NATO supports Bosnia’s territorial integrity and is concerned by “malign foreign interference,” including by Russia, in the volatile Balkans region that went through a devastating war in the 1990s, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
Sarajevo is the first stop on Stoltenberg’s tour of Western Balkan countries that will also include Kosovo, Serbia and North Macedonia.
“The Allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “We are concerned by the secessionist and divisive rhetoric as well as malign foreign interference, including Russia.”
There are widespread fears that Russia is trying to destabilize Bosnia and the rest of the region and thus shift at least some world attention from its aggression on Ukraine.
Moscow is openly supporting the secessionist, pro-Russian Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik who has repeatedly called for the breakup of the country and joining the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia to neighboring Serbia.
“This threatens to undermine stability and hampers reform,” Stoltenberg said. “All political leaders must work to preserve unity, build national institutions and achieve reconciliation. This is crucial for the stability and the security of the country.”
NATO played a major role in ending the 1992-1995 Bosnian war and implementing a U.S.-sponsored peace plan that divided the country roughly into two highly autonomous regions, one controlled by the Bosnian Serbs and the other by Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslims, and Bosnian Croats.
“NATO has been committed to Bosnia-Herzegovina for years,” Stoltenberg said. “Your security matters for the Western Balkans region and it matters for Europe.”
The Bosnian Serb leadership has for years been blocking Sarajevo’s application for NATO membership, something also opposed by Russia.
Stoltenberg said that this should end.
“Every country has the right to choose its own security arrangements without foreign interference,” he said.
Source : Independent