we're committed to doing whatever we're asked to do by General Rose. But keep in mind, except for the safe area around Sarajevo, our role in NATO has been to provide close air support, or, if necessary, to protect the UNPROFOR troops, the U.N.
troops, and where it's possible to do that. So we have the role, but we also have this diplomatic role, and we're doing our best to fulfill it.
Have there been any violations of the new truce since the 3-mile zone was agreed to?
The President. I don't want to comment on anything definitively with regard to Gorazde, because we have been getting reports over the last 4 and 5 hours, kind of mixed reports. But on balance, the last report I got was encouraging in terms of an agreement impending between the U.N. and the Serbs.
Q. Were the next reports reports of tank incursions into that zone?
The President. There's one, I think. I think there was a news report that there was at least one tank sighted. But I want to say that we have no reports at the moment that the status of Gorazde has changed.
Q. Is military action still possible?
The President. It depends on NATO. It depends on what the U.N. commander on the ground, General Rose wants. But their conclusions were twofold. One is that with regard to Gorazde itself, it wouldn't necessarily be possible now for close air support to have the desired military effect. And secondly, that they're trying to get a negotiated agreement here that can serve as the basis not only for relieving Gorazde but for getting these peace talks back on track. So that's what we hope we're doing.
Q. Are you considering actually easing the economic sanctions on the Serbs?
The President. No, not based on anything that's happened so far. We have said to the Russians that if they want to discuss that with us, that of course we would be willing to discuss it if certain conditions on the ground were met. But continued Serb aggression on the ground, not only in Gorazde but everywhere else, is hardly an encouragement to discuss that. That's not even—we can't even begin discussions in the environment which has existed for the last few days there.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. at the Newport News Williamsburg International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Yasushi Akashi, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Former Yugoslavia; Ambassador Charles E. Redman, U.S. Special Envoy for the Former Yugoslavia; and Vitaly Churkin, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks on Bosnia and an Exchange With Reporters in Newport News, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219059