“It is totally unacceptable that 17 years after the war ended, some still question Bosnia-Herzegovina’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Clinton said.
That was a reference to Bosnian Serb nationalist threats to dissolve the country, which was formed as the result of a U.S.-brokered peace plan.
“Such talk is a distraction from the problems facing the country and serves only to undermine the goal of European integration,” Clinton said. “The Dayton accords must be respected and preserved, period.”
Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic agreed, telling Clinton after a lengthy meeting that it is past time to discard “wasted” ethnic agendas. “The future is on us,” he said.
Clinton also commented on the results of Sunday’s parliamentary election in Ukraine, in which the ruling party appears to have held on to power in balloting strongly criticized by international observers.
The election was “a step backward for Ukrainian democracy,” she said. “We reiterate our deep concern at the politically motivated convictions of opposition leaders, including former prime minister [Yulia] Tymoshenko, that prevented them from running and standing in these elections.”
Clinton began a five-nation Balkans tour in this bullet-pocked city, where tiny graveyards tucked into roadway medians and on mountainsides above her hotel are a reminder of the three-year civil war that killed an estimated 100,000 people in the 1990s.
Clinton is tending to what a senior aide called “unfinished business” in the Balkans two decades after the start of ethnic wars among members of the former Yugoslavia.
The siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica led Clinton’s husband, then-President Bill Clinton, to expand the U.S. involvement in what became the largest overseas engagement of his presidency.
Bosnia and Kosovo represent the largest pieces of unfinished business. Clinton, joined by the European Union’s foreign policy envoy, saw each of the ethnic leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is legally unified but is run as two semi-independent and often-fractious entities.
Unifying the country and reforming economic and political structures built on ethnic fault lines is essential to achieving Bosnia’s stated goal of joining the European Union.
“We have not been shy about saying and being clear that we’re disappointed that the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina have not put the interests of the country first oftentimes and instead have promoted narrow ethnic or party or personal agendas,” a senior State Department official said ahead of Clinton’s trip.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Clinton’s closed-door meetings with Bosnia-Herzegovina’s presidents.