news 16 Jun 15

Bosnia-Serbia Relations Hit as Nikolic Cancels Visit

Relations deteriorated as Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic cancelled his visit to Bosnia amid rows over wartime Bosniak commander Naser Oric’s arrest and a proposed UN resolution on Srebrenica.

Srecko Latal
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. Photo by Beta.

Nikolic’s first official visit to Sarajevo, which was scheduled for Tuesday, was cancelled after the Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, asked for it to be postponed following last week’s arrest of Oric, the former Bosniak commander in Srebrenica.

Izetbegovic complained after Oric was arrested in Switzerland last week on a war crimes warrant issued by Serbia.

“We expected that in the spirit of good neighbourly relations, the Republic of Serbia would... relay this case to Bosnia and Herzegovina and would not send its extradition request for Mr. Oric to Switzerland,” Izetbegovic explained in a statement on Monday.

“In light of this new situation, I believe that the official visit of the president of the Republic of Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina at this moment would not contribute to the goals for which it was planned,” he said.

Nikolic accused Izetbegovic of trying to undermine relations between the two countres.

“As a leader in the region, Serbia is a factor of peace and stability. A confirmation of that was supposed to be... the visit to Sarajevo,” Nikolic said in his statement.

“Unfortunately, instead of calming tensions in the region through discussion, a demand for the postponement of the meeting followed, so that certain individuals could gain political points among ultra-nationalists,” he said.

Belgrade alleges that Oric committed war crimes against Bosnian Serbs in eastern Bosnia in 1992 – three years before the massacres by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica. Oric was already cleared of similar charges in 2008 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

The Swiss judiciary is currently looking into the case and its decision whether to extradite Oric or not is expected to take some time. Meanwhile Oric remains in Swiss custody.

Mladen Ivanic, the Serb official who currently holds the rotating position of chairman of Bosnia’s presidency, said the cancellation of the visit was a diplomatic setback.

“This... is taking us many, many, many steps backwards. I think that no single man can be the basis for... damaging relations between two countries,” Ivanic told media.

In addition to the tensions created by Oric’s arrest, relations are expected to suffer yet another blow in the coming days with the publication of the text of a proposed UN Security Council resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary next month of the 1995 genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica.

The resolution, developed by Britain, is expected to anger Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders, who deny that the massacres represent genocide.

Over the past two days, Britain has sent a draft of this resolution to the Serbian and Bosnian authorities, who are currently analysing it.

But Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has already indicated that Belgrade is not happy with it.

“The goal of this resolution is allegedly reconciliation, but in its text it mentions genocide in 20 places and reconciliation in only one,” Dacic told media.

Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak also said that the proposed resolution could raise tensions.

“This document is a very risky move, one about which it will be difficult to reach a compromise,” Crnadak told media.

Banja Luka-based newspaper Nezavisne Novine on Tuesday also suggested that the Oric and Srebrenica issues could cause more diplomatic problems between the neighbours.

“The Srebrenica resolution is pushing Bosnia into a new crisis,” an article in Nezavisne Novine said.

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