Papers reveal Anglo-French distrust before Srebrenica massacre


Days before the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, John Major was warned France had possibly brokered a secret deal with the Bosnian Serbs to halt airstrikes in return for the release of western military hostages.

This claim, detailed in a secret Foreign Office note to the prime minister, is among documents available to read at the National Archives in Kew from Tuesday that expose the depth of Anglo-French distrust during the Balkans conflict.

The note added: “We are unlikely to ever know the full truth about all of this … it is plausible that Chirac told Milosevic that airstrikes in the immediate aftermath of hostage releases were unlikely but stopped short of any formal undertaking …”

A covering note by Roderic Lyne, Major’s principal private secretary, informed the prime minister: “What this tells us speculatively is that the French may have done some sort of a deal but we don’t know for sure and they are denying it.” In turn, Major added a handwritten comment: “possible … but I doubt it was as firm as a deal”.

Days later, on 9 July, Alija Izetbegović, the Bosnian president, sent Major an urgent letter warning that “the Serb aggressor” has launched “a massive mechanized-infantry attack” on Srebrenica. UN peacekeeping troops, he warned, “are not willing nor capable of protecting the city under attack”.

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