Serb referendum splits international observers

Serbia's president and prime minister are to meet Bosnian Serb leaders to discuss the controversial referendum - due in September - as international opposition to it mounts.

Serb referendum splits international observers

World Bulletin / News Desk

The international community on Tuesday urged Bosnian Serbs not to hold referendum next month over a controversial public holiday, preparations for which have fuelled tensions.

Serb leaders plan to hold a vote on September 25 on whether to keep celebrating their statehood day on January 9, a contentious date in the eyes of Bosnia's non-Serb communities.

Since the end of its inter-ethnic 1992-1995 war, Bosnia has been divided into two semi-independent entities: a Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS).

"We urge the RS authorities not to hold the referendum," read a statement from the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) in Bosnia, whose members include international and EU representatives.

According to the PIC, which monitors compliance with the peace agreement that ended the war, the proposed referendum is "destabilising, and is creating political tensions".

The referendum defies a consitutional court order, which said the date when Bosnian Serbs mark their national day must be changed out of respect for other groups, particularly as it falls on an Orthodox public holiday.

Bosnian Muslim leader Bakir Izetbegovic filed a formal protest against the January 9 celebration at the court in 2013, arguing that it left out Bosnia's non-Serbs.

The court found in his favour late last year and ordered the RS to choose a date that would also be acceptable to the country's ethnic Croats and Muslims. Bosnian Serb political parties however rejected the court's ruling.

Izetbegovic then asked the PIC to ban the referendum, raising fears it would be a step towards another vote on the independence of the RS -- something RS President Milorad Dodik has repeatedly threatened.

The PIC insisted that "no referendum can change the final and binding nature of decisions" of the constitutional court.

Russia, a member of the PIC and a longtime Serbian ally, refrained from joining the statement.

On January 9, 1992, Bosnian Serbs proclaimed the so-called "Republic of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina" at a time when Bosnia was still part of the former Yugoslavia.

Three months later the war began, pitting Muslims and Croats against Serbs and then Muslims against Croats, claiming some 100,000 lives overall.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 31 Ağustos 2016, 13:27
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