NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro on Monday to arrest war crimes fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic by the end of this year, so they can start building closer ties with the Alliance.
(Reuters, Beta - 09/01/06; Reuters - 03/01/06; AP, Washington File - 30/12/05)
"I sincerely hope 2006 is the year that Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina meet the criteria for [NATO's] Partnership for Peace. It is long overdue," said NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. [AFP]
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer voiced hope Monday (9 January) that Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Serbia-Montenegro would be able to start building closer ties with the Alliance this year.
"I sincerely hope that 2006 will be the year that Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina can meet the criteria for joining NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP)," de Hoop Scheffer said at a traditional New Year's press reception Monday. Describing the two countries' entry into the programme as both "very important indeed" and "long overdue," he stressed that they must first meet the conditions.
Established in 1994, the PfP programme allows NATO to build closer political and military ties with non-member nations and is a major first step towards eventual membership in the Alliance. Ten of the 30 countries that have signed PfP agreements with the Pact since the programme's inception have become NATO members, Reuters noted in a report Monday.
The main requirement the Alliance has set for BiH and Serbia-Montenegro's admission into PfP programme is full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), including arresting war crimes suspects. The international community is pushing particularly for the capture and handover of the tribunal's two most wanted indictees -- former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic.
Karadzic and Mladic have been on the run for ten years now. They were indicted by the ICTY for their alleged involvement in war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict in BiH. Both face charges of genocide for their alleged roles in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Karadzic is widely believed to be hiding in the eastern, Serb-controlled parts of BiH, while Mladic is said to be in Serbia.
The EU, with which Serbia-Montenegro began talks on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement in October, warned Belgrade last month that negotiations could be suspended at any time in the event of lack of co-operation with efforts to bring the fugitives -- particularly Mladic -- to justice.
Serbia-Montenegrin Defence Minister Zoran Stankovic acknowledged at the end of last year that the country's military had not obeyed orders to track down the fugitive. Several days later, he also revealed that a pension continued to be paid to Mladic until November.
"There is no country in NATO or the EU that would allow an indicted war criminal to roam at large in a territory of that state," US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in November. "Mladic has been at large for ten years and for eight of those years was protected fully by the Serb state, by the Serb military, by their own admission," he added.