Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
At the outset, let me congratulate Mexico on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council in November and wish them a successful month. We also thank Kenya, its Permanent Representative and his team for able leadership in October.
We are concerned over another spiral of escalation of internal political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has seen no precedent during the entire post-war period. Irresponsible acts of some external forces only exacerbate the situation and jeopardize all accomplishments of the many-years long arduous reconciliation process.
Being a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement, Russia will not stay complacent. We will not tolerate how some our colleagues neglect sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is explained by their unwillingness to part with the role of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s “guardian” that has the right to dictate how Bosnians are supposed to build their statehood and govern their country.
The quintessence of the protectionist sentiment of our Western colleagues was the unflattering hassle around the Office of the High Representative (OHR) for BiH. Those who occupy or aspire to occupy this office act in a self-explanatory manner.
At first, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina V.Inzko, in the waning days of his mandate, imagined he had the right to act as a self-proclaimed Bosnian monarch and make certain amendments to the BiH Criminal Code – contrary to the opinion of Bosnian sides. Of course, this blatant arbitrariness poured fuel on the fire, provoking another spiral of contradiction and toxic narrative between the peoples of the country that have not yet fully recovered from the conflict.
Colleagues tried to appoint Mr. Christian Schmidt the new High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina in circumvention of the Security Council. They did it unapologetically, in violation of the international law and the existing practice of making such appointments by consensus. To avoid any misconceptions, we stress that this office remains vacant. As of today, there is no High Representative or any eligible candidate.
By the way, the rightness of our principled stance was confirmed by a document submitted to the Council on 30 October, which is – apparently, by inertia – entitled “report of the High Representative”. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Security Council has no grounds to accept and consider correspondence from private individuals. Otherwise the authority of the Security Council and the UN at large may be seriously damaged. We do not intend to discuss this “report”. I can only tell you that we have not seen a more prejudiced and Serb-phobic document for quite some time. It pursues but one goal – eradicate any seeds of mutual understanding, peace and cooperation between the peoples living in BiH. This product builds upon the most destructive and irresponsible statements and initiatives of V.Inzko. As an alternative, we suggest studying a report by the Republika Srpska about the situation in the country that was circulated as a Security Council document S/2021/910. We regret that the statement by Permanent Representative of BiH Ambassador Alkalaj that we heard today had not received support of all BiH entities.
If anyone still doubts that the Office of the High Representative has long ceased to serve the cause of national reconciliation, the circulated document will lift those doubts for good. It is obvious that the OHR has turned into a source of colossal problems that jeopardizes the entire Dayton structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have a question to our colleagues who promote illegitimate schemes aimed at preserving the OHR and its dictator-like functions – what is your goal? What you are doing, how does it relate to the principles of democracy and independence that you ardently promote in other situations? Where from are those double standards for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
A number of Bosnian actors and external forces insistently promote the concept of unitarization of the country, which contradicts the Dayton-envisaged principles of equality of the three constituent peoples and two entities with broad constitutional authorities. Pressure on representatives of the Serb entity of BiH is intensifying rapidly. We would like to warn against substituting notions, whereby only Serbs are blamed for what is going on in the country. We note with regret that demonization of everything that is Bosnian Serb has become almost the central element of the policies of some internal Bosnian and external forces. The goal of these policies leaves no doubt – it is revision of the Dayton architecture. To achieve this goal, they openly threaten to use unilateral and therefore illegitimate sanctions.
We are convinced (and we have been saying this from year to year) that equitable internal Bosnian dialogue, free from external interference, is a prerequisite for successful interethnic reconciliation. Full responsibility for the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its future must rest upon the legally elected bodies of authority, in accordance with their respective powers. As we all see, striving to provide “good offices” without consent of the sides has the opposite effect. This is also true with regard to such a pressing issue for BiH as electoral reform. The peoples of BiH must find a solution themselves, only then it will be reliable and realistic. We see that the task to ensure adequate and legitimate representation in power authorities at all levels remains very urgent. Attempts to impose external solutions and appoint Special Representatives on those matters are counter-productive and fraught with making things more complicated.
The Security Council has been addressing Bosnia and Herzegovina for 26 years already. The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council (SB PIC) has been active in Sarajevo for exact same time. However, discords in these bodies have never been as grave as now, and we have never seen such an outspoken stance towards playing a zero-sum game. This inflicts irreparable damage on the authority of the Steering Board and the Security Council.
At this point, rapprochement of international approaches to the issue of BiH and a responsible approach of the main actors would come in very handy. In this regard, we appreciate the efforts made by France this month in its capacity as penholder of the BiH file. Our appreciation also goes to the Mexican Presidency that has been able to lead the Council towards finding the only possible common ground, and ensure unanimous renewal of the mandate of Operation Althea of the European Union.
We believe we need (no matter where – in Sarajevo, New York, or in the capitals) a concrete and equal conversation based on the interests of the entire BiH community and the region, that should address practical ways of dismantling the harmful mechanism of external patronage over Bosnia and Herzegovina, and rendering constructive assistance with national reconciliation.
As a Dayton guarantor state, Russia is convinced that there is no alternative to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that its proposed balance of interest of the three peoples is rather efficient. Attempts to ruin it may entail serious consequences for the Balkans and Europe at large. We do and will continue to fully support the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, equality of the three constituent peoples and two entities with broad authorities.