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As Non-Aligned Summit Kicks Off In Serbia, Bosnian Serb Leader Slams International Overseer

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (file photo)
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (left) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (file photo)

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik used his speech to a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on October 11 to challenge the international high representative who oversees civilian facets of a 25-year-old peace deal that still helps govern Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dodik, a secessionist who is the Serbian member of Bosnia's ethnically tripartite presidency, said the Office of the High Representative was "illegal" and that Western countries were "imposing solutions" on Bosnia.

He described Bosnia, which comprises the Serb-majority Republika Srpska and a Muslim and Croat federation, as a "protectorate" of those outsiders.

Dodik was speaking near the start of a two-day summit in Serbia's capital to mark the 60th anniversary of the first Non-Aligned Movement conference, which was also held in Belgrade.

Non-Aligned Movement Summit Begins In Belgrade
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The summit is being overseen by the movement's current chair, Azerbaijan, and includes representatives of around 105 countries, including India and Turkey,

The current high representative to Bosnia, Christian Schmidt of Germany, took over on August 1 from longtime predecessor Valentin Inzko with mounting pressure from Dodik and allies, including Moscow, pushing for the post to be phased out.

Dodik is Bosnia's lone attendee from Bosnia's presidency, since his Croatian and Bosniak counterparts abandoned efforts to travel to Belgrade after Serbian police last month arrested a former Bosnian official in charge of countering organized crime, Edin Vranje, on alleged war-crime charges.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in his introductory address at the summit that "Belgrade was, is, and will be the host to all who carry the message of peace."

He added that Serbia was "a promoter of the idea of multilateralism."

Belgrade has consistently lent strong political backing to Dodik as part of what some Serbian officials have described as a "Serbian world," a characterization that concerns neighboring Balkan states with Serb minorities since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Dodik has repeatedly called for the independence of Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia.

Vucic also said his country was "committed to dialogue" with Kosovo, a former province whose independence in 2008 has never been recognized by Belgrade.

He said Serbia was "fighting for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, defends international law and the principles of the United Nations."

A decade of EU-moderated talks to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo recently restarted after a long stall. But a tense cross-border dispute last month over the recognition of license plates was a reminder of how emotionally charged the issue is for 7 million Serbs and nearly 2 million Kosovars.

"Dialogue has no alternative, and the support of the international community is key to its success," Vucic said.

He said the "non-aligned" played an essential role in maintaining global peace during the Cold War, calling it a "success story."

But he said now it is time for new actions "in the world of dynamic changes in which we live."

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