By ELDAR EMRIC, Associated Press
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – A German diplomat took office as the main international representative in Bosnia on Monday, facing opposition from the country’s Serbs, who rejected both his appointment and the ban on the denial of genocide imposed by his predecessor.
Christian Schmidt succeeded Valentin Inzko, an Austrian diplomat, at a ceremony in the capital, Sarajevo. The Office of the High Representative that Schmidt will lead was created after the Bosnian war of 1992-1995 to oversee the implementation of peace and promote reconciliation and development.
Although supported by the United States and the European Union, the United Nations office has recently come under criticism from the Bosnian Serbs and their allies, Russia and China, who demanded its dismantling, reflecting an attempt by Moscow and of Beijing to increase their influence in the Balkan.
In a speech, Schmid pledged he would work to help Bosnia achieve stability and economic prosperity nearly three decades after the war that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless. He also urged the international community to intervene more decisively to help achieve these goals.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina must be put back on the political agenda of the international community and the European Union,” he said. “I take up my duties with a firm desire to help the people here.”
As the main international body in Bosnia, the OHR has the power to impose decisions or fire officials that undermine the post-war ethnic balance and reconciliation efforts among Bosnians, who are mostly Muslims, and Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
A decision earlier this month by Inzko to ban genocide denial angered Bosnian Serbs, who sought to downplay the scale of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnians, the only one genocide in Europe after WWII.
Inzko also banned the glorification of war criminals. He was dismayed that the Bosnian Serbs widely honor their political warlord Radovan Karadzic and their military commander Ratko Mladic as heroes, despite both having been convicted of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment by a international tribunal.
In response, Bosnian Serb nationalists pledged to block Bosnian common institutions and the assembly of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, overwhelmingly rejected Inzko’s decision.
In addition, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who has repeatedly campaigned for the separation of the Bosnian Serb entity, also rejected Schmidt’s appointment as “illegal” and announced a boycott of his. future decisions.
The dispute illustrates the lingering tensions in Bosnia long after the war that began after the Bosnian Serbs rebelled against the country’s separation from the former Yugoslavia and took control of vast swathes of territory to create a self-proclaimed state. , expelling Bosnians and Croats.
The Srebrenica genocide occurred after the Bosnian Serbs took control of the eastern enclave in July 1995. They executed Bosnian men and boys and dumped their remains in mass graves which were then dug up. and re-buried to cover up the crime. The remains of the victims are still being exhumed and identified.
The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia have declared the Srebrenica massacre a genocide.
Schmidt said the goal for Bosnia must now be to strengthen the country and bring it closer to the EU membership it is striving for. He cited German reunification as an example that “miracles are possible”.
“It will be our job to overcome the limits in people’s minds,” he said.
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