Bosnia: British Minister Says Russia’s Hand is “at Play” in Crisis Preparations, Fears Experts Will Lead to Another War | World news
A British minister said Russia’s hand was “at stake” in the simmering crisis in Bosnia, which experts fear could lead to another war.
Foreign Minister James Cleverly made the accusation, saying the British government was “absolutely determined” to keep the peace in the region.
Analysts have warned that the Balkan state is on the brink of its most serious crisis since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, when thousands of people were killed by ethnic cleansing.
The high representative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, warned last week that the peace deal brokered by the United States and signed at the end of the war risked collapsing.
“The prospects for further divisions and conflicts are very real,” the UN peace envoy wrote in a report.
Tensions have always existed in the region, but Milorad Dodik, the Serbian leader of the three-party Bosnian presidency, has taken his strongest steps to break with the rest of the country.
He introduced legislation that would separate the region of the Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) from the joint institutions of Bosnia, which include the army, the judiciary and the tax administration – which, according to Schmidt, “would amount to a secession without proclaiming it ”.
Mr Cleverly, responding to an urgent question in the Commons on the situation, joined Conservative MP James Gray, who urged the government to do something “very dramatic” because “behind it is Russia.”
Mr Gray said the current instability was sparked by Mr Schmidt’s passing of a law banning genocide deniers, including Mr Dodik, who earlier this year called the law “a nail in the door. coffin of Bosnia “and declared that the Republika Srpska had” no choice but to start the dissolution “.
The infamous Srebrenica massacre, later declared genocide, took place in Republika Srpska.
Gray asked Mr Cleverly: “Will he agree with me that the reality is that behind all this is Russia and Serbia itself, and unless we do something very dramatic, very serious and very urgent about this, are we facing a return to the kind of chaos we saw in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the late 80s and late 90s? “
The Minister replied: “(He) is right that we see Russia’s hand at stake here, and we must work with the High Representative and our international partners to ensure that there is no fragmentation, and he is right, that it is unacceptable to deny the Holocaust in any arena where it happened.
“But for many of us, it was the event that was a big part of our lives.
“And this is the one we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
The Bosnian War, 1992-1995
For three and a half years, the Bosnian Serbs, with the help of the Yugoslav army, attempted to create ethnically pure territories with the aim of joining neighboring Serbia.
The war quickly spread across the country, with ethnic cleansing a major tactic, along with indiscriminate area bombings and systematic mass rapes mainly by Serbian forces but also by Croatian and Bosnian forces.
In 1995, the Bosnian Serb army of Republika Srpska captured the UN “safe zone” of Srebrenica and killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, causing widespread airstrikes by the forces of Srebrenica. NATO, then a ceasefire and a peace agreement.
In 2004, the massacre, forcible transfer and ill-treatment of up to 30,000 Bosnian Muslim women, children and elderly were deemed to constitute genocide.
Since 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been made up of two autonomous regions – the Republika Srpska with a predominantly Serb population and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a predominantly Bosnian Croatian population.
They are linked by a central government that controls joint institutions such as the armed forces and the judiciary, and the presidency consists of one member from each of the three main ethnic groups.
But under the peace agreement, the High Representative is the highest political authority in the country and is selected by the EU.
SNP MP Alison Thewliss said if the situation deteriorated further there was a risk of “a return to the sectarianism of the past” and a risk of “strengthening Russian influence in the region”.
Conservative Bob Seely added that there is “significant potential” for EU forces to come into direct conflict “with Russian proxies” in Bosnia.
His assessment is in line with the recent comment by a senior EU official.
“We are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” the official told CNN.
“The international community cannot be seen as victimizing the Serbs because it pushes them and Serbia further into Russia’s arms. But the Balkans are at the EU’s doorstep.
“The increase in Russian influence in the region gives them another fulcrum and another platform of influence, if they want to further destabilize things.”
And Bosnian war veteran turned Tory MP James Sutherland warned he had recently visited Bosnia and said he knew “de facto security concerns are justified.”
Mr Cleverly reiterated the need to “work with our international partners to do everything possible to prevent (fragmentation) from happening”.