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News 10 Aug 15

Russia Sparks Row over International Role in Bosnia

The Russian ambassador to Sarajevo proposed that international supervision of the country should end and that local leaders should take Bosnia and Herzegovina's future into their own hands.

Srecko Latal
Petr Ivantsov | Photo by BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Senad Sepic, one of the MPs from the leading Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, SDA, reacted angrily to the proposal by the Russian ambassador, Petr Ivantsov, who suggested that the international supervision of the country should end.

"We are convinced that the time has come to end the experiment of the outside protectorate over independent Bosnia and Herzegovina," Ivantsov said in a column in Banja Luka-based newspaper Nezavisne Novine on Friday.

Ivantsov argued that supervision by Bosnia’s international governance body, the Office of the High Representative, OHR, creates dependency and prevents reconciliation and progress.

"The time has come that we finally allow people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take full responsibility for the fate of their country into their own hands; responsibility for their present and future, without interference from the Office of the High Representative and foreign embassies," he wrote.

But Sepic said that if Moscow wants to pull out of the Peace Implementation Council, the international ad-hoc body established 20 years ago to oversee the work of the OHR, it should do so itself and leave the US and other Western countries in charge.

"And why should Russia not unilaterally leave the Peace Implementation Council? And leave it to the management of democratic, modern and developed countries towards which all citizens of this country (Serbs and Croats as well as Bosniaks) are oriented," Sepic asked in a blog post that was published on social networks and local web portals on Sunday.

Sepic also said that the Russian ambassador's argument followed the line taken by the president of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, who recently launched an initiative to hold a referendum that would challenge the authority of state judiciary and the OHR.

"In his column, the Russian ambassador called for the closure of the OHR at the moment when one man [Dodik] and his policy threaten to push Bosnia and Herzegovina into a referendum that is against the constitution," Sepic said.

He argued that Ivantsov was hoping to push Bosnia and Herzegovina away from the EU and eventual membership of the European club.

Ivantsov’s proposal also chimes with Western concerns that Russia is using its traditionally good relations with Serbs in the Balkans to increase its influence across the region.

Public debate on the future of the international role in the country has been intensifying as the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton peace accord which ended the 1992-95 war approaches in December this year.

A few weeks ago, Nezavisne Novine announced that it will be publishing two commentaries on the issue each week, which will provide material for a pamphlet and a conference in September. Several local and regional officials, intellectuals and international diplomats have already published texts on the issue. 

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