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Bosnian Peace Deal 'At Risk Of Unravelling' Unless International Community Acts

Christian Schmidt addresses the Bosnian federal parliament in Sarajevo on October 28.
Christian Schmidt addresses the Bosnian federal parliament in Sarajevo on October 28.

The high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina has warned about risks to stability caused by separatist Bosnian Serbs in a report scheduled for delivery to the UN Security Council this week.

The report prepared by Christian Schmidt, the chief international envoy to Bosnia, says the country could face the biggest "existential threat of the postwar period" unless the international community takes measures to stop Serbian separatists.

"The prospects for further division and conflict are very real," Schmidt, a senior German diplomat, said in his report to the council, according to excerpts quoted in news reports.

Schmidt was scheduled to deliver the warning in a briefing to the Security Council on November 2, but the council said his appearance was canceled because of opposition from Russia, according to AP.

Schmidt's warnings refer to threats by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik to withdraw Serbian soldiers from the Bosnian Army and create a separate Serbian force.

Those and other moves would "ultimately undermine the state's ability to function and carry out its constitutional responsibilities," Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt called Dodik's threatened actions "tantamount to secession without proclaiming it."

He said the actions "endanger not only the peace and stability of the country and the region, but -- if unanswered by the international community -- could lead to the undoing of the agreement" that ended the Bosnian War in 1995.

Dodik responded by dismissing the report as "a propaganda pamphlet" that was written to "favor Bosnian Muslims."

"If we are separatists, he is an occupier," Dodik said.

The Bosnian War started in 1992, pitting mostly Muslim Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats against each other. It ended with the U.S.-sponsored Dayton accords that created two regions, the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation.

The country is still governed and administered along ethnic lines established by the agreement, which also established the Office of the High Representative, now occupied by Schmidt, to ensure compliance with civilian aspects of the Dayton accords. But secessionists in Republika Srpska and some outside countries have been pressing hard for its abolition.

Bosnia has a rotating three-member presidency made up of Bosniak, Serbian, and Croatian members, and Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the presidency, has for years advocated for the separation of the Bosnian Serb state and making it part of Serbia.

Dodik recently intensified his campaign, pledging that the Bosnian Serb parliament would by the end of November declare the creation of its own army, tax authority, and judiciary.

Schmidt said the unilateral withdrawal of either entity from the established state institutions was not legally possible under the current constitutional framework and would undermine the state's ability to function.

The Security Council is currently considering a one-year extension of the mandate of the European Union-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Diplomats who spoke with news agencies on condition of anonymity said the vote to extend the mission will take place on November 3 without a briefing.

Russia has threatened to veto the resolution approving the extension unless all references to the high representative for Bosnia are removed.

The Bosnian Serbs, supported by Russia and China, do not recognize Schmidt as the high representative because his appointment was not approved in the UN Security Council.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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