Bosnia is in danger of bursting, warns senior international official | Bosnia and herzegovina
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The main representative of the international community in Bosnia has warned that the country is in imminent danger of collapse and that there is a “very real” prospect of a return to conflict.
In a report to the UN consulted by the Guardian, Christian Schmidt, the high representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that if the Serbian separatists carried out their threat to recreate their own army, by dividing the national armed forces in two , more international peacekeepers would have to return to stop the slide into a new war.
International peacekeeping missions in Bosnia are currently entrusted to an EU residual force (Eufor) of 700 men. NATO retains formal hold with a seat in Sarajevo. The one-year tenure for the two is due to be renewed this week at the UN Security Council, but Russia has threatened to block a resolution unless all references to the high representative are removed, which could undermine the Schmidt’s authority as overseer of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.
In his first report since taking office in August, Schmidt, a former German government minister, warned that Bosnia faced “the greatest existential threat of the post-war period.”
The leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, threatens to withdraw from state institutions, including the national army formed with international aid over the past quarter of a century, and to reconstitute a Serbian force. On October 14, Dodik said he would force the Bosnian army to withdraw from Republika Srpska (the Serbian half of Bosnia) by surrounding its barracks and that if the West tried to intervene militarily, it had ” friends ”who had promised to support the Serbian Cause, a presumed reference to Serbia and Russia.
Bosnian Serb police conducted “counterterrorism” exercises last month on Mount Jahorina, from where Serb forces shelled Sarajevo throughout a 1992-95 siege.
“This amounts to secession without proclaiming it,” Schmidt wrote in a report delivered to UN Secretary General António Guterres on Friday. He said that Dodik’s actions “not only endanger the peace and stability of the country and the region, but – if not responded to by the international community – could lead to the destruction of the country. [Dayton peace] agreement itself.
The high representative said that it was possible that there were clashes between the Bosnian national security forces and the Bosnian Serb police.
“If the armed force of BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] split into two or more armies, the level of international military presence would require reassessment, ”Schmidt warned.
“Failure to respond to the current situation would endanger the [Dayton agreement], while instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina would have wider regional implications, ”he said. “The prospects for further divisions and conflicts are very real. “
Schmidt’s warnings came as the UN Security Council prepared its annual resolution renewing the peacekeeping mandate for Eufor and NATO Headquarters, with a vote as early as Wednesday. Moscow is threatening to block the resolution unless all references to the high representative are removed.
The Kremlin has opposed the appointment of Schmidt by a Peace Implication Council, an ad hoc multinational body set up to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement, and refuses to recognize his authority.
“I suspect what Russia really wants is to undermine the authority of the high representative’s office by preventing it from briefing the council,” said a diplomat close to the talks.
Kurt Bassuener, co-founder and senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council, a Berlin-based think tank, said: boilerplate, standard problem language in all previous resolutions. He added: “And while legally that doesn’t undermine the High Representative, politically it certainly does.”
Even if Eufor’s mandate is renewed, there is little appetite in the EU to strengthen the small force left in Bosnia. Some Member States, notably Hungary, support Dodik.
“I think he is willing to bet on the possibility that, unlikely as it is, he can get away with essentially creating new facts on the ground quickly and relying on the idea that confusion and delays would take hold of both Sarajevo and the international community, and ultimately there would be no significant international consequences, ”said Jasmin Mujanović, a Bosnian political scientist.
US Assistant Under Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar told Congress last week that the United States is working with the EU to “ensure that there are consequences for any illegal or destabilizing action” in Bosnia. But it is not clear whether the Biden administration would support a return to NATO peacekeeping.
Alida Vračić, director of a Bosnian-based think tank Populari, said the perpetual and worsening sense of crisis allows the country’s leaders to cover up their failure to govern.
“Dodik has gone ballistic, but collectively politicians hope to gain points on this crisis and citizens are the only losers as expected,” said Vračić.
“This discussion is useful because it derails all meaningful discussions like Sarajevo suffocating in smog, that [the regional governments] embezzled during the Covid-19 crisis, that the death toll in Sarajevo is worse than during the war, the fact that half the country lives in poverty, that we have not carried out any reforms, that no law has been discussed in parliament for months.
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