The United States, which brokered Bosnia’s 1995 peace accord, may impose sanctions against entities that try to unilaterally withdraw from state institutions or destabilize the deal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on November 16.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has been in a protracted political crisis over secessionist moves by the country’s Serb-dominated entity, reviving fears that the Dayton accords that ended the 1992-95 war could unravel and threaten regional stability.
“As a signing witness of the Dayton Peace Accords, the United States reiterates that moves to unilaterally withdraw from state-level institutions or otherwise destabilize the DPA will be met with appropriate action, including the consideration of sanctions,” Blinken said in a letter to members of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, published by the portal istraga.ba.
The Dayton accords created two entities in Bosnia: the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The country is governed and administered along ethnic lines established by the agreement, with a weak and often dysfunctional central government.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, the Serbian representative in the presidency, has been threatening to withdraw from state-level institutions, including Bosnia’s joint judiciary, military, and tax administration. He has brushed aside international concerns that such an agenda could spark renewed conflict in the ethnically divided Balkan country.
The United States has previously said there is “no constitutional way” for the Serb-majority entity to unilaterally withdraw from national institutions. Dodik says the institutions he wants to leave were not enshrined in the Dayton constitution but were created through amendments.
Presenting a report to the UN Security Council this month, Christian Schmidt, the chief UN envoy to Bosnia, issued a stark warning that the prospects for division and conflict in Bosnia “are very real” and that Dodik’s actions pose an “existential threat” to the Dayton accords.
In his letter, Blinken said steps to undermine Bosnia’s institutions would imperil not only the country’s European perspective — a reference to its aim to eventually join the European Union — but also undermine regional stability and a fragile economy. He called on all parties to return to the table and build consensus among the ethnic entities.
“The United States is Bosnia-Herzegovina’s strongest partner in addressing power-sharing concerns and functionality deficits through dialogue,” Blinken said.
The letter was delivered to members of the tripartite presidency by visiting U.S. State Department counselor Derek Chollet.
“I called for de-escalation, dialogue, and functioning institutions at all levels of government,” Chollet tweeted after meeting presidency members on November 16. “It’s time for Bosnia-Herzegovina to turn to the future.”
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has renewed a push for diplomacy to resolve the political crisis, working with European and regional partners to ensure the country’s territorial integrity and compliance with the peace deal.