SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – The United States pays very close attention to the political crisis in Bosnia and has tools it can use against the nationalist rulers dividing the war-torn, multi-ethnic Balkan country , who would try to “tear it up,” a senior US official said on Tuesday.
“Our call to leaders [in Bosnia-Herzegovina] â¦ Is to rise above their own interests and try to keep their country’s broader interests in mind, âUS State Department adviser Derek Chollet told The Associated Press in an interview.
“If the leaders continue on the path of division, of disintegration, of withdrawal from central institutions, we have tools to punish this kind of behavior,” he added, referring to possible sanctions.
Chollet, who is an advisor to the US Secretary of State, arrived in Bosnia on Monday for three days of meetings with its top political leaders amid the worst political crisis in the Balkan country since a peace deal brokered by the states- United ended more than three and a half years of bloodshed. in 1995.
The Bosnian War began in 1992 when the Belgrade-backed Bosnian Serbs attempted to create an ethnically pure region with the aim of joining neighboring Serbia by driving out the Croats and Bosnians from the country, who are mostly Muslims. More than 100,000 people were killed and more than 2 million, more than half of the nation’s population, were driven from their homes before a peace deal was reached in Dayton, Ohio in November 1995.
“Hard-line Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, with tacit backing from Russia and Serbia, recently stepped up the march towards Serbian ethnic autonomy by promising that the Bosnian Serb region would declare by the end of November , the creation of its own army and its judicial system.“
The agreement divided Bosnia into two regions – the Serbian-ruled Republika Srpska and the Bosnian-Croatian Federation – which were given broad autonomy but remain linked by some joint institutions, including the multi-ethnic Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the parliament. , the army, the high judicial power and the tax administration.
The Serbs have advocated for years the separation of their mini-state from the rest of Bosnia. But their uncompromising leader Milorad Dodik, who enjoys tacit support from Russia and Serbia, recently stepped up the process by promising that the Bosnian Serb region would declare, by the end of November, the creation of its own army. and its judicial system.
Dodik, who is the Serbian member of the multi-ethnic and tripartite Bosnian presidency, threatened to take control of the Bosnian army barracks in the Serbian half of the country once the Bosnian Serb army is formed. He said that if the West tried to intervene, it would call on its Bosnian Serb “friends” for help.
“We are very worried,” said Chollet. âThere is a lot of attention in Washington on the situation here, a lot of concern about the trajectory that Bosnia is on and fears, for the first time in 26 years, [the] Dayton [peace agreement] is at its most perilous moment.
However, Chollet said the United States still believes Bosnia “has not passed the point of no return.”
âWe still think there is a chance to stop all of thisâ¦ and it’s not just the United States, it’s our partners in Europe,â he added.
He said it will take work to strengthen Bosnia’s democratic institutions and steer the country towards a goal of eventually joining the European Union.
âThere are going to be a lot of tough decisions to be made, but the United States is committed to doing everything in its power to try to prevent the worst from happening and, more than that, to try to get a an even better result âby putting Bosniaâ back on track to its Euro-Atlantic destination, âhe said.
Dodik, however, remained recalcitrant after he and the two other members of the Bosnian presidency met with Chollet on Tuesday, insisting he told the US envoy to “go ahead with the sanctions, we remain true to our policy of “dismantling the multi-ethnic Bosnian community.” establishments.
This despite a letter raising the possibility of sanctions from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which Dodik said Chollet passed on to members of the presidency.
“Sooner or later the United States will have to adopt a realistic policy instead of threatening us with sanctions,” Dodik said, adding that the Bosnian Serbs “didn’t care” about the threats. âWe are serving our people, not the interests of the United States. “