Karađorđevo agreement

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Karađorđevo agreement refers to a meeting held on 25 March 1991 by the presidents of the Yugoslav federal states SR Croatia and SR Serbia, Franjo Tuđman and [[Slobodan Milošević],] at the Karađorđevo hunting ground in northwest Serbia. The topic of their discussion was the ongoing Yugoslav crisis.

Although news of the meeting taking place were widely publicized in the Yugoslav media at the time, the meeting became controversial in the following years because of claims that Tuđman and Milošević had discussed and agreed the partitioning of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina along ethnic lines, as claimed by some of the Yugoslav politicians.

These claims range from denial that any agreement took place (claimed by Tuđman and Milošević themselves) to claims that they agreed the redistribution of territories in SR Bosnia and Herzegovina between soon to be independent Croatia and Serbia, so that territories with either ethnic Croat or Serb majority would be annexed by the two states, with a rump Bosniak buffer state remaining in between. According to these claims, the entire 1992–95 Bosnian War was started and fought in pursuance of that goal as asserted by Stjepan Mesić. Since the Tuđman–Milošević talks took place without any direct witnesses and no records of it were taken, the exact content of the talks may never be disclosed.


Main article: Breakup of Yugoslavia

In the beginning of 1991, ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia, especially between two biggest nations, Serbs and Croats, were getting worse. In that time many meetings of leaders of Yugoslav republics took place.

On 21 January delegations of SR BiH and SR Croatia, led by Alija Izetbegović and Franjo Tuđman, took place in Sarajevo. In the public report from the meeting it was stated that both sides agreed that the crises should be resolved peacefully and that outer and inner borders must be protected.[1] After the meeting Izetbegović said that there is "absolute agreement of leaders of BiH and Croatia about the sovereignty of BiH", and that there are some different views about Yugoslav People's Army (JNA).[2]

On 22 January Alija Izetbegović met with Slobodan Milošević in Belgrade. After the meeting Alija Izetbegović said: "Today I am bigger optimist than I was three days ago." He added that "he has an impression" that Serbian side has some reserves about the sovereignty of BiH in the case Yugoslavia breaks up, but it is not a problem if Yugoslavia survives. Therefore, Izetbegović was in favor of saving Yugoslavia at that moment.[3]

On 23 January Franjo Tuđman met President of SR Montenegro Momir Bulatović. In the public report differences in views were clear: Tuđman claimed that "borders between republics are borders of sovereign states", while Bulatović claimed that they are "administrative borders" which become an issue in the case of making a confederation (Yugoslavia was a federation).[4]

On 24 January delegations of SR Slovenia and SR Serbia met in Belgrade, led by Milan Kučan and Slobodan Milošević. Kučan and Milošević agreed that SR Slovenia can leave Yugoslavia, and Serbs have the right to live in the same country.[5] The agreement was made formal after Slovenia seceded, on 14 August 1991.[6]

On 25 January Croatian delegation led by Tuđman came to Belgrade. On the same day in Sarajevo Izetbegović met Bulatović.

All this meetings did not stop military tensions. On 25 January Federal Secretariat for National Defense (SSNO) directly accused Croatia for preparing paramilitary forces to attack Yugoslav People's Army. The Army introduced the highest state of readiness. It sounded like a proclamation of war and prelude to military coup.[5]

There was no military intervention and on 26 January Izetbegović spoke with Kučan.

On the extended meeting of Presidency of Yugoslavia on 13 February, about giving Slovenia a permission to leave, Tuđman said: "In that Yugoslavia, without Slovenia - there is no Croatia too. I think I was clear enough."[7]

On 23 February Izetbegović said that there is essentially no more Yugoslavia, and that there will be "triple level federation": Slovenia and Croatia will be independent, Serbia and Montenegro will be in the core of the new state and BiH and Makedonia will be in between, but BiH will be much closer to Serbia than to Croatia. Izetbegović was heavily attacked by the public, claiming that he left BiH to Milošević.[8]

In early March, an attempted Serb police coup at Pakrac caused a confrontation between Croat police forces (bolstered by paramilitaries loyal to Tuđman) and the Yugoslav army. On 9 March 1991, the Yugoslav army rushed to defend Milošević's government against political protests, or possibly riots, in Belgrade.[9]

From 12–16 March 1991. "Joined meeting of the Presidency of SFRY as the High command of the armed forces" took place. On the meeting, Military leadership lead by Serbian officials tried to introduce a state of emergency in whole Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milošević stated that he does not recognize the orders of the Presidency any more.[5]

Again the military coup was an immediate danger. In this situation all six leaders of Yugoslav republics (Franjo Tuđman, Slobodan Milošević, Alija Izetbegović, Kiro Gligorov (SR Macedonia), Milan Kučan and Momir Bulatović) organized a meeting in Split for 28 March 1991. Meeting between Tuđman and Milošević on 25 March in Karađorđevo was held as a preparation for meeting in Split where leaders of two biggest republics were about to present common suggestions for resolving Yugoslav crisis.[10][11]

The meeting and public response[edit]

Milošević (L) and Tuđman (R) at Karađorđevo in March 1991. Photo published in Tuđman's advisor Hrvoje Šarinić's 1999 memoirs.

The meeting between Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević took place in the afternoon of 25 March 1991 in Karađorđevo near Bačka Palanka in the Serbian province of Vojvodina.[9][12] At the time, the meeting did not seem to be different from any other meeting of republican leaders. The report of the meeting was in the public news the same and the following days.[10] According to the report, they discussed resolving Yugoslav crisis and preparing for upcoming meeting in Split with all leaders of Yugoslav republics. As usual in bilateral meetings, most of the discussion was held by Tuđman and Milošević alone, without other witnesses or record. There was no official agreement of any kind.

Some news called the meeting "secret".[10] It was secret in the sense that there was no public announcement in advance. From the beginning there were speculations of what two presidents talked about. The most common one was changing of Prime minister of Yugoslavia Ante Marković.[13][14][15] First who speculated that the center of the talk was Bosnia and Herzegovina was journalist of Sarajevo Oslobođenje Miroslav Janković on 14 April:

It is not necessarily to be very smart (...) to conclude that in the middle of that talks and tables was: Bosnia. The land across which passes every calculation and map of any future Yugoslavia.[16]

Subsequent meetings[edit]

Tuđman and Milošević met another time on 15 April in Tikveš in Baranja. As usual, the next day all newspapers published the report of the meeting.[17][18][19]

After the meetings the expert groups of Croatia and Serbia discussed solving Yugoslav crisis. Testimonies of the group members do not fully agree, but thew all agree that there were no results.[20][21][22][23]

On 12 June in Split Tuđman, Milošević and Izetbegović had a trilateral meeting. Everything was again public the next day, and there was no agreement. Unlike for the meeting in Karađorevo, this time the speculation that they divided Bosnia and Herzegovina was immediately in public. Sarajevo newspaper Bosanski pogledi (Bosnian views) had a title the next day: "Tuđman, Milošević, Izetbegović, Tripartite Pact for division of Bosnia and Herzegovina".[24] Izetbegović denied such speculations and said that "it is not possible to talk with him about that".[25]


The most immediate significance of the meeting was not a deal about Bosnia and Herzegovina but the absence of a deal about Croatia. Milošević made a speech one week after the Belgrade riots where he outlined plans which involved the incorporation of a large area of Croatia into the new Yugoslavia. This led to the start of hostilities and the Croatian War of Independence.[9]

Regardless of meetings, the Croatian War of Independence started on 31 March 1991 with Plitvice Lakes incident, with Croats and Serbs as the main antagonists.

