Bosnian Serb nationalists threaten secession

15/02/2008

Police forces in Republika Srpska were put on alert Friday following threats from a Bosnian Serb nationalist group, who says it will push for the entity to declare independence if Kosovo secedes from Serbia.

(AFP - 15/02/08; Reuters, AFP, DPA, AP, Balkan Insight, Fena 14/02/08; AFP - 13/02/08; Reuters - 12/02/08)

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"In the case of a unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence, others can also develop such ideas too," Republika Sprska Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said. [Getty Images]

A nationalist Bosnian Serb group warned on Thursday (February 14th) that it will push for Republika Srpska (RS) to declare independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) should Kosovo secede from Serbia.

"If Kosovo proclaims independence, we shall request independence for the Serb Republic as well," Serb Movement of Independent Associations (SPONA) chairman Branislav Dukic said at a news conference in Banja Luka.

In the event any of the other former Yugoslav republics recognises the unilateral declaration that Pristina lawmakers are expected to adopt Sunday, the RS authorities should take steps to regain all powers transferred from the entity level to the state level in recent years, he said.

Citing diplomatic sources, the Macedonian daily Utrinski Vesnik reported on Friday that Skopje would recognise Kosovo's independence within three weeks of its proclamation. Croatia indicated this week that it would follow the EU policy on the matter, but would not be among the first to announce recognition of the nascent state.

Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is among the bulk of the Union's 27 member nations that have signalled their readiness to recognise an independent Kosovo without UN endorsement.

If the EU makes that move "against international law", the RS parliament should declare the entity's independence without a referendum, said the head of SPONA, which is composed of several Bosnian Serb war veterans groups.

"If Kosovo's illegal parliament may declare independence, there is no reason why the Republika Srpska legal parliament would not have that right," Reuters quoted Dukic as saying.

Another nationalist group, The Choice is Yours, is said to also be planning to press RS lawmakers to follow Kosovo's example. In addition, it is promising to stage peaceful protests should the province secede from Serbia.

RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, who has been criticised for similar secessionist statements in the past, said on Thursday that the entity must weigh its response to Kosovo's declaration of independence "very carefully".

"In case of a unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence, others can also develop such ideas," he added.

The most important thing, Dodik said, is to maintain peace and security in RS. He also stressed that his government would block any attempts for BiH to recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state.

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The top international envoy in BiH, High Representative Miroslav Lajcak, has repeatedly stressed that the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 conflict, guarantees BiH's territorial integrity and does not provide for border changes.

"Republika Srpska does not have the right to secede from Bosnia, at the same time no one can unilaterally abolish Republika Srpska," Lajcak said recently.

Ahead of Kosovo's expected declaration of independence, police forces in RS began preparing this week to deal with a potential escalation of tension in the entity.

"Police are on alert with a sufficient number of officers in order to react and prevent any possible unrest and violence," the AFP quoted the RS interior ministry head of criminal police administration Gojko Vasic as saying on Friday. "We do not expect any major unrest, but if there are protests, police will secure these events properly."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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