The fighting died down following the ABiH assault on Vares, except around Vitez, as both sides sought to conserve their strength, survive the winter, and prepare for renewed fighting in the spring of 1994. Military historian Edgar O'Ballance noted that December, 1993, was "a month of gloom and despondency in Bosnia, as factional leaders rigidly refused to come to any common agreement on its future . . . hope was at a low ebb and despair was high . . . [and] as military operations reached a stalemate sections of defensive trenches on a First-World-War pattern began to appear, symbolic of determination to prevent the enemy from seizing another foot of terrain."31
Both sides were near exhaustion, but the HVO forces in central Bosnia were in a particularly perilous position, having lost a considerable amount of territory and unable to replace their losses in men and matériel. From the HVO's perspective, there was a very real danger that the ABiH was about to realize its objective of devouring the remaining small, isolated Croat enclaves around Zepce, Kiseljak, and Vitez-Busovaca. The HVO leaders were somewhat disappointed in the support they were receiving from their compatriots in Herzegovina, who appeared to be more concerned with establishing the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna than with the very real threat to the continued existence of the Bosnian Croat enclaves in central Bosnia. Although they were desperate for peace, they were not ready for peace at any price.32 Zoran Maric, the mayor of Busovaca, told Sir Martin Garrod on December 30, 1993, that if the Muslims continued their offensive, the Bosnian Croats would have no alternative but to force two corridors for survival from Novi Travnik to Gornji Vakuf and from Kiseljak to Busovaca, whether by political or military means.33
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