PARIS, Dec. 14, 1995 (UPI) - Another building block of a Balkan peace fell in place Thursday with the announcement that after years of bitter war, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations.
But Croatia -- where Serb nationalists still occupy a region known as eastern Slavonia -- and Serbia were unable to reach a similar agreement, U.S. officials said.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton administration's chief envoy for the Balkan peace process, said the foreign ministers of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will codify their agreement on relations with an exchange of letters during the signing of a Balkan peace accord on Thursday.
''Yes, they are going to recognize each other,'' Holbrooke told a handful of reporters early Thursday. ''They will exchange letters (Thursday) officially recognizing each other.''
Discussions on joint recognition began Wednesday when presidents Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia sat down for lunch with Holbrooke in Paris.
The discussions continued until almost midnight before an agreement was reached, Holbrooke said. Although Serbia and Croatia were unable to come to terms on normalizing relations, Holbrooke said they agreed on an interim administrator for eastern Slavonia. Jacques Klein, a U.S. diplomat and major general in the Air Force Reserve, will fill that position during an interim period of no more than two years.
Oil-rich eastern Slavonia, which abuts Serbia proper, is the last swath of Croatia occupied by Bosnian Serbs. As part of the Balkan peace accord negotiated last month at a U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, Bosnian Serbs agreed to a phased return of the territory.
On the eve of the signing of the peace accord, French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette said ''the door is open'' for the Balkan nations to join the European Union if peace can be maintained in the region.
''The restoration of peace brings with it the prospect of allowing them to join the European Union,'' he said. However, he warned that ''the path to accession is obviously not easy'' and called on the republics to maintain ''stable institutions that guarantee democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for minorities.''
De Charette's comments came as spoke before ministers and senior officials from 31 countries gathered in the 13th Century Royaumont Abbey outside Paris, where a series of meetings took place on the former Yugoslavia in advance of Thursday's signing ceremony.
Izetbegovic, Milosevic and President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia are to attend Thursday's signing ceremony at the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, along with President Clinton and other world leaders.
Under the agreement, Bosnia-Herzegovina will remain a single state, made up of the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. It states that free, democratic elections will be held for a presidency and a Parliament, and that Sarajevo will be the unified capital of the country.
However, France has expressed concerns about threats from the Muslim-led Bosnian government to evict from Sarajevo any ethnic Serbs it considers military personnel. France fears such a move would set off an exodus of Serb civilians from the capital.
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said officials from the five nations of the Contact Group on Bosnia -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany -- discussed the issue earlier Wednesday at the Royaumont Abbey with counterparts from the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Moroccan Prime Minister Abdellatif Filali, who led his country's delegation at the meeting, said the OIC involvement in the peace process and post-war reconstruction allows Islamic countries a chance to reform the ''unfortunate image'' of the religion in the West.
''If the OIC pushes for peace in Bosnia, it is to show that Islam, for the most part, is moderate,'' he told a news conference. The 12-member OIC Contact Group also met separately earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Charles Millon said Wednesday that France would have refused to sign the Bosnian peace accord if the Bosnian Serbs had failed to release its two missing air force pilots. Millon also reiterated that France had offered no concessions to the Serbs in return for the airmen, who were freed on Tuesday and returned to France after more than 100 days in captivity.