Secret deal stopped Srebrenica air strike

Joris Voorhoeve (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg). (Joris Voorhoeve (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Sebastiaan ter Burg))

In the summer of 1995 Britain, France and the United States secretly decided to no longer carry out air strikes on Serb targets. If this had not happened, the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre may have been prevented.

This is according to Joris Voorhoeve, who was Minister of Defense at the time, in an interview with NOS on Monday. He is responding to a documentary by Argos, which will be broadcast on NPO 2 on Monday night. The documentary reveals that Western allies decided to no longer carry out air strikes on Serb targets at the end of May 1995 - a month and a half before the fall of Srebrenica.

Voorhoeve said that he found out about the secret decision a few months ago after studying documents released by former US president Bill Clinton two years ago. According to him, the Netherlands was never informed about this decision and the Dutch government clung to the UN promise that an air strike would be provided within two hours if requested. "If we were informed of the decision on May 28th we would immediately have taken action and reminded them of the promise." he said. "It was negligent not to inform the Netherlands. That is not how it should be in an alliance."

Those responsible for the decision were British Prime Minister John Major, French President Jacques Chirac and American President Bill Clinton. Britain and France in particular insisted on stopping the airstrikes, according to Voorhoeve, because more than 300 British and French soldiers had been taken hostae by Mladic by the end of May.

Voorhoeve believes that air support could have made a big difference. "Then Mladic could have been taken of course, according to me, he would have halted around the enclave, pinched it but not overrun. Then a huge humanitarian problem would have arisen, there were 40 thousand people. But the UN would have had time to evacuate the population in an orderly way to Central Bosnia. Now Mladic did that, allowing the massacre to take place."

Earlier this year former Air Force officer Bart Wagenaar told the Telegraaf that Dutchbat never stood a chance because the air strike was blocked.