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The US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina said Washington’s commitment to the Balkan state is “enduring” and that it is committed with its European allies to “territorial integrity, sovereignty and security and the multi-ethnic character of Bosnia”.

In a recent interview with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, Ambassador Michael Murphy accused Russia of seeking instability in the region, but said a recent build-up of EU peacekeeping forces in the midst of this challenge was indicative of transatlantic resolve.

“I think you’ve seen from the United States and from the Europeans a response, and that should signal that we’re not going to leave. [Bosnia-Herzegovina] in Russia,” Murphy said. “That won’t be the outcome here.”

Earlier this month, Germany deployed around 30 of its soldiers to join the European peacekeeping mission EUFOR to ensure civil order and respect for a 26-year-old peace agreement that organizes the country according to ethnic criteria, with a senior representative of the international community who holds extensive powers.

The international response to Russia’s war in Ukraine has tested the governments of aspiring EU members such as Bosnia and Serbia, and their willingness to join Western sanctions and other measures to to punish Russian aggression as well as to accelerate reforms aimed at compatibility with Western institutions.

Meanwhile, tensions have risen in the Balkans amid a potentially violent standoff over mutual recognition of documents between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo, a cultural and linguistic spat between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. , and the public support of Moscow and EU member Hungary for the Serbian ethnicity. grievances in the region.

But Bosnia still regularly faces many of the same issues that obsessed it in the early years after the Dayton accord ended three years of bloody fighting between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats in 1995.

“It’s no secret, it’s obvious, that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not moving in the right direction and it hasn’t been for some time,” Murphy said.

He cited “terrible rhetoric” from political leaders in post-war Bosnia, “threats of secession, threats to reorganize the country’s territory, or just warmongering”, but said Washington remained committed to the Bosnian state.

“We want to ensure that we protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and multi-ethnic character of this country, and we are ready to use the tools at our disposal to defend the territorial integrity, sovereignty and multi-ethnic character of this country. “Murphy said. “That includes penalties, where appropriate.”

About half of Bosnia’s 4 million people are Bosnian, and centralized authorities are facing growing pressure from secessionists in its Serb-majority entity known as Republika Srpska and ethnic Croats unhappy with perceived electoral inequalities.

Murphy suggested that domestic politicians have “ignored” many of Bosnia’s problems, including the suspension of election funding under the threat of a boycott, but also issues such as inflation, the approximation of the laws of the EU or preparing for possible energy shortages.

“Part of the good news…is that the United States’ commitment [to Bosnia] tough,” Murphy said.

Echoing previous statements by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he added: “We are not leaving, we are not going to leave. We will maintain our international presence here and our international military presence. And I think that’s very important. when assessing the security situation here.”

Murphy also voiced his support for the current High Representative, German Christian Schmidt, and his use of the so-called Bonn mandate to ensure the proper functioning of key civil institutions, including to pave the way for the Bosnian general elections scheduled for October. .

Schmidt hinted at his willingness to use the mandate to push through electoral reforms ahead of the vote if Bosnia’s ethnic leaders prove unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

Murphy criticized the “all or nothing approach” of powerful domestic politicians when he said they would have to reach a compromise in the former Yugoslav republic.

He placed the blame “squarely, squarely on the shoulders” of anonymous political leaders who placed “their own ethno-nationalist and corrupt interests above” the needs of ordinary Bosnians.

“The politicians [in Bosnia] took an all-or-nothing approach when engaging on these sets of issues,” Murphy said. “They concluded that compromise is a dirty word or a sign of weakness as opposed to success. And of course, the exact opposite is the truth; in a democracy, compromise is the way things are done.”

He acknowledged that some of the Bosnian leaders “are blacklisted” and running for office when, according to Washington, “they shouldn’t be.”

“But voters in Bosnia have an opportunity to pass judgment on their performance in October,” he said.

In January, the United States imposed sanctions on Bosnian Serb secessionist leader Milorad Dodik for “destabilizing and corrupt activities”.

Dodik has established parallel institutions in Republika Srpska and held high-level meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since the start of the war in Ukraine, triggering massive international sanctions and other measures to punish Moscow.

There have recently been reports of increased correspondence and consultations between NATO and Bosnian officials, including Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic and Defense Minister Sifet Podzic.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently quoted a perceived threat to European security from Russia and said: “NATO is developing a package of measures specifically tailored to Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Bosnia became a NATO partner in 2006, but many ethnic Serbs have viewed the alliance with suspicion since its bombing campaign targeted Serb-led rump Yugoslav forces during the 1999 Kosovo war.

Dodik, who is the Serbian member of the Bosnian Tripartite Presidency, responded by saying that Bosnia had did not require any special measures of the Western alliance and that “NATO has no role in [Bosnia-Herzegovina] and is not the guardian of its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

The Russian Embassy in Bosnia complained that the United States and Britain were “preparing the ground for the creeping NATOization of Bosnia”.

Murphy accused Moscow of acting “against the goals” of Bosnian citizens and issuing “irresponsible” statements about Bosnia.

Murphy suggested that Moscow “does not want to see stability, security, peace and prosperity, [or] a prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Russia has no say in the decisions that Bosnia and Herzegovina makes regarding its treaty relations, whether to join the European Union or to join NATO – these decisions belong to a sovereign [Bosnia-Herzegovina] do,” Murphy said.

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