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Serbian President Heads To Bosnia For State Visit

President Aleksandar Vucic says Serbia will do everything possible to avoid future disputes with Bosnia.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is on his way to Bosnia-Herzegovina for a two-day visit to address some of the issues outstanding since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and the bloody war that followed.

Among the topics likely to be discussed with Bosnian officials during the September 7-8 visit will be issues related to Bosnia's Serb-majority entity, Republika Srpska.

In an interview with Sarajevo newspaper Dnevni Avaz, Vucic said his country will do everything possible to avoid future disputes with Bosnia.

Serbia and Bosnia "must have the closest relations, which includes mutual respect and respect of the borders," he said.

Bosnia itself is facing internal tensions among the Bosniaks -- the Bosnian Muslim population -- ethnic Croats, and ethnic Serbs.

Bosnia was a part of Yugoslavia until the breakup of the communist country in the early 1990s. It declared independence in March 1992, leading to a civil war between its Muslim, Croatian, and Serbian populations.

The war ended following international intervention in December 1995 and resulted in the death of an estimated 100,000 people and the displacement of some 2.6 million more.

As part of the 1995 peace agreement known as the Dayton accords, Bosnia was preserved as a state but broken into two constituent states, a Muslim-Croat federation and the Republika Srpska.

President Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska's nationalist leader, has claimed that the entity will one day be part of Serbia.

When asked if he would distance himself from Dodik's remarks, Vucic said he "always respects Dodik, as president of Republika Srpska, and that institution."

But he added that "I can tell you the position of Serbia -- we respect the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have no claims toward Bosnia-Herzegovina, as we expect from Bosnia-Herzegovina and every other state towards the territory of Serbia."

The U.S. Treasury Department in January announced sanctions against Dodik for actively obstructing efforts to implement the Dayton accords.

Vucic is also likely to help launch several infrastructure projects related to Republika Srpska, including a Belgrade-to-Sarajevo highway, along with discussing providing additional financial aid to the struggling entity.

Vucic, a former prime minister, was sworn in as president on May 31, succeeding Tomislav Nikolic.

Once an ultranationalist who served as information minister in the administration of strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Vucic has solidified his grip on power by reinventing himself as a reformer committed to Serbia's drive toward European Union membership.

The Serbian presidency is largely ceremonial, but he has retained much de facto power through control of his ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

Bosnia has also expressed a desire to join the EU.

With reporting by Balkan Insight, B-92, and RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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