Is Turkey helping to deepen or bridge the BiH divide?
By Vedrana Durakovic for Southeast European Times -- 08/07/11
Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik. [Reuters]
Republika Srpska's goal is to defend itself from Turkish domination and neo-Ottomanism, a recent article in the Serbian daily Vecernji List quoted RS President Milorad Dodik as saying.
While the debate on neo-Ottomanism is on-going, Dodik responded to a specific post-election victory comment by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which sparked heated emotions in BiH and other parts of the region.
Erdogan pledged his AKP party will be the voice of Muslims, noting also that the Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and Bosnians will also benefit from its victory.
Turkey and BiH have historically maintained close ties since the advent of the Ottoman Empire, particularly as Bosnia underwent one of the highest rates of Islamisation in the Balkans.
Dodik in effect drew a line in the sand, voicing most BiH Serbs' -- and many Croats' -- steadfast resistance to any Turkish influence.
"Just because he [Erdogan] will be more aggressive, does not mean that he will be more successful," Dodik said.
Existing tensions caused by Dodik's on-again, off-again vow to hold a referendum to challenge the validity of BiH state courts as well as the Office of the High Representative (OHR) have now grown deeper.
Mladen Bosic, president of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), re-iterated that Turkey has played an unacceptable role within BiH, protecting the interests of Bosniaks and those of Sarajevo.
Dodik's answer to Erdogan was perceived by many Bosniaks as an additional line of attack against BiH as a unified state.
"[H]is main argument is that BiH cannot exist the way that it does now-- that this thousand-year- old state is artificially created, and Republika Srpska is the only sustainable state ... which he envisions in union or confederacy with Serbia," former chairman of the wartime presidential cabinet Nijaz Durakovic told SETimes.
Echoing Durakovic's concern is veteran journalist Zija Dizdarevic.
"With the constant denunciation of the Bosnian state, the blocking of central state institutions, the denial of the genocide in the face of verdicts carried out at the international court in The Hague, Dodik is attacking the foundation of the Dayton Agreement, which he constantly calls on," Dizdarevic told BiH independent magazine Dani.
Serbian President Boris Tadic's visit to BiH on Wednesday (July 6th), which Turkish President Abdullah Gul helped organise in April 2010, seems to have changed the charged situation. Tadic's second official visit to Bosnia has been lauded as a turning point in relations of the two BiH entities; he explicitly pledged Serbia would guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH.
"Tadic proclaimed that Serbia does not wish to interfere with BiH's internal politics despite having special relations with the RS; it will now have them with the Federation as well … [that] would bring greater stability to the Western Balkans," Durakovic told SETimes.
Whether this result can be attributed largely to Turkey, or is a domestically-driven new course in Serbian politics, the one which delivered Ratko Mladic to The Hague, remains to be seen.
"In any case, this visit by Tadic has been assessed as extremely encouraging, especially in Muslim circles," Durakovic said.
Dodik did not seem phased by Tadic's visit. He apparently holds Tadic responsible for the arrest of Mladic, who is largely viewed in the RS as protector of the Serbian people.
Dodik's fears seem to come from the persistent belief shared by many Serbs that BiH wants to have Muslim domination over them centred in an ethnically homogenous Sarajevo, which Dodik claims is 94% Muslim at present.
Following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement that the multiethnic project has failed, Dodik announced he rejects the "multiethnic project Sarajevo".