SARAJEVO (Reuters) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that the alliance was concerned about separatist rhetoric in Bosnia as well as Russian influence in the country, months after Serb leaders increasingly expressed their desire to secede.
Bosnia emerged from the war that took place between 1992 and 1995 with a federal structure that united the Serb-dominated republic with a federation of Croats and Bosnian Muslims. The leader of the Serbian entity, Milorad Dodik, has increasingly stated in recent months that he aims to secede and join neighboring Serbia.
“We are concerned about divisive separatist rhetoric as well as foreign interference, including Russia,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Sarajevo, his first stop during his tour of the Western Balkans.
“This undermines stability and hinders reform,” Stoltenberg said, adding that all political leaders must work to maintain unity, build national institutions and achieve reconciliation.
Nearly three decades after a war that killed 100,000 people, the bloodiest of the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Bosnia remains divided, its economy is stagnant and people are leaving en masse.
NATO deployed about 60,000 soldiers in Bosnia after the war, and then the European Union peacekeeping force was disbanded in 2004. Last year, the European Union almost doubled the size of the EU force to 1,100 soldiers, fearing that the resulting instability could spread. About the war in Ukraine beyond that. To the Western Balkans.
Stoltenberg said that NATO strongly supports the EU mission and works with it.
“We cannot and will not allow a security vacuum in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said after meeting with International High Representative in Bosnia Christian Schmidt, who is not recognized in the role by Bosnian Serbs and who say his appointment has not been ratified. By the UN Security Council.
“Any attack that undermines your position takes Bosnia and Herzegovina backwards, not forwards,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO warned of the dangers facing Bosnia from foreign intervention, especially from Russia, and agreed to help strengthen its ability to defend itself.
Stoltenberg said after his meeting with Bosnian Prime Minister Boriana Kristo, “NATO remains committed to supporting the Euro-Atlantic path in Bosnia. Every country has the right to choose its security arrangements without foreign interference.”
Although the country’s leaders pledged to embrace integration with NATO, the pro-Russian Bosnian Serbs withdrew their support for joining the alliance, effectively halting Bosnia’s Atlantic integration ambitions.
Reporting by Daria Seto-Soucek, Editing by Toby Chopra and Peter Graff
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