SARAJEVO -- Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik says he will move ahead with plans to withdraw the Republika Srpska, the Serbian-majority entity that makes up part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, from national institutions, brushing aside international concerns that such an agenda could spark a renewed conflict in the ethnically divided Balkan country.
After meeting on November 8 with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar in Sarajevo, Dodik said that "neither I nor anyone called for war as an option at any time."
"We agree that stability and peace should be preserved," he added.
Escobar told reporters that he and all his interlocutors in the Bosnian capital agreed that "there will be no war" in Bosnia.
Noting that the Balkans is currently the fastest growing region of Europe, he called on Bosnian leaders to focus on European integration and economic development.
The Bosnian War ended in 1995 with the U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords that created two entities in Bosnia, the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The country is still governed and administered along ethnic lines established by the agreement.
But Dodik, the Serbian representative in Bosnia's tripartite presidency, has been threatening to withdraw from state-level institutions, including Bosnia's joint judiciary, military, and tax administration, triggering growing concerns that Republika Srpska could secede from the rest of the country.
Calling his talks with Dodik productive, Escobar said that "the possibility is open to withdraw all those decisions related to the transfer of competencies [from the state level to Republika Srpska] so that we can continue working on economic development."
Escobar also met separately with lawmakers and the Croatian and Muslim members of Bosnia's presidency, Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic, who called the blocking of state institutions by Republika Srpska since July unacceptable.
In an interview with RFE/RL ahead of his trip to the Bosnian capital, Escobar warned that any moves to undermine the Dayton peace accords were "very detrimental and very destabilizing to the region."
Escobar said the reasons behind Dodik's move to weaken central institutions were corruption and his attempt to "look for ways to protect his power and his money."
The U.S. diplomat's comments came days after Christian Schmidt, the chief UN envoy to Bosnia, issued a stark warning that Dodik's threats to withdraw from state-level institutions represented an "existential threat" to the country's postwar peace deal.
The prospects for further division and conflict in Bosnia "are very real," Schmidt said in a report to the UN Security Council, warning that if the Bosnian Serb leader's threats materialize they would "ultimately undermine the state's ability to function and carry out its constitutional responsibilities."