NEWS 12 Jan 17

Bosnian Serbs Suspend Contact with High Representative

The Republika Srpska government said it cut communications with Bosnia’s High Representative Valentin Inzko after he reportedly compared the entity’s banned ‘statehood day’ celebrations to commemorations of a Croatian WWII-era Nazi puppet state.

Eleanor Rose
The High Representative to Bosnia, Valentin Inzko. Photo: Archive/United Nations in Mostar.

The government of the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska announced on Thursday that it has suspended communication with the country’s High Representative Valentin Inzko, demanding an apology for statements in which Inzko compared celebrating the entity’s anniversary on January 9 to commemorating the foundation of the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany during WWII.

The Office of the High Representative - the international overseer responsible for ensuring the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement - responded to say that according to Dayton, Republika Srpska has no choice but to cooperate with Inzko.

In a statement on its website, the RS government said it had accepted an initiative proposed by war veterans' organisations in which they “asked [Inzko] to apologise to the Serb people for the insults he uttered”.

“Until an apology is given, the government of Republika Srpska breaks off communication and all relations with High Representative Valentin Inzko and the Office of the High Representative,” the statement said.

But Mario Brkic at the Office of the High Representative told N1 TV that “according to the Dayton Peace Agreement, the parties of the agreement [which include Republika Srpska] are obliged to cooperate fully with the High Representative and his staff”.

Inzko, who is the international community’s top official in the country, was under intense pressure this week after his controversial comments were published by local media on Tuesday.

Local news website Faktor reported that he said: “For the international community, there is only the Bosnia and Herzegovina [as described in the] Dayton [peace agreement], and a Republika Srpska which was given its legitimacy on 21 November 1995 in Dayton.

“If we begin to celebrate holidays like January 9, then some might come to the idea of celebrating, say, April 10, the day when the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) was established.

“I think nobody is coming up with that idea [of celebrating April 10], and that we should look to the future, not the past,” he said, according to Faktor.

The Office of the High Representative could not be reached for further comment by the time of publication.

Inzko's comments about January 9 referred to the celebration on Monday of the Day of Republika Srpska, which went ahead despite having been banned by the country's Constitutional Court.

According to the Court, the holiday was banned because - as it is a saint's day in the Serbian Orthodox church's calendar - it was considered discriminatory against non-Serbs living in the entity.

Despite claims by the Office for the High Representative that the main point of Inzko's reported comments was not to focus on the comparison but to call for a country-wide consensus on national holidays, they were met with fury by top-level Serb officials.

RS president Milorad Dodik told local media that Inzko, “the famous clown of the international community”, had “shown his true colours”.

The Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Mladen Ivanic, told media the comments represented “one of the most heinous things we could hear from a person who represents the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

The Russian ambassador to Bosnia, Petar Ivancov, backed RS in the row, saying he was surprised by the comments, according to Banja Luka-based news agency SRNA.

Ivancov said Inzko’s comments distorted reality, provoked tensions, and “testified to his lack of objectivity”.

The apparent break in communications between RS and the OHR marks a low point in an often difficult relationship between the two.

Dodik has long pressed for the exclusion of international officials from state affairs, most recently threatening to oust foreign judges from the Constitutional Court.

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