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Bosnian Presidency Chairman Visits Pentagon Amid NATO Membership Signals

Zeljko Komsic is the Croatian member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency and its chairman.

The chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's tripartite presidency made a working visit to the Pentagon amid a push by the United States for the Western Balkan country to join NATO.

Zeljko Komsic, the Croatian president of the three-member body that collectively serves as head of state, met with James Anderson, who performs the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

It was Komsic’s first official visit to the United States, the Department of Defense said in a statement on November 26.

It comes days after Bosnia-Herzegovina reportedly agreed to submit a reform agenda on its preparations for possible future NATO membership.

Komsic and the Bosnian member of the tripartite agreed on November 21 to approve Zoran Tegeltija as prime minister -- ending a year-long absence of a government -- after the Serbian member, Milorad Dodik, consented to send the Annual National Program to NATO.

Pentagon spokeswoman Carla Gleason told RFE/RL that the meeting was scheduled in advance and had no connection to the formation of a new government.

"Anderson and President Komsic discussed areas of mutual concern, including U.S. support for Bosnia-Herzegovina defense reform and security cooperation. There were no planned deliverables, it was mainly relationship building," she said.

Bosnia and North Macedonia are participants in NATO's Membership Action Plan, a program of advice and assistance to help countries achieve membership in the alliance. North Macedonia is expected to join NATO next year, becoming its 30th member. Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia are not members, though the first two have expressed a desire to join.

Serbs' Opposition

Tegeltija, a Bosnian Serb nationalist who opposed NATO membership, was first nominated for the post in October 2018 following national elections but was blocked by Komsic and Bosnian member Sefik Dzaferovic.

Pro-Russian Dodik and his SNSD declared Republika Srpska's neutrality in 2017 and since then have blocked efforts to move Bosnia toward NATO membership.

The Pentagon did not say what the two men discussed or if any agreements were reached.

The Pentagon said the U.S. supported Bosnia's efforts "to transition away from Soviet-era defense equipment" with the help of foreign military financing and cooperates with the country to "counter malign influence, terrorism and narcotics trafficking."

The United States is becoming more active in the Balkans amid growing Russian and Chinese influence in the region.

Washington in August appointed Matthew Palmer, a career diplomat with experience in the Balkans, as its special envoy to the region.

In October, the White House named its top diplomat in Germany, Richard Grenell, as its new special envoy for the Serbia-Kosovo talks.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.