Belgrade Suspends Sub-Regional Arms Control Participation

July/August 2000

By Wade Boese

Upset with not being invited to attend an international conference on implementing the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords for Bosnia and Herzegovina, on May 25, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) halted its participation in the June 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control, which caps heavy weapons levels in the former Yugoslavia. However, Belgrade did not withdraw from the agreement and has said it will resume implementation if guaranteed a place at future Dayton-related meetings.

Modeled on the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, the subregional agreement requires the FRY, Croatia, and the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb-controlled Republika Srpska) to allow inspections and exchange information on their capped holdings of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. While future inspections on FRY weapons holdings are now on hold, a U.S. government official said there is "no real concern that weapon limits are in jeopardy."

A previously scheduled June 21-23 states-parties review conference of the agreement has been indefinitely postponed as a result of the FRY action. The agreement's active parties had aimed to hold an informal meeting June 20, but Republika Srpska, citing Belgrade's absence, declined to participate. The first and only review conference to date occurred in June 1998.

No provision for suspending participation exists in the agreement, but this marks the second time in two years that Belgrade has done so. In 1999, the FRY froze implementation for nearly six months in response to the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign to force Serbian military and paramilitary units out of the embattled FRY province of Kosovo.

A decision orchestrated by Washington not to invite the FRY to a May 23-24 meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, which is comprised of 55 governments and international agencies working to implement the Dayton peace process, prompted Belgrade's latest move. U.S. Balkan policy is aimed at removing FRY President Slobodan Milosevic from power by isolating his regime internationally to the greatest degree possible. Milosevic was indicted as a war criminal in May 1999 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

An administration official explained that the United States "simply cannot and will not engage in a dialogue with the Milosevic regime," which the official claimed has violated Dayton numerous times and has been and continues to be the major source of instability in the region. Speaking on the latest developments, the official characterized the U.S. position as being flexible, although no change is being actively considered. "We want to see what concrete actions may be forthcoming from the FRY," the official said.