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Sarajevo’s snub of Lavrov’s visit is in the hope of challenging Serbian power in Bosnia

By Paul Antonopoulos | December 17, 2020

The scandalous refusal of the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Željko Komšić and Šefik Džaferović, to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday, indicates what the Republika Srpska has been warning about for years is correct – that BiH is dysfunctional and it is impossible to cooperate with Sarajevo. Their move could also be linked to murmurings in Washington about intentions to destroy the Dayton Agreement that created BiH in 1995. BiH was established as two entities – the mostly Bosnian Muslim-Croatian Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Serbian-dominated Republika Srpska.

It is not the first time that Bosnian Muslim and Croat representatives have changed their minds before an event or meeting. At the beginning of the Bosnian War, Alija Izetbegović, who in 1992 became the first president of the Presidency of the newly independent BiH, withdrew from the Carrington–Cutileiro peace plan on the same day he met U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann, in Sarajevo. Zimmermann denies instructing Izetbegović to withdraw from the 1992 Carrington–Cutileiro peace plan, but it is not hard to connect the dots. Because of Izetbegović’s withdrawal from the peace plan, the Bosnian War violently waged on until December 1995.

Sarajevo maintains a policy of constantly toying with agreements to create diplomatic scandals. However, despite the Bosnian Muslims and Croats continually undermining the unity of BiH by opposing the Republika Sprska, Džaferović and Komšić created perhaps their biggest scandal yet by refusing to meet with Lavrov with an undiplomatic excuse that he did not respect BiH institutions – without providing examples. Instead of holding an already scheduled meeting with him, they decided to hold their own press conference at the same time the Russian Foreign Minister spoke with the third member of the Presidency, the Republika Srpaska’s Milorad Dodik.

“With respect to the Russian Federation as a big and powerful country, we will not agree to become a Russian pawn in the Balkans in their games and conflicts with EU or NATO member countries. We expect them to understand and support this,” Komšić said.

It is possible that the Bosnian Muslim and Croat in the Presidency of BiH misunderstood a short statement from the transitional cabinet of U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden about how the work in Dayton is not finished.

Lavrov, as an extremely experienced diplomat, did not violate any protocol and did everything according to international norms and standards. The obvious problem is that Sarajevo does not want dialogue with Moscow. The Bosnian Muslim and Croat representatives could have taken advantage of the Serbs in BiH, who have a historical, ethnic and religious connection with Russia, to benefit all BiH citizens. Instead they decided to create a scandal and once again divide the country along ethnic and religious lines.

The visit of a foreign minister from a larger and influential country is an opportunity for each country to try and explain their views and improve understanding and relations with each other. If such an opportunity is rejected, it sends a negative message, not only because of the lack of desire to improve relations for mutually beneficial cooperation, but also because it fosters suspicions and tensions.

Komšić’s and Džaferović’s refusal to meet with Lavrov is an irresponsible political decision considering Moscow has always had a principled attitude towards BiH, especially as Moscow is one of the guarantors of the Dayton Agreement. Their decision to snub Lavrov is a reflection of their own frustrations against the Dayton Agreement because Bosnian Muslims are not satisfied with it. This is because they have always had the goal of supremacy and domination over all of BiH, while simultaneously sidelining the Serbs. They continually attempt to disempower the Dayton Agreement in order to achieve their goal through a belief that a better functioning system can be achieved through a centralized Bosnian Muslim dominated state that would gain supremacy over not only the Serbs, but also the Croats, who for now are just enjoying an alliance of necessity with Bosnian Muslims.

Lavrov did not comment on the boycott at a media conference and the Russian Foreign Ministry posted a photo of the meeting without mentioning that the other two presidency members were not present. Publicly, Moscow is showing that this is an unimportant issue. However, within the Kremlin, it is likely decisionmakers are contemplating what to make of this snub and how to react at an appropriate time.

The Russian diplomat’s visit to BiH coincided with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton peace agreement, which although left BiH as an example of why artificial states like BiH result in failure, it did end the bloodshed that Izetbegović instigated for many years by withdrawing from the Carrington–Cutileiro peace plan in March 1992.

Lavrov emphasized on Monday, the other day before his visit to BiH, that the Dayton agreement must not be changed, referring to comments by Western diplomats, Bosnian politicians and Washington that it needs to be changed.

“I would like to say that any attempt to demolish [the Dayton agreement] can cause the most serious risks and consequences,” Lavrov said.

By snubbing the Russian Foreign Minister, it appears that Komšić and Džaferović are attempting to demolish the Dayton agreement so that Bosnian Muslims and Croats can achieve more power in BiH at the expense of the Republika Srpska.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

 

December 17, 2020 - Posted by | Aletho News | , ,

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