Top Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) leader to make official visit to Serbia

Top Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) leader Haris Silajdzic is set to travel to Belgrade next week for his first official visit to Serbia since the end of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, his advisor said Thursday.

Silajdzic, who serves as the Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, is scheduled to make a one-day official visit to Belgrade on May 25, his advisor Damir Arnaut said.

Arnaut said that Silajdzic’s decision to visit Belgrade followed an invitation sent to him last week by Serbian President Boris Tadic.

“The scheduled visit is the next step in our countries’ joint efforts to improve our relations,” Arnaut said.

Arnaut explained that the first step was taken in Istanbul in April when Silajdzic and Tadic signed a declaration pledging to work on resolving their disputes with the goal of improving the image of the Western Balkan region and attracting foreign investments.

The meeting in Istanbul was the result of Turkey’s long-standing efforts to help the countries of the former Yugoslavia normalize relations following their brutal wars in the 1990s.

Relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo have deteriorated since 2006, when Silajdzic took office, largely due to Serbia’s arrest and trial of a Bosnian official for war crimes committed during the war in Bosnia. Ilija Jurisic, who was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment by a first instance verdict, is currently being held in detention in Belgrade as his appeals process moves forward.

More recently tension between the two states was felt after wartime Bosnian presidency member Ejup Ganic was arrested in the UK at the request of Serbia. Siljadzic travelled to London to visit Ganic in the period following his arrest.

Silajdzic has previously ignored invitations to visit Belgrade and has on several occasions questioned Serbia’s intentions, most recently during a trade fair in the southern Bosnian city of Mostar.

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