Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bosnia and Herzegovina / United States

As U.S. Shrugs, Bosnia Lurches Toward Disaster Again
By Roy Gutman
McClatchy Newspapers, April 23, 2010
"Nearly a year after Vice President Joe Biden flew here to reassure Bosnians that the U.S. was back and would try to help overhaul their dysfunctional made-in-USA political system, ethnic tensions are rising again, morale has fallen and people are wondering: Whatever happened to Biden? For Bosnians, whose country was largely destroyed by the ethnic warfare in the 1990s that marked the breakup of Yugoslavia, with Christian Orthodox Serbs killing as many as 100,000 Muslim and Croat civilians, it's been a year of disappointment as the U.S. has become more disengaged and distant. 'I was encouraged by his coming here. Biden was always a man of principle,' an exasperated Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim chairman of the collective presidency that presides over this fractious, stagnating multi-ethnic state, told McClatchy. 'I do not know what his responsibilities are now.'
Bosnians expected the US to be 'more active and stronger in their efforts,' said Sulejman Tihic, the leader of the Muslim opposition Party for Democratic Action. 'They are showing less interest. They are turning over the responsibilities to Europe, which is too complex a place and cannot define its policy.' Biden didn't respond to requests from McClatchy for comment. Aides said he was busy overseeing US policy in Iraq and other issues and wasn't following Balkan affairs closely. Instead, he's handed matters to the State Department, which for the past six months has promoted a faltering diplomatic initiative. The biggest worry in Sarajevo, the historic melting-pot capital in a country renowned for its tolerance of minorities, is that ethnic Serbs, who control the autonomous part of the country known as Republika Srpska, will hold a referendum that leads to secession. That could spell the end of Bosnia. Srpska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who came to power with U.S. backing, has spoken of the 'peaceful dissolution' of the Bosnian state and has openly disparaged the international community's top representative in Sarajevo. US officials drafted Bosnia's Constitution in 1995 as part of the Dayton accords, which ended the war. The constitution recognized a Muslim-Croat Federation, as well as the Serbian entity in the north and east of the country, which ethnic Serbs conquered in the 1992-95 war with the backing of neighboring Serbia. Bosnian political leaders warn of bloodshed if Dodik carries out his threat. 'It is not possible to divide this country in a peaceful way,' Tihic said. 'Any real attempt like that will definitely lead us towards a new conflict.' He also said that the Muslim-Croat entity that Dayton created is 'much stronger' than Dodik's forces in the Republika Srpska are. [...]"

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