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Diplomacy on the Edge

, 704 pages
March 2007



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Diplomacy on the Edge

Containment of Ethnic Conflict and the Minorities Working Group of the Conferences on Yugoslavia

With ongoing war crimes trials, the yet unsettled status of Kosovo, and the odd assortment of new states struggling to create, reorder, and maintain political institutions, economies, and societies, the countries of the former Yugoslavia continue to challenge not only themselves but also the international community. Diplomacy on the Edge tells about the international efforts to mediate the political, economic, and social climate of these countries in 1991–2004 when some of the struggles were deadly. It adds to the literature on peacemaking and offers an important reflection on the future of the Balkans.

Geert-Hinrich Ahrens is uniquely positioned to tell this story. He has traveled widely in the Balkans since the 1950s and speaks four of the regional languages, including fluent Serbo-Croatian. He is also a senior German diplomat who participated in several of the international mediation efforts of the 1990s. An eyewitness to much of the story, he is also familiar with important official documents and archives, and he supports his account through the scholarly literature and the growing library of memoirs of participants.

The book focuses on the years 1991–1996 and on the activities of the Minorities Working Group of the Conference on Yugoslavia, headed by the author. The Working Group was the principal UN and European Community diplomatic effort to grapple with ethnic conflicts in the Croatian Krajina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and southern Serbia. Ahrens also provides the general history of the conflicts and brings the story up through 2004.

Geert-Hinrich Ahrens is a German diplomat. He has been Ambassador to Vietnam and to Colombia; from 1992 to 1996 he was ambassador-at-large to the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. He was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2002–2003.

"Recommended to anyone who wants to learn about ethnic minorities and the general problems of the former Yugoslavia and those who want an insider's account on diplomacy in the Balkans region."

"Ahrens is a career specialist whose extensive familiarity with the region lends a certain scholarly substance to this volume."

"An important contribution to the literature, particularly because of its comprehensive treatment of mediation efforts during the recent Balkan conflicts and the attention given to the fate of minorities."

"Ahren's book reflects excellent scholarship and deserves a broad readership in the field of international relations."

"Ambassador Ahrens participated from the start in efforts to mediate conflict in the former Yugoslavia. He had the unusual advantage of knowing Yugoslavia well (which other mediators did not) and speaking Serbo-Croatian. The study should provoke renewed interest, and perhaps debate, about the actions of the major figures in the drama."

"Geert Ahrens spent a decade as a top diplomat negotiating peace in the former Yugoslavia. He has written a superb memoir of European and American diplomacy beginning with the fruitless effort to head off the violent break up of Yugoslavia in 1991 through the Croatia and Bosnia peace negotiations in the first half of the 1990s and culminating in the Kosova War in 1999. Candid and lucidly written, Diplomacy on the Edge is an important contribution to the history of the Balkans in the 1990s by a professional diplomat who helped shape that history."

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