Russia Suspends Financing of Bosnia Peace Envoy’s Office

by Cristian Florescu

Russia said on Tuesday it has suspended its financing of the Office of the High Representative to Bosnia, a body set up to help the war-ravaged Balkan country establish political stability because Moscow regards the current envoy to be illegally appointed, writes

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) was established as part of the Dayton peace accords that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. OHR’s role was to oversee reconstruction and peace implementation in a country torn apart by the ethnic conflict in which 100,000 died.

Besides OHR, the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) was created as an informal body gathering all international participants involved in Bosnia’s peace implementation. Russia and other big powers and international institutions are members of the PIC Steering Board, which meets bi-annually to assess the progress in the Balkan country.

However, in recent years Russia has often disagreed with the body’s conclusions. Bosnia’s autonomous nationalist Serb region, backed by Russia, has long requested the shutdown of the OHR.

Russia also disagreed last May with the Board’s appointment of German politician Christian Schmidt as the new High Representative in Bosnia, and tried and failed along with China to pass a resolution in the U.N Security Council that would strip some powers from Schmidt and shut down the OHR in one year.

Ever since Russia maintained that Schmidt could not be considered a High Representative because he was not approved by the U.N. Security Council, a stance the Bosnian Serbs have overwhelmingly embraced, refusing to recognise him in the job.

“We have suspended our participation in OHR funding,” the Russian embassy in Bosnia said in a statement, quoting “an unprecedented violation of consensus principles in the work of the PIC Steering Board” that has in reality excluded Russia from the decision-making process, including budgetary issues.

Russia would resume payments once the situation on the Board becomes constructive again, the statement said.

The U.S State Department, which supports Schmidt, said that Russia’s actions in the Western Balkans undermine support for the region’s European integration and erode the political will for democratic reforms.

“The Office of the High Representative has contributed significantly to peace and stability  in Bosnia-Herzegovina,”  a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “Russia has not participated in the work of the PIC for some time.”

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