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U.S. Diplomat Due In Bosnia Amid Serbian Threats To Withdraw From Institutions

U.S. envoy Gabriel Escobar during an interview with RFE/RL.
U.S. envoy Gabriel Escobar during an interview with RFE/RL.

A U.S. diplomat is scheduled to hold meetings in Sarajevo amid growing concerns that the Serbian-majority entity that makes up part of Bosnia-Herzegovina could secede from the Balkan country.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar will head to the Bosnian capital on November 7, days after the top international official in the country warned of the "existential threat" from separatist actions by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

Escobar told RFE/RL in an interview ahead of his trip that he wants the people of Bosnia to know that the international community is united to ensure that "commitments to the peace and security of the people in the region are met," adding, "We're committed that there will not be a war."

Dodik has recently threatened to withdraw the Serbian territory from national institutions such as the tax authority, medicines agency, and -- most importantly -- the military.

Escobar said that any moves to undermine the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian War in the 1990s and established the country’s political structure were "very detrimental and very destabilizing to the region."

The reasons behind Dodik's move to weaken central institutions are corruption and Dodik's attempt to "look for ways to protect his power and his money," Escobar said.

He added that only Bosnia is experiencing rising political tensions. The rest of the region "is focused on European integration and economic development."

The United States has previously said there is “no constitutional way” for the Serbian-majority entity to unilaterally withdraw from the national institutions.

In a report to the UN Security Council this week, Christian Schmidt, the chief UN envoy to Bosnia, issued a stark warning about Dodik's actions and said the Dayton agreement was at risk of unraveling unless the international community took measures to stop Serb separatists.

The Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), a Washington-based global network working to end violent conflicts, said the diplomatic community is failing to resolve the crisis in Bosnia and the U.S. State Department’s response to the situation is insufficient.

“The U.S. and the international community must act now to prevent violence and conflict and build sustainable peace in [Bosnia] and the entire region through all available diplomatic and development tools,” the alliance said in a news release on November 5.

The alliance also said Dodik "is empowered by support from nationalistic politicians in Zagreb, Croatia, as well as by Russian diplomats seeking to diminish the sovereignty of [Bosnia] and prevent the country from joining NATO."

Dodik on November 6 welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Republika Srpska. Orban and Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto arrived in Banja Luka before going to a nearby town to meet Dodik and Radovan Viskovic, the prime minister of Republika Srpska, for lunch.

Dodik later told public broadcaster RTRS that the politicians discussed the “current situation in Bosnia.”

“I told him that there is a lot of political spin and misinformation about us -- about Serbs destroying the territorial integrity of Bosnia, which is something we are not doing,” Dodik said.

Dodik said he hasn’t been “doing anything that would undermine the Dayton accords.”

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service
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