Karađorđevo agreement

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Karađorđevo agreement refers to a meeting held on 25 March 1991 by Presidents of 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 who also attended the event.

These claims range from denial that any agreement took place (later 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 Muslim buffer state remaining in between. According to these claims, the entire 1992–95 Bosnian war was started and fought by both sides in pursuance of that goal (claimed 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.


In the beginning of 1991, ethnic tensions in Yugoslavia, especially between two biggest nations, Serbs and Croats, were getting worse.

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.1

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.2

In this situation all six leaders of Yugoslav republics (Franjo Tuđman, Slobodan Milošević, Alija Izetbegović (SR Bosnia and Herzegovina), Kiro Gligorov (SR Macedonia), Milan Kučan (SR Slovenia) and Momir Bulatović (SR Montenegro)) 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.34

The meeting

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.15 The report of the meeting was in the public news the same and the following days.3 The topic they claimed to have discussed was resolving Yugoslav crisis and preparing for upcoming meeting in Split with all leaders of Yugoslav republics. However, most of the discussion was held by Tuđman and Milošević alone, without other witnesses. There was no official report or agreement of any kind.

No Bosniak representative participated in these talks, which were held bilaterally between the Serbs and Croats.6


The 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." 7

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."8

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."1

After Tuđman's death some of the Croat politicians who worked with Franjo Tuđman such as former prime minister of Croatia Stjepan Mesić testified at the Trial of Slobodan Milošević that at the meeting the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina was discussed and that was it the main topic of the discussions.9

Some politicians deny that there was a formal agreement on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina at Karađorđevo, for example Hrvoje Šarinić, Tuđman's emissary for contacts with Milošević.101112

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.131415

Dušan Bilandžić, an advisor to Franjo Tuđman participated in the meetingclarification needed and published a book claiming that "the essence of meeting was the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina".16 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".6 Bilandžić's testimonies are seen as contradictory by some Croatian journalists.16

In a court testimony and media interviews Hrvoje Šarinić, Tuđman's foreign affairs advisor who 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.101112 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."17 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.17 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"18

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"19

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."20

Stjepan Mesić, former president of Croatia.

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.21 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."22

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.1415

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".14

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."23

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."14

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.2425


After the meeting at Karađorđevo the Croatian War of Independence began 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.6

A second meeting was held in Tikveš at the end of April 1991.26 It is possible that these 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.26 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.27

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.1 However, 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.28

Franjo Tuđman and the Croatian government have denied there was an agreement at Karađorđevo on numerous occasions, stating that in 1991 the Serbs controlled all of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian rebellion in Croatia during the Croatian war of independence was just beginning.29 In this context 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.30 However, the Bosnian leadership at the time viewed the meeting as part of a collusion between Milošević and Tuđman to destroy Bosnia.31

In 1992, the Bosnian War began in Bosnia and Herzegovina, lasting until November 1995. During this time control of territory within Bosnia and Herzegovina changed hands between the predominantly Bosniak government and the Serbs and Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina.citation needed

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.32 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.33 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.6

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



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