Following Karađorđevo,[when?] Franjo Tuđman pointed out that it would be very difficult for Bosnia to survive and that the Croats were going to take over the territories of the former Banovina of Croatia plus Cazin, Velika Kladuša and Bihać.[26]

Franjo Tuđman and the Croatian government have denied there was an agreement at Karađorđevo on numerous occasions, stating in his October 1991 speech that the Serbs controlled all of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian rebellion in Croatia during the Croatian war of independence was just beginning.[27] Croatia declared independence on 8 October 1991. By the end of the year nearly one third of Croatia was occupied by Serbian forces. Most of the countries recognized independent Croatia on 15 January 1992.

At a meeting with a Bosnian Croat delegation on December 27, 1991, Tuđman announced that the conditions allowed for an agreement to redraw the boundaries of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[28]

In Bosnia and Herzegovina first fights started on 1 October 1991 when Yugoslav People's Army controlled by Serbs attacked Croatian village Ravno in Herzegovina. Alija Izetbegović considered that as part of the war in Croatia, and ignored it saying that "it is not our war".[29] On 3 March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence. In the following days many countries, including Croatia, recognized independence of BiH. The Bosnian War soon began, and would last until November 1995. Serbs attacked Muslims in Bijeljina on 1 April 1992, and soon after, Bosnian War got worse.

The Graz agreement was a pact signed between Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić and Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban on April 27, 1992 in the town of Graz, Austria, during a period when Serbian forces controlled 70% of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The treaty was meant to limit conflict between Serb and Croat forces and put them closer to annexation of territory under Croat and Serb control.[30] The Graz agreement was seen as a sequel to the Karađorđevo agreement. In between the newly expanded Croatia and Serbia would be a small Bosniak buffer state, pejoratively called "Alija's Pashaluk" by Croatian and Serbian leadership, after Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović.[31] The ICTY judgement in the Blaškić case suggests a reported agreement at the Graz meeting between Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat leaders confirms a previous agreement between the Serbs and Croats (Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman) on the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina, possibly from the Karađorđevo meeting.[26]

By the end of 1992, the Serbs controlled two thirds of the country. Although allies at the beginning, Croats and Muslims (Bosniaks) fought in the middle Bosnia and Herzegovina from June 1992 until February 1994. After signing Washington Agreement they ended the war again as allies.

The internal structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina was discussed and was finally decided with the Dayton Agreement with some internal divisions remaining, most notably the Republika Srpska.[citation needed]

Claims of impact[edit]

At the beginning, the meeting in Karađorđevo did not look different from any of the other meetings of the leaders of the Yugoslav republics at the time. However, in future years, this meeting, and sometimes also the later meeting of Tuđman and Milošević in Tikveš, became famous because of the claims that the participants discussed and agreed on a partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina there.

By the majority of Bosnian public and politicians, the meeting was considered to be the start of a Serbo-Croatian conspiracy against the Bosniaks, and the cause of the whole Bosnian war.[32] It was also widely used in the Croatian public life by politicians opposing Tuđman.

The main participants of the meeting, Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević, denied there was ever an agreement about division of Bosnia and Herzegovina, discussed or reached. In a joint statement in Geneva in 1993 by President Milošević and President Tuđman said, "All speculations about a partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia are entirely unfounded." But Milošević said of the partition, "It is a solution which is offering to the Muslims much more than they can ever dream to take by force."[33]

The 2002 ICTY case against Milošević noted, as a fact, that "On 25 March 1991, Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman met in Karađorđevo and discussed the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia." [34]

On the other hand, most of Croatian historians consider it a political myth because of a lack of direct evidence and the difficulty to explain Yugoslav Wars with Croats and Serbs the main antagonists in the context of a Serbo-Croatian agreement.[35][need quotation to verify] Ivica Lučić and Miroslav Tuđman claim that testimonies do not match, and that all of them can be explained as the result of particular political interests.[35][36]

Izetbegović and Gligorov[edit]

The day before meeting in Karađorđevo, on 24 March 1991, Izetbegović wrote a letter to Tuđman. In it, he wrote:

I am convinced (and also have some information) that he will, in bilateral talks, offer you some partial solutions, which would partly be implemented against Muslims in [Bosnia and Herzegovina]. I ask you not to accept those offers (...)[36]

In the summer of 1996, Izetbegović said that he found about the meeting on 27 March from Macedonian president Gligorov, although the news about it were public the same day, 25 March. He said that Gligorov told him that he has "reliable information" that Tuđman and Milošević spoke about "partition of BiH". He said that they did not know more details, but concludes:

"However, it is today clear that what happened in Karađorđevo makes[clarification needed] the whole history of our relations and explains events which followed all this, three to four years afterwards."[32]

Kiro Gligorov said on Radio Free Europe in 2008 that everything he knows about the meeting, Tuđman had told him in September 1991.[37]


Stjepan Mesić, former president of Croatia.

The best known critic of Franjo Tuđman in Croatian politics because of his claimed agreement in Karađorđevo was his successor as a President of Croatia Stjepan Mesić. At the time of the meeting, Mesić was one of the closest Tuđman's collaborator and the member of Yugoslav Federal Presidency. He claims he was the one who organized the meetings between Tuđman and Milošević.[38]

In 1994, Mesić left the Tuđman's party HDZ to form a new party, the Croatian Independent Democrats (Hrvatski Nezavisni Demokrati, HND). Mesić stated that this decision was motivated by his disagreement with Croatia's policy in BiH, specifically Tuđman's alleged agreement with Milošević in the Karađorđevo. Until then, Mesić never mentioned such an agreement, neither in his books about the break up of Yugoslavia published in 1992 and 1994.[39][40] He left HDZ 3 years after Karađorđevo meeting and after the whole Croat–Bosniak War in BiH was finished with Washington Agreement where Croats and Bosniaks established Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mesić testified at the Trial of Slobodan Milošević that at the meeting the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina was discussed and that it was the main topic of the discussions.[41]

When Stjepan Mesić became the president of Croatia after the death of Tuđman, he testified in ICTY about existence of a plan to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina into three parts, between Serbs and Croats and a small Bosniak state. Stjepan Mesić claims he was the one who organized the meetings.[42] When Mesić suggested the meeting to Borisav Jović, Mesić confronted him and accused him of "arming the Croatian Serbs", Jović denied it and stated that they "were not interested in the Croatian Serbs, but only in 65% of Bosnia-Herzegovina."[43]


The former prime minister of SFRY, Ante Marković, also testified in ICTY and confirmed an agreement was made to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia.[44][45][46]

Ante Marković, the last Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, broke his 12-year long silence and at the trial of Slobodan Milošević stated: "I was informed about the subject of their discussion in Karađorđevo, at which Milošević and Tuđman agreed to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina between Serbia and Croatia, and to remove me because I was in their way. [...] They both confirmed that they had agreed on dividing Bosnia-Herzegovina. Milošević admitted this immediately, while Tuđman took more time", when questioned by chief prosecutor Geoffrey Nice.[45][46]

According to Marković, both Tuđman and Milošević thought that Bosnia and Herzegovina was an artificial creation and the Bosniaks an invented nation, because in Tuđman’s view they were "converted Catholics" and in Milošević’s "converted Orthodox". Since the Serbs and the Croats combined constituted a majority, the two also believed that the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina would not cause a war and conceived an enclave for the Bosniaks. Support from Europe was expected as they did not desire having a Muslim state. Tuđman also told him that history would repeat itself in that Bosnia and Herzegovina would again fall "with a whisper".[45]

During the Prlić trial Marković specifically stated that Tuđman had informed him after the meeting "that they had reached an agreement in principle of their attitude towards Bosnia-Herzegovina and how they were to divide it, or how it was to be divided."[47]

Marković declared that he warned both leaders that it would result in the transformation of Bosnia into a Palestine. He told this to the Bosniak leader Alija Izetbegović, who gave him secretly made tapes of conversations between Milošević and Radovan Karadžić, discussing JNA support of the Bosnian Serbs, he went on to say that Milošević was "obviously striving to create a Greater Serbia. He said one thing and did another. He said that he was fighting for Yugoslavia, while it was clear that he was fighting for a Greater Serbia, even though he never said so personally to me."[45]

Other testimonies[edit]

Later, in 1993, Slaven Letica recalled this meeting,[clarification needed] stating "There were several maps on the table. The idea was close to the recent ideas on Bosnia-Herzegovina, either to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina into 10 or 15 [sub]units, or three semi-independent states."[9]

Dušan Bilandžić, an advisor to Franjo Tuđman participated in the meeting[clarification needed] and published a book claiming that "the essence of meeting was the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina".[48] An interview with Bilandžić published on October 25, 1996 by the Croatian weekly Nacional confirmed that, following negotiations with Slobodan Milošević, "it was agreed that two commissions should meet and discuss the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina".[26] Bilandžić's testimonies are seen as contradictory by some Croatian journalists.[48]

In a court testimony and media interviews,[49][50][51] Hrvoje Šarinić, Tuđman's foreign affairs advisor who was his emissary for contacts with Milošević, and was present during the Karađorđevo talks, denied that there was any formal or concrete agreement at Karađorđevo about the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Šarinić also said that although the media focused on Karađorđevo, there was also a follow-up meeting at Tikveš about a month later where the two leaders had spent several hours together.[49][50][51] When being examined by Milošević he (Šarinić) stated "The fact that you met was no secret but what you discussed was a secret. [...] As regards Bosnia and the division of Bosnia, there was a lot of speculation about it, but no one else except the two presidents, one of whom is here and the other in the other world, could know what they actually said."[52] Šarinić, further went on to say that whilst Bosnia was discussed between the presidents only one side put any plan into practice and that was the Serbs in ethnically cleansing and preparing Republika Srpska for annexation.[52] He claimed that whilst Tuđman was optimistic after Karađorđevo that he thought Milošević had his "fingers crossed in his pocket", Šarinić also claimed that he did "not believe that a formal agreement was reached"[53]

Professor Smilja Avramov, an advisor to Milošević, stated "I did not attend the Karađorđevo meeting [...] but the group that [...] I was a part of, I assume was formed based on the agreement from Karađorđevo. [...] I talked about how we discussed borders in principle, whether they can be drawn based on the revolutionary division of Yugoslavia or based on international treaties"[54]

Borisav Jović, a close ally and advisor to Milošević was not present at the meeting but testified in the Milošević trial that he "was never informed by Milošević that at a possible meeting of that kind they discussed -- he discussed -- possibly discussed with Tuđman the partition of Bosnia" He also claimed he believed that Mesić was not telling the truth about the meeting because Mesić had a political clash with Tuđman."[55]

Historian assessments[edit]

In 2006, Ivo Banac wrote that it is possible that an "agreement with Milošević at Karađorđevo [...] was the final step" in the direction of the "reasonable territorial division" mentioned by Tuđman in his 1981 book.[56][57]

In 1997, Marko Attila Hoare wrote that, in the context of the conflict in Croatia, the meeting can be viewed as an attempt by Tuđman to prevent a Serbo-Croatian war where Croatia would face the full might of the Yugoslav army. Discussion of the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina is therefore seen by some people as an attempt to avoid this conflict.[58] However, the Bosnian leadership at the time viewed the meeting as part of a collusion between Milošević and Tuđman to destroy Bosnia.[59]

In 2006, Croatian writer Branka Magaš wrote that Tuđman continued to pursue a settlement with Milošević, of which the cost was borne by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a considerable part of Croatia itself.[60]

Magaš, Žanić and Malcolm wrote in 2001 that it is possible that the Karađorđevo and Tikveš meetings convinced Tuđman that Serbia would partition Bosnia and Herzegovina along a Serb-Croat seam with Serbia conceding to Croatia territory up to the borders of the 1939 Banovina.[61]



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