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Yugoslav ambassador, Vladeta Jankovic
Yugoslav ambassador, Vladeta Jankovic
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former FO diplomat
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former FO diplomat


Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: The most important war crimes trial since the conviction of the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg got under way in the Hague this week. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, faces 66 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity dating from the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo in the Nineties. At the opening of the trial, the chief prosecutor accused Mr Milosevic of mass murder and medieval savagery in his policy of ethnic cleansing. The trial is expected to last two years.

I am joined here in the studio by the Yugoslav ambassador, Ambassador Jankovic - good morning -


DAVID FROST: - and from Paris by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former Foreign Office diplomat who negotiated with Milosevic, among other things, at the Dayton peace talks. Pauline, good morning.

PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: Let me begin with you, Pauline. This is such a change, isn't it, not just from Dayton, but the whole period of 1991 to 1995 we in Britain saw Milosevic more as the solution than the problem.

PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES: Well, we were put in a situation where we clearly had to try and find a solution and obviously, given what happened, people can ask the question did we produce the, did we follow the right policy. What we did was to attempt to negotiate a solution with him, which eventually of course is what actually occurred. Had we done something else - and I think it's always legitimate to ask this question but I think had we done something else, we would certainly have had to have removed the peacekeepers and probably put in a, a ground force, and a combat ground force. And I think we should always remember that actually the worst atrocities in Kosovo occurred after Nato had started the bombing so it doesn't follow, for me at any rate, that we would have reduced the level of the carnage and the atrocities by an alternative policy. I think one does have to think through, you know, what the possible consequences of doing it quite differently would have been.

DAVID FROST: Do you think, Ambassador, that Milosevic is going to get a fair trial?

VLADETA JANKOVIC: Well so far it seems that he is going to have his chance. It's just that he, the way he approaches it, is somewhat annoying at least to myself and people in Yugoslavia generally. Only he is playing for the gallery, he is, his defence seems to be based on the assumption that he is representing the people - he's speaking of his people, like Moses or something, you know, as if he was father of the nation. I mean we don't share, we don't agree to sharing this sort of responsibility. And secondly, I think we shouldn't forget it, he's also trying to establish himself as some sort of banner for all opponents, worldwide, opponents of globalisation and new world order, to turn himself into a symbol. This seems to be his approach so far.

DAVID FROST: And what about when he says he wants to call as witnesses people like former president Clinton and others?

VLADETA JANKOVIC: Well I suppose he's entitled to it. There is a feeling in my country that Milosevic possibly wouldn't have done all that he did had he not enjoyed the support, of a sort, from the West. In say winter '96/'97, he was badly shaken and the opposition, all they needed then was fair elections and he would have been finished. But for some reason the West seemed to have accepted him as a guarantor of the peace in that part of the world, which in retrospect proves as a very bad mistake. So if he manages to prove that in the hearing, this could possibly influence the outcome.

DAVID FROST: Pauline, did we see him as a guarantor of the peace in a way?

PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES: Well he, he signed up to, obviously to the Dayton provisions and those included things like cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal, which of course he didn't undertake. After, after Dayton there was a period when he was given, I think, a certain amount of time to see whether he would fulfil the provisions, and also do something in Kosovo by way of giving them an autonomous constitution. He did neither of those things and the Western pressure then resumed. You know, with the wisdom of hindsight, you might say again well should the, should the West have started to intervene in Kosovo sooner than they did. It's a very big step, you know, to start taking combat action on somebody else's soil, which eventually we were forced to do. I mean it's a, dealing with somebody like this, whose, whose moral awareness seems to be very low, I mean is, is a, is a very big challenge for civilised societies.

DAVID FROST: And what about, Pauline, in terms of, obviously the, on the one hand we have Milosevic and the other hand the things that were done, but they, they used to try and say there was a cordon sanitaire, or unsanitaire, between the, between Belgrade, Belgrade Serbs and Bosnian Serbs. Do you think that this trial will be able to establish a close enough link for him to be found guilty, or do you think he can say basically show me one piece of paper where I ordered an atrocity?

PAULINE NEVILLE-JONES: Well I think there is a clear difference between Kosovo, and Bosnia and Croatia, and indeed the charges reflect that. The charges talk about co-conspiracy. I think two things, where one is it will be possible to demonstrate that he continued to finance the armed forces that he acted, he allowed supply lines to get through and that he could not have been aware, not unaware of things that were happening and he made no attempt to stop them, and so to that extent he was certainly responsible for what was going on. The interesting question is going to be whether you can prove a line of direct command. I doubt much was put on paper, if anything, so that is going to be one problem. It's not like the Nazis who kept an extraordinary audit trail of their activities. The second thing is that I don't actually think, in many ways that Mladic needed an awful lot of direction. So he, I'm sure, will try and say, you know, I was defending the rights of the Serb people, if things happened, you know, they were not done in my name or under my authority. And indeed I think that's the line he's taking over Kosovo.

DAVID FROST: Thank you, yes, absolutely. Tell me Ambassador, is there, what is the mood about this, about this trial in Serbia, in Yugoslavia? I mean are they pleased by it, bored by it or enraged by it?

VLADETA JANKOVIC: I think it worries, part, and I should say maybe 20 per cent of the population, where you have still hard-core Milosevic supporters, nationalists of all kinds and shades, they of course are delighted by his stand. But I should say the huge majority of people are really fed up with it and they want it, the whole thing, to be done with. And especially they dread the possibility of this all turning into some sort of trial to the Serbian nation. Of collecting, collective guilt being ascribed to the nation. This is something that people don't want to accept and in the same time, you know, it would be, at least to my mind, foolish and unjust to expect some sort of catharsis of you know, nation-wide feeling of relief.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much indeed for summing that up. Our thanks to Dame Pauline in Paris, looking radiant in front of that delightful Parisian scene.


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