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High Commissioner in the Balkans

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in the Balkans

17 March 2000

Today High Commissioner Sadako Ogata is meeting with Croatia's new president Stipe Mesic and other officials. This is the High Commissioner's first trip to Croatia since the change of government which has raised hopes for an end to a prolonged deadlock on refugee returns to Croatia and other areas of the Balkans.

The High Commissioner arrived in Croatia's capital Zagreb on Thursday and went straight to villages in Western Slavonia's Pakrac area which accommodate Muslim and Croat refugees from Bosnia, as well as Croats displaced from eastern Slavonia.

Since 1995, some 65,000 Croatian Serbs have returned to their homes in Croatia. Some 35,000 have gone back from Serbia and Bosnia and around 30,000 moved back to their original homes from eastern Slavonia where they had lived as internally displaced while the region was under Serb, and later UN control. But the bulk of more than 300,000 Croatian Serbs remain refugees, primarily in Serbia and Montenegro, but also in the Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina.