Bosnia defends decision to join NATO exercises

SARAJEVO

Bosnia’s defence minister yesterday defended the country’s decision to send troops to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercises in Georgia, a move that has provoked new tension with the Bosnian Serb leadership. 

The international peace envoy in Bosnia also weighed in on the dispute, criticising Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik in unusally hard language.

Bosnia was divided into two autonomous regions—the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation—under the Dayton peace accords that ended the country’s 1992-95 war.

Bosnian Serbs are political and economic allies of Serbia, which decided to boycott this week’s NATO exercises, condemned by its ally Russia. “Bosnia has chosen the path of Euro-Atlantic integration that sometimes includes difficult decisions with short-term effects but long-term benefits,” Defence Minister Selmo Cikotic said about the decision to join the war games. “Any withdrawal would bring more harm then benefits.” Dodik yesterday urged Bosnian Serb members of the 16-strong army unit not to travel to Georgia. Croat presidency member Zeljko Komsic then called on the state prosecutor to open a criminal case against Dodik for inciting disobedience among the country’s armed forces.

“With such attitude and statement and with regards to his position, Milorad Dodik has endangered Bosnia’s further path into the NATO alliance and, at the same time, violated decisions of the state institutions in charge,” Komsic said. He called on Bosnia’s international peace envoy Valentin Inzko to use his powers to sack Dodik and ban him from politics for obstructing the constitution and the Dayton peace agreement. Inzko’s office added to the criticism of Dodik yesterday. “Prime Minister Dodik has no relation to the Bosnia-Herzegovina armed forces and should stop meddling into the Bosnia-Herzegovina central authority,” it said in a statement. “In fact his behaviour could pose a criminal act.”

The statement said Dodik has no legal impact on the armed forces as he is not in the chain of command chain.

The merger of the armies of Bosnia’s two regions into joint armed forces is regarded as the country’s biggest achievement after the war. Bosnia is a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace, aspires to join the alliance, regularly attends its exercises and sends peacekeepers on NATO missions worldwide.

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