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Serb leader“s secession policy threatens Bosnia settlement, says peace envoy

2023-10-11T11:28:44Z

Bosnia’s international High Representative Christian Schmidt looks on during the interview with Reuters in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 10, 2023. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

The secessionist policy of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is a key challenge to the political settlement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-1995 ethnic war, international peace envoy Christian Schmidt said in an interview on Wednesday.

Dodik, who is president of the autonomous Serb Republic, has long advocated the secession of the Serb-dominated region from Bosnia.

“He is not accepting Bosnia and Herzegovina, he gives a spin which is absolutely wrong,” said Schmidt, a former German government minister who acts as international High Representative, tasked with civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace accords.

“This is a danger,” said Schmidt, who as High Representative is also the ultimate interpreter of the peace accords with powers to impose laws and sack officials seen as obstructing peace.

The Dayton accords divided the country – where 100,000 people were killed during the three-and-a-half year war – into two autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, linked via a weak central government.

Dodik was charged in August by the state prosecutors with defying decisions by Schmidt, after he had signed two laws that Schmidt had revoked for violating the constitution and the terms of the peace deal.

Last month, pro-Russian Dodik banned Schmidt, who he says is not a legitimate envoy because he was not endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, from entering the region, while his supporters launched protests against his indictment at the administrative boundaries between the two regions under slogan “The Border Exists”.

“He (Dodik) is playing with Republika Srpska as if there would not have been a Dayton agreement, and this is challenging and dangerous, we cannot follow this,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said that Dodik could end up with his people in kind of Transdniestria, a reference to the pro-Russian region of eastern Moldova that broke away in 1992 but still lacks international recognition.

He also said that international partners negotiating Bosnia’s path towards European Union integration should not negotiate with nationalist Dodik about basic issues.

“I strongly believe in European integration, but not to the prices being fixed by Dodik but to European standards,” Schmidt said.

He also warned against interference of neighbouring Croatia and Serbia in Bosnia’s internal matters, and said that Serb ally Russia could also play a destructive role.

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