News / Europe

Balkans Express Sorrow Over Holbrooke's Death

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (file photo)
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (file photo)
Henry Ridgwell

U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who died Monday at the age of 69, played a key role in negotiating peace deals that brought an end to the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.  He was seen as a hero by many people in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Ambassador Holbrooke carved his reputation as one of the world's most effective diplomats during the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.

His death comes just a day after Kosovo staged its first parliamentary elections since declaring independence from Serbia nearly three years ago.

Holbrooke played a key role in ending the conflict between the two countries in 1999, paving the way for Kosovo to declare its independence.

On the streets of the capital, Pristina there is shock and sadness at his death.

Local TV journalist Avni Ahmetaj says Holbrooke's role, not only in Kosovo but around the world as a peacemaker, was huge. "It is a sad day for all of us," Ahmetaj said. "He was a brilliant man, he played a crucial role not only in the Kosovo conflict before the NATO bombing and during the bombing, but also throughout the world trying to build peace.  It is a really sad day for Kosovo."

Pristina resident Fatlum Beka was 16 when the war ended.  His parents' house was burned down by Serbian forces.

Beka says Holbrooke's death is a huge loss for the world, but especially for the citizens of Kosovo"   He says he remembers 1998 when Ambassador Holbrooke started negotiations with Serbia.  He adds that Holbrooke helped Kosovo a lot in achieving independence when he was at the United Nations.

As then U.S. President Bill Clinton's Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke played the central role in ending the Bosnian war of the early 1990s that had cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

In 1995 he brought the warring Serb, Bosnian and Croat leaders together in Dayton, Ohio for talks that led to a peace agreement.  That deal was signed exactly 15 years ago.

Haris Silajdzic was Bosnia-Herzegovina's foreign minister during the war and went on to become president.  He was part of the Bosnian delegation at Dayton.

"Half the people had to leave their homes," recalled Silajdzic.  "The Dayton Agreement put an end to that, and that has big value because the killing stopped."

Richard Holbrooke's direct negotiating style earned him the nickname 'The Bulldozer'.

He once said he had no problems "negotiating with people who do immoral things", if it helped bring about peace.  Holbrooke met many such people during his career and analysts say his diplomatic muscle will be sorely missed in the United States and around the world.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs