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News 11 Jan 18

Georgia Protests to Bosnia Over Ossetian Leader's Visit

The presence of the South Ossetia President at the Republika Srpska statehood day celebrations has caused some diplomatic embarrassment to Bosnia after Georgia protested.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Memorandum on cooperation between South Ossetia and Republika Srpska Photo: Government of RS

Georgia has sent a protest note to Bosnia and Herzegovina over the visit of the head of the breakaway South Ossetia region to Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska.

South Ossetia is a breakaway state from Georgia – financed, defended and effectively controlled by Moscow, while the Republika Srpska is an autonomous entity of Bosnia.

Despite that, South Ossetia and Republika Srpska signed a memorandum of cooperation in Banja Luka on Tuesday on cooperation between the “two countries”.

South Ossetia declared independence in 1991, but has so far only been recognised by a handful of countries other than Russia, namely, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

The only other recognitions have come from other unrecognised statelets from the former USSR - Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. 

Antoly Bibilov, president of South Ossetia, was nevertheless a guest at the Republika Srpska's “Statehood Day” celebration on Januuary – itself the subject of controversy in Bosnia – where the RS President, Milorad Dodik, again pushed demands for increased autonomy.

Georgia, which still considers South Ossetia as its territory, sent a diplomatic note to Bosnia's Foreign Ministry, protesting against the Bibilov visit and against his presence as "South Ossetia's president".

The note said Georgia “kindly asks the Foreign Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina to issue a statement confirming that the visit contradicts the official position of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia".

In a response, the Bosnian ministry repeated that Georgia and Bosnia have good relations, adding that Bosnia would not interfere into the question of South Ossetia and noting that the ministry did not receive any official announcement of the visit.

Dodik sounded unrepentant, however. After the signing of the memorandum, answering questions about protest note, he said his guest was visiting the Serb entity, not the Bosnian state.

“Georgia does not have a friendly attitude towards the RS, we know that, and neither do we have one towards it, because we think co-operation with a legitimate republic and nation represents decent and normal communication... As far as I'm aware, the President [of South Ossetia] is visiting Republika Srpska, not Bosnia and Herzegovina," Dodik said. 

Bilibov meanwhile said that South Ossetia and Republika Srpska share very similar paths and had defended their national identity, and protected the interests of their peoples, at the same time in history.

He blamed the wars in both countries on "the West's failure to understand what we wanted," Bilibov told the press in Banja Luka.

Johhan Gudenuss, from Austria’s far-right governing Freedom Party, also attended the RS Statehood Day Parade in Banja Luka, but was there on a private visit, the Freedom Party explained.

Bibilov also stated out that he was visiting Republika Srpska, not Bosnia, and would continue his visit to East Sarajevo, which is also part of the RS.

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