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Clinton Says EU, NATO Way To Bosnian Stability


Bosnian Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda (right) greets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Bosnia "belongs in Europe" and its access to the European Union and NATO would be the best way to ensure lasting stability in the country.

Clinton was speaking in Sarajevo at a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"We believe that joining the European Union and NATO offers this country, especially the young people of this country, the best path to lasting stability and prosperity," Clinton said. "We have no doubt that Bosnia and Herzegovina belongs in Europe."

The U.S.-brokered peace deal that ended the 1992-95 war between Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs, and Croats divides the country into two semiautonomous entities -- the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Clinton, who had met earlier with Bosnia's tripartite presidency, also criticized Bosnian Serb leaders who have repeatedly threatened to break away.

"In addition, it is totally unacceptable that 17 years after the war ended, some still question Bosnia and Herzegovina's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Clinton said. "Such talk is a distraction from the problems facing the country and serves only to undermine the goal of European integration. The Dayton accords must be respected and preserved, period."

Sarajevo lags behind its neighbors in their progress toward joining the EU as it is the only Balkans country that has yet to apply for EU membership.

Clinton, however, expressed Washington's full political support for Bosnia's membership of both the EU and NATO.

"The United States shares with the European Union a vision of a peaceful stable, prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina that is fully integrated into the Euro-Atlantic institutions," Clinton said.

On To Serbia

From Sarajevo, Clinton and Ashton traveled to Belgrade to press Serbia to restart the EU-brokered dialogue with Kosovo.

Talks between Serbia and Kosovo, launched in March 2011 under EU auspices, were suspended before May elections in Serbia, won by nationalists.

Talks between Serbia and Kosovo, launched in March 2011 under EU auspices, were suspended before May elections in Serbia, won by nationalists.

Serbia rejects Kosovo's unilateral 2008 proclamation of independence, which is recognized by some 90 states including 22 of the European Union's 27 members and the United States.

Clinton told journalists after meeting with Serb leaders, urging them to move forward with talks with Kosovo.

"This dialogue does not require Serbia to recognize Kosovo," Clinton said. "We understand the constitutional and political difficulty of that occurring. However, the dialogue does call for the two governments to move forward with practical agreements that serve the everyday security and economic interest of all the people of Serbia and Kosovo."

Brussels has said progress in the talks is a key factor if Serbia, an EU candidate, is to open accession talks with the bloc.

Ashton said that both the Brussels and Washington remain committed toward Serbia's eventual membership of the EU.

"I am here today with [U.S.] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express our joint commitment towards Serbia and its future in the European Union," Ashton said. "I say again -- Serbia's future is in the European Union."

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
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