NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday in Sarajevo that the alliance is concerned by “secessionist rhetoric” in Bosnia, as well as foreign interference, including Russia.
“Allies strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Secretary Stoltenberg told reporters in Sarajevo. “We are concerned about secessionist and divisive rhetoric, as well as malicious foreign interference, including from Russia.”
He was referring to repeated statements by Serbian separatist leader Milorad Dodik that the country’s autonomous Republika Srpska will work to break away and join neighboring ally Serbia.
“This undermines stability and hinders reform,” Secretary Stoltenberg said, adding that all political leaders must work to preserve unity, build state institutions and achieve reconciliation.
Nearly three decades after the devastating 1992-1995 war that claimed 100,000 lives, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains divided, its economy stagnant and people passively fleeing the country.
NATO has warned of the dangers posed to Bosnia by foreign interference, particularly from Russia, amid concerns that Moscow may try to foment conflict in the region to distract the West from its aggression in Ukraine.
The issue is expected to be a topic of discussion during the rest of Secretary Stoltenberg’s visit to the region, during which he will also stay in Kosovo and Serbia, the tensions between which reached a serious escalation after an armed attack by a group of Serbs against of the Kosovo police in the north of the country, where a police officer was killed.
On the eve of Secretary Stoltenberg’s visit, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, said that Russia aims to ignite a crisis in the yard of the European Union to distract NATO, and Serbia to fulfill its territorial ambitions towards its neighbors.
“Secretary Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Kosovo shows NATO’s firm commitment to our security. With the European Union officially revealing Russia’s intention to provoke a new conflict in the Western Balkans, the surest path to lasting peace is for Kosovo to be granted EU candidate status and NATO integration,” he wrote. Prime Minister Kurti on the X network, known until recently as Twitter.
Serbia is a candidate country for integration into the European Union, but maintains close ties with Moscow and has refused to join the sanctions against it because of its aggression in Ukraine. It enjoys Moscow’s support in its opposition to Kosovo’s independence.
Last month, the leaders of major European countries asked Pristina to give more autonomy to Kosovo Serbs, while Belgrade to recognize its de facto independence, as part of an agreement to normalize relations between them.