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9 Sarajevo September 28–October 6, 1995 Holbrooke wanted to broker a total cease-fire in Bosnia and to set up proximity talks for the middle of October 1995 during this trip to the region. But a conference in mid-October, given the time available, seemed unlikely. The approach to the Sarajevo airport by the military cargo plane was another steep downward spiral. As we descended, the aircraft popped flares to deceive any potential missiles fired at the plane. Once on the runway, we again took off the military helmets and flak jackets in favor of suit coats. We departed the aircraft wearing suits and carrying briefcases as if we were getting off a commercial shuttle flight at LaGuardia. Before the war, Sarajevo was an attractive cosmopolitan city in a valley surrounded by lush mountains. The main boulevard parallels the Miljacka River, which runs through the center of town. Yugoslavia had upgraded Sarajevo’s infrastructure and buildings for the Winter Olympics in 1984, but many of the Olympic venues were destroyed or heavily damaged during the war. Sarajevo’s population in September 1995 was mostly Muslim, with concentrations of Serbs and some Croats on the periphery. Sarajevo was a seriously wounded city. Bosnian Serb forces had blocked or restricted delivery of humanitarian supplies by land and air for fortyfour months. To keep Sarajevo alive, international relief flights brought more essentials to the city during the siege than were delivered during the Berlin Airlift in 1948–1949.1 Gas, water, and electricity were sparse to nonexistent for the population. The city was shelled periodically, and sniper fire from the hills was a constant threat. Bomb and mortar fragments gouged holes in the sidewalks and streets and structures. Serb gunners had shot up buildings in Muslim areas of the city, including the virtual complete destruction of the historic library. Makeshift graves had sprouted up in Sarajevo’s parks after Serb Sarajevo 77 shelling and sniping killed more than 11,000 civilians in Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995.2 One of the most touching events of the negotiation occurred when Holbrooke arrived at the presidency in Sarajevo on September 29. As he was conducting an impromptu press conference at the entrance to the presidency , a crowd gathered across the street to watch. When they saw that it was Holbrooke, the people broke into spontaneous applause. That simple gesture of public appreciation for helping to relieve their misery made all the frustration and risk of the negotiations worth it for me. Inside the presidency, the Bosniak leaders remained as grumpy and difficult as ever. They were in no hurry to sign a cease-fire agreement, probably hoping that NATO bombing would resume. Izetbegovic attacked Holbrooke over the lack of natural gas for heat and the UN’s failure to open roads into the city or to make progress on the airport. The weather in Sarajevo was wet and cold as winter approached. The mountains hovering over the city would have snow soon. Holbrooke and Clark were quartered in the embassy for the night. The rest of us were taken to the Sarajevo Holiday Inn, a Communist-era architectural monstrosity clad in yellow and located along “sniper’s alley.” Its provenance to the international Holiday Inn chain of hotels was suspect. The hotel was pockmarked by sniper bullets on the side facing the Serbs in the hills, which forced us to enter through a makeshift main door at the back of the building . Inside, $200 per night got you no heat, no water, no lights, bullet holes, and possibly dried blood on the floor. One disconcerting feature of my room was the single, large-caliber bullet hole in the window, the curtain, and the headboard of the bed. The previous day a sniper had killed someone on the south side of the hotel, so I planned to keep the room dark to avoid creating a silhouette in the window. I was prepared to sleep on the floor. The embassy security people decided later that the hotel was too risky and brought us back to the embassy, where folding cots and army sleeping bags were provided. High-level international diplomacy suddenly began to look like a military deployment from my army days. Ambassador-designate John K. Menzies , a couple of Foreign Service officers, a communications team, and some security people lived and worked in the embassy building when they were not moving about the very dangerous city doing embassy business. We began drafting a cease-fire...


